The maker wasn’t there in person, but he was there in spirit. And via video.
At today’s 20th anniversary panel for at Star Wars Celebration, George Lucas sent in a taped video message to thank fans for coming—and to talk, very briefly, about the film’s legacy.
Here’s his quote:
Thank you for coming to the Celebration. [The Phantom Menace] one of my favourite movies and of course Jar Jar is my favourite character. Ahmed [Best], you did a fantastic job. It was very very hard. Also for John Knoll and all the guys at ILM, I made it impossible for them. We broke a lot of ground. We were using test equipment but it was the beginning of digital, even though we didn’t get to shoot the whole thing digitally, we got to shoot part of it so it was really one of the first digital features and I’m very proud of that. The fans are always such a big part of these films and obviously those of you who are here are the fans of Episode 1 and I love each and ever one of you.
And here’s the full panel, synced up to 1:01:28 when Lucas came on.
Lucas’ praise of Best was a theme at this year’s convention, likely in part due to a recent outpouring of fan support since Best admitted he was suicidal after the negative reaction to Jar Jar. During the Phantom Menace panel, Best received enthusiastic cheers, much like he did on the main stage at the convention a few days earlier. You can watch that video below.
To hear Lucas say Phantom Menace is one of his favourite films is a little surprising, but you have to also remember the film was pure George. There was no one there to tell him “no” at any stage. Plus, it pushed technology so far ahead compared to other films of the era. More than almost anything else, that was the takeaway from the panel — sure, some fans like the movie, but the fact that Phantom Menace ushered in a new era of Star Wars, and filmmaking technology as a whole, is really its biggest legacy.