President Obama used a National Medal of Arts awards ceremony Wednesday to thank George Lucas for taking the strings out of special effects.
The president interrupted prepared remarks to note that Lucas had made it "look like those planes in space are actually flying like they are."
"I remember when I first saw ‘Star Wars.’ There is a whole generation that thinks special effects always look like they do today. But it used to be like you would see the string on the little model spaceship," the president said to laughter.
The president’s comments came as he presented the 2012 awards to Lucas, Herb Alpert, Tony Kushner and Elaine May, among others.
“The human imagination is still the most powerful tool we have as a people,” said Obama. “They are all teachers. They have taught us about ourselves and the world,” he said.
Several times he interrupted his prepared remarks.
Walking into the event to applause, the president said, “Everybody is cheering because I bought their books. I’ve seen their movies. I buy their records. So we are major contributors here.”
Lucas was cited for his contributions to American cinema. “By combining the art of storytelling with boundless imagination and cutting-edge techniques, Mr. Lucas has transported us to new worlds and created some of the most beloved and iconic films of all time,” the White House said his citation will read.
Alpert, the founder of A&M Records and the lead musician of the Tijuana Brass, was honored for his varied contributions to music and the fine arts.
Playwright Kushner was honored for his contributions to the theater and films, including “Angels in America.” “Whether for the stage or the silver screen, his scripts have moved audiences worldwide, marrying humor to fury, history to fantasy, and the philosophical to the personal,” said the citation.
May was honored for her contributions to American comedy, notably as part of the comedy team Nichols and May, with Mike Nichols. “With groundbreaking wit and a keen understanding of how humor can illuminate our lives, Ms. May has evoked untold joy, challenged expectations, and elevated spirits across our nation,” the citation.
Others Obama presented the National Medal of Arts awards to included Lin Arison, Co-Founder of the National Young Arts Foundation and the New World Symphony; Joan Myers Brown, dancer, choreographer and founder of the Philadelphia Dance Company; singer Renée Fleming; author and teacher Ernest Gaines; painter, sculptor and printmaker Ellsworth Kelly; landscape architecht Laurie Olin; composer, producer and performer Allen Toussaint; and the Washington Performing Arts Society.
President Obama also awarded the 2012 National Humanities Awards at the event. Among recipients were author Joan Didion; playwright Anna Devere Smith; and sports editor and writer Frank Dedford. At the awards ceremony, President Obama noted both Didion’s extensive writing career at Dedford’s work at Sports Illustrated.