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Grab your lightsabers. Star Wars is officially coming to Vancouver.

Industrial Light & Magic, the George Lucas-founded effects company that handles the Star Wars movies, has put down roots in Vancouver’s historic Gastown neighbourhood.

The Gastown effects studio will be responsible, in part, for bringing the new Star Wars: Episode VII movie to life.  Scheduled for release in December 2015, the movie is part of the third trilogy of Star Wars movies.  It takes up where 1983′s epic Return of the Jedi leaves off.

The studio will be staffed with 200 visual effects employees and occupy the 30,000-square-foot space on Water Street (not far from the iconic Gassy Jack statue) that formerly housed Pixar, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.  While the initial focus of work will be on Star Wars: Episode VII, plans are for the studio to spend the next eight-10 years on Star Wars projects, including Episodes VIII and IX of the new trilogy.

Industrial Light & Magic already has some 130 employees on the ground and is looking to expand immediately.  Star Wars fans with the right credentials might just end up with their dream jobs.  Particularly in demand are “creature technical directors.” These lucky technicians are responsible for making Star Wars’ new whimsical creatures look real – with skin and bones and lifelike movements.  Animators then use this base to produce the finished project.

So just what does the latest Star Wars trilogy have in store for us? Fanboys (and -girls) have been speculating for years about the long-anticipated sequel to the original 1977-1983 trilogy.  But the films remain a tightly kept secret.  The consensus is that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher from the original Star Wars movies will reprise their roles as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.  The trilogy is likely to address the rebuilding of the Republic and will almost certainly feature loveable R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Whether the new Industrial Light & Magic studio will become a mecca for diehard Star Wars fans – like the legendary Skywalker Ranch in California – remains to be seen.

Photo credit: Scott Smith (SRisonS) | Flickr

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