ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Now, say what you like about George Lucas (no, really, do - that's pretty much the whole reason comments sections relating to Star Wars exist) but he did manage to create what is quite possibly the greatest film series of all time.

Sure, Jar Jar isn't great, and that whole 'prequels' thing is still the source of a whole bunch of disagreements/arguments/blood feuds, but he's still the guy that brought us Han Solo, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and EWOKS.

OK, so maybe I'm alone with the Ewok thing, but still - George Lucas created some of our greatest collective childhood moments - especially if you include Indiana Jones...

What he did when he wasn't making Star Wars, though, might just surprise you...

Here are 5 of my favorites...

1. Before Star Wars, George Lucas Made Experimental Short Films

Way back in the 1960s, Lucas studied at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts - where he first met, and became friends with, Steven Spielberg.

Back then, though, Lucas wasn't interested in making the traditional, old-school space operas he would later become famous for. Instead, he made experimental, non-narrative short films, with a focus on abstract visuals.

You can check out one such film, 1966's Freiheit below, to get an idea... a really long way away from Star Wars...

2. After That, He Made an (Awesome) Teen Comedy

Lucas' progression from odd abstract experimental film-making to epic space operas wasn't a direct one, though. Instead, after 1971's dystopian sci-fi THX 1138, he made American Graffiti, back in 1973.

Which was a light, often-comedic coming of age story - starring Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss - about a group of teenagers in 1962 Modesto, California. And which made over $140 million, from a $777,000 budget.

So, while American Graffiti may not have had all that much in common with Star Wars in narrative terms, it was the main reason Lucas was able to get the now iconic movie funded in the first place. Plus, another star of the movie?

That's right - Harrison Ford...

3. He Basically Created Pixar

Yup - THAT Pixar.

The now beloved company started life as The Graphics Group, one third of the Computer Division at Lucasfilm, way back in 1979. Which means that all of those awesome Pixar movies might not have happened if it wasn't for George Lucas - and that Pixar and Star Wars now being together at Disney is actually something of a reunion.

The best part, though? When Lucas effectively sold the company in 1986 - it was to Steve Jobs.

Just after he'd resigned from Apple.

4. He Made Some of Your Favorite Games

Yes, Rebel Assault. Yes...
Yes, Rebel Assault. Yes...

Lucas may not have made too many movies in the years following the release of Return of the Jedi - and wouldn't direct until The Phantom Menace in 1999 - but he was still a busy man.

One of his many business ventures was LucasArts, a gaming division of Lucasfilm that just so happened to make some of the greatest games of all time.

Back in the '90s, the company produced a steady stream of legendary adventure games, including The Secret of Monkey Island, Sam & Max: Hit the Road, and Grim Fandango, as well as going on to release the legendary Star Wars games Rebel Assault and Knights of the Old Republic.

This is Monkey Island, and it is awesome.
This is Monkey Island, and it is awesome.

The most important thing, though? During the '80s and early '90s, they were one of the most innovative games companies around, even creating a precursor to the modern online role playing game, way back in 1986.

So, without George Lucas' interest in gaming, we may have seen a very different world of video games...

5. He Made the First Real Marvel Movie

Lucas wasn't completely absent from the film-making world during that period, though - he was producing or executive producing an impressively wide range of films. From Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha, to Ron Howard's Willow, and Jim Henson's Labyrinth, Lucas had a hand in some of the '80s' most interesting movies.

And then he made the first real Marvel movie - Howard the Duck.

And it didn't go well.

Yes, that is Tim Robbins.
Yes, that is Tim Robbins.

The reasons behind Howard the Duck's failure are many - and often debated - but it essentially came down to one key thing: It wasn't very good.

What it was, though, was the first Marvel property to be released in theaters since Captain America serials during the Second World War.

What's more, you could argue that its failure was a big part of why we didn't see any Marvel movies to speak of during the '90s.

Which, in turn, is a big part of why we never had to see a Spider-Man movie as silly and widely hated as Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin - and of why we now have the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


Which, again, is now owned by Disney.

It's...almost as though George Lucas was planning the whole thing. I wonder how many Disney shares he has now...?

What do you guys think, though?


Favorite non-Star Wars thing George Lucas did?


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