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

Kerner Optical
IndustryVisual effects, Film production
FoundedAugust 2006
DefunctAugust 2011
HeadquartersKerner Blvd,
San Rafael, California, United States
Key people
Eric Edmeades

Originally the practical effects division of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), it was spun off as an autonomous company in 2006. After five years of operating independently, Kerner declared bankruptcy and ceased operations in 2011.


The Kerner Co. sign

Kerner's history dates to George Lucas's founding of Industrial Light and Magic. In the late 1970s, ILM moved to facilities in San Rafael, California, on Kerner Boulevard; the sign outside the building identified it as the Kerner Company.[1] The company hid in plain sight and was known to locals, industry insiders, clients and suppliers as Kerner. George Lucas explained[2] that the name Kerner was a "deception designed to keep kids from rummaging through garbage bins".

In 2006, the practical effects department was, like Pixar in 1986, spun off from Industrial Light & Magic.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5][6][7] In February 2011, Kerner filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in San Francisco.[8] 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 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.[9] After refiling their bankruptcy under Chapter 7, the court ordered liquidation of their assets.[10]


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.[11]
  • 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.[12]
  • 2010:Kerner Group under new CEO Edmeades plans restructuring to aim 3D production[13]
  • 2011: Filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy[14]
  • 2011: Closed business.
  • 2011, October 21–27: Court-Ordered Liquidation Auctioning of equipment[15]

Selected filmography (as Kerner Optical)Edit

Recent filmsEdit

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 also 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 all worked for Industrial Light & Magic at Kerner's facility in San Rafael.


  1. ^ Rubin, Michael (2006). Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution. Gainesville, Florida: Triad Publishing Company. p. 82. ISBN 9780937404-67-6.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "FX Guide - 8 October 2007".
  4. ^ Titizian, Joseph. "STORYBOARD: Event Recap: Creating "The Disneyland of Walt's Imagination"". Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  5. ^ "Company Overview". Bloomberg.
  6. ^ Cohen, David S. (27 August 2009). "Edmeades cuts in at former Lucasfilm Tech Shop - 27 August 2009". Variety.
  7. ^ "Ex Lucasfilm studios taking a new direction". Film Industry Network. December 15, 2009.
  8. ^ 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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  9. ^ 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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  10. ^ 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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  11. ^ "Mickey Gets a Gallery". New York Times. 6 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  12. ^ "Vancouver Sun - Kerner, Emily Carr University team up to produce 3-D movies". Archived from the original on November 23, 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  13. ^ "Kerner Restructures". Studio Daily. Retrieved 27 July 2010.
  14. ^ Stevens, Loralee (8 April 2011). "Kerner Optical files for Chapter 11 reorganization". North Bay Business Journal. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  15. ^ "Court-Ordered Liquidation of Kerner Optical, LLC in San Rafael, California (Kerner Blvd)". Retrieved 27 December 2016.

External linksEdit