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Kerner Optical

Kerner Optical
Industry Visual effects, Film production
Founded August 2006
Defunct August 2011
Headquarters Kerner Blvd,
San Rafael, California, United States
Key people
Eric Edmeades

Kerner Optical was an American practical visual effects company based in San Rafael, California.

Kerner was initially little more than a "ghost name" for George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic, before the company's relocation to the Presidio of San Francisco. Kerner became a division within ILM, and in 2006, became autonomous.

After five years of operating independently, Kerner declared bankruptcy and ceased operations in 2011.


The Kerner Co. sign

Kerner Optical started when George Lucas discovered that 20th Century Fox had closed down their special effects department after Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was green lit for production. Lucas then started his own special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic.

Later, in 2006, the practical effects department was, like Pixar, spun off from Industrial Light & Magic.[1] When George Lucas moved the computer graphics team to The Presidio in 2006 he sold five physical effects divisions of ILM in a management-led buyout that resulted in the creation of a new company that took on the name Kerner Optical as a tribute to the long history shared with ILM. Kerner continued to operate in the same property, in San Rafael, from which they had operated for over 30 years and the original "Kerner Co." sign is still displayed in front of the building.

In the three years since leaving the Lucasfilm family, Kerner continued to provide practical special effects to major film productions.

In addition to films, Kerner was selected in 2007 to build a three-dimensional scale model of the Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California for the Walt Disney Family Museum. Named the "Disneyland of Walt's Imagination," the model is displayed at Gallery 9 of the museum, which is located in the Presidio, not far from the extant ILM headquarters.[2]

Kerner also continued several years of significant research and development in the areas of 3D camera rigs and consumer products. Kerner's creature shop manufactured lifelike, servo-controlled dummies with simulated injuries used for training military medics.

In August 2009, entrepreneur Eric Edmeades acquired a controlling interest in the business and became CEO of the group.[3] In February 2011, Kerner filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in San Francisco.[4] Despite record profitability during reorganization, investor and previous owner Kevin Duncan of Duncan Oil appealed to the courts to have Eric Edmeades replaced by a trustee, alleging mismanagement. Duncan was also an owner and member of the management team for each of the first three loss-making years during which the company incurred millions of dollars in debt. Duncan's petition forced the company to turn away at least two ILM contracts and ultimately, despite the Edmeades having enough creditor votes to approve his reorganization plan, led to the closure of the company seven months after the original Chapter 11 filing.[5] After refiling their bankruptcy under Chapter 7, the court ordered liquidation of their assets.[6]


As Kerner Optical

  • 2006: Kerner's solutions shop, Kernerworks, developed specialized hidden cameras designed to look like rocks to help capture the footage for The Cove.
  • 2009: Kerner completes a 2-year project to build a detailed model, the centerpiece of the Disney Museum, that shows Disney the way Walt Disney saw it.[7]
  • 2009: Kerner and Emily Carr University of Art and Design established a stereoscopic Center of Excellence for the development of education and training for stereopgraphers.[8]
  • 2011: Filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy[9]
  • 2011: Closed business.
  • 2011, October 21–27: Court-Ordered Liquidation Auctioning of equipment[10]

The Kerner name

Before the Kerner spin-off, ILM, rather than hide behind barbed wire and high fences, operated from an inconspicuous property in San Rafael, California. The company hid in plain sight and was known to locals, industry insiders, clients and suppliers as Kerner. George Lucas explained[11] that the name Kerner was a "deception designed to keep kids from rummaging through garbage bins".

Selected filmography (as Kerner Optical)

Year Notable films
2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
2007 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Evan Almighty
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

2008 Iron Man

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
WALL-E (visual effects for live-action sequences)
Pig Hunt
The Butler's in Love

Recent films

Kerner Optical worked on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, providing miniatures and pyrotechnics for the aircraft carrier crash, the bridge destruction, and various building collapse sequences, among others.

Kerner Optical worked on Terminator Salvation, providing miniatures and pyrotechnics for the Very Large Array, the dilapidated building collapse, various aircraft explosions, and Serena's Tower, among others.

Kerner Optical has also recently worked on the J. J. Abrams film Star Trek and the Ashton Kutcher film Killers.


Adam Savage, Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci of Mythbusters fame have all worked at Industrial Light & Magic at Kerner's facility in San Rafael.

External links


  1. ^ "FX Guide - 8 October 2007". 
  2. ^ Titizian, Joseph. "STORYBOARD: Event Recap: Creating "The Disneyland of Walt's Imagination"". Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  3. ^ Cohen, David S. (27 August 2009). "Edmeades cuts in at former Lucasfilm Tech Shop - 27 August 2009". Variety. 
  4. ^ Cohen, Melanie (7 September 2011). "Kerner Optical Sees End of Days". WSJ Blogs. News Corp. Archived from the original on 18 October 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011. Kerner filed for Chapter 11 protection in San Francisco in February. According to court documents, it had assets of $798,964 and debts of $4.3 million at the time of its bankruptcy filing. 
  5. ^ Halstead, Richard (6 September 2011). "Kerner Optical, special effects spin-off from Lucasfilm, shuts down". Marin Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA). MediaNews Group. Archived from the original on 18 October 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  6. ^ Halstead, Richard (18 October 2011). "Kerner Optical to auction tools, equipment". Marin Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA). MediaNews Group. Archived from the original on 18 October 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Mickey Gets a Gallery". New York Times. 6 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "Vancouver Sun - Kerner, Emily Carr University team up to produce 3-D movies". [dead link]
  9. ^ Stevens, Loralee (8 April 2011). "Kerner Optical files for Chapter 11 reorganization". North Bay Business Journal. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Kaplan, David A. (1989-07-02). "NYT: FILM; Secret Lair of the Jedi, the Grail and Green Slimers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-26.