As part of the #StrangeMagicEvent blog team I got the opportunity to do some awesome things courtesy of Disney. All opinions are my own.
How old were you when you first saw Star Wars or Indiana Jones? Me? I was young – a mere 3 years old when the original Star Wars film came out and 7 when I first Raiders of the Lost Ark. These films shaped my childhood and gave me a hearty appreciation for all things George Lucas – from Darth Vader to Willow, and of course the iconic American Graffiti (the first appearance of Harrison Ford!).
From that brilliant mind of Mr. George Lucas sparked another soon-to-be-classic Strange Magic – In Theaters January 23rd!
It is because of this film that I was given the opportunity to visit the mecca of my generation: Skywalker Ranch.
Skywalker Ranch is nestled in the hills above San Francisco. Over 4000 acres of sprawling land filled with animals, orchards, ponds, and even a vineyard. The work facilities are broken up into two buildings – Skywalker Sound Technical Building and the main offices of George Lucas. I started my visit for the day by heading through the gates, above which say “Skywalker Ranch” in Italian.
From there I visited the studios. Entering this brick building was a breath-taking moment in of itself. You walk into this amazing indoor courtyard. It’s an incredibly serene experience. On the walls are vintage movie posters from all over the world, lighted perfectly to showcase their movie history.
Skywalker Ranch employs their own chefs who make gourmet dishes on a daily basis for employees and visitors. My lunch was a gluten-free sampling of salmon, quinoa, zucchini, and a lovely strawberry shortcake dessert. Also onsite are fitness centers, a pool, apartments for visitors, even a fire station.
The main offices – a huge Victorian-style home of 50,000 square feet – is a short walk from the sound studios. As we headed over we passed by Ewok Lake and several vineyards. The views were spectacular.
We then arrived at the offices. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos inside so this is as far as I get with them (with the exception of stock images), so I will have to describe it all for you.
We walked into the foyer – a custom designed room with some amazing architecture and artwork. To the left were two display cabinets – about 6 feet across – displaying some original LucasFilm artifacts:
Mark Hamill’s “hero” saber. This is what hung on his belt through the original Star Wars. It also went up into space and orbited the earth in 2007.
Original AT-AT walker from Empire Strikes Back. Nope, they aren’t several hundred feet tall, more like 2 feet! AT-AT moves on film thanks to stop-motion photography, as seen here in a photo courtesy of StarWars.com:
Artifacts from Indiana Jones franchise included Harrison Ford’s hat, bullwhip, the false grail and Holy Grail, both used in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the headpiece to the Staff of Ra from Raiders on the Lost Ark. Other items included Willow props and movie memorabilia gifts to Mr. Lucas.
From there we walked through sitting rooms and hallways to the library.
This library is… so hard to describe….
The ceiling is a HUGE stained glass dome that changes the light at various times of day and in different weather. The spiral staircase is hand-carved and had to be corkscrewed into the room via window. There are different pieces of art hanging on the wall. Art that I never thought I would ever see without having a thick piece of glass between us. The entire mood of the library is warm, inviting, quiet, and inspiring. I imagine the likes of Steven Spielberg sitting there reading a book, Carrie Fisher enjoying a quiet conversation… You could feel the richness of the history there and who has been there before you.
Another room filled with that incredible presence is George Lucas’ board room. There is where he sits with other visionaries to decide what the next blockbuster will be. This room was wood-paneled with a HUGE oval table. People, this is were the magic happens… THIS is were history was made for all things LucasFilm.
On other thing I need to mention is that this building is open to those officially visiting the ranch – actors, writers, producers, directors.
We were told that upstairs is George Lucas’ private office. No, he doesn’t live there, but he does spend a lot of time there. We weren’t allowed to go up there (darn!) but I can only imagine what I would find. I may have died from sheer excitement.
One of my favorite areas of the whole ranch was the hallway of thank you posters. Anyone who used the Skywalker Ranch work facilities sent a signed movie poster as a thank you. These all hang in a long hallway at Skywalker Sound Technical Building.
Another favorite – George Lucas’ movie theater. This theater was designed to his exact specifications and is said to be the absolute best theater to see a movie in. It was this theater that we sat – with Mr. Lucas himself – to screen Strange Magic. We also conducted our interviews here. I also had a coughing fit here and had to step out – IN THE MIDDLE OF INTERVIEWING GEORGE LUCAS. omg. Yeah. That happened.
Oh I almost forgot – I got to go SHOPPING! Skywalker Ranch has a small gift shop filled with t-shirts, mugs, books, jackets, etc. I picked up some tees for the family and a coffee mug for me (my new favorite of course!).
To experience this once in a lifetime visit to Skywalker Ranch was, well… humbling. It made me feel special to be one of the few who got to do that (who didn’t work there). To watch a movie with George Lucas was… wow…