An amazing event took place this week featuring a Skywalker Ranch Tour, a movie Screening with George Lucas, an intimate interview with George Lucas, Elijah Kelley, and Gary Rydstrom, plus a private performance of “Say Hey (I Love You)” by Elijah Kelley. all to celebrate the release of “Strange Magic,” a new animated film by George Lucas opening in theaters on Jan. 23, 2015.
Though Lucas himself does not live on the ranch, we were thrilled (may-be we screamed like a bunch of school girls) to learn he would be on-site for our visit, to talk with us, and share the story behind “Strange Magic” the latest animated film from Lucasfilm Ltd.
Skywalker Ranch Tour
Skywalker Ranch is a breathtaking movie ranch and workplace of film director and producer George Lucas located 40 minutes north of San Francisco, and is the pastoral home to Lucasfilm’s celebrated audio postproduction facility, Skywalker Sound.
Skywalker Ranch contains a barn with animals, vineyards, a garden with fruits and vegetables, an outdoor swimming pool and fitness center with racquetball courts, the man-made “Lake Ewok,” and a hilltop observatory. The Technical Building is home to Skywalker Sound which occupies the 153,000-square-foot building, featuring a world-class scoring stage, six mix studios, ADR and Foley stages, 34 editing suites, and a 300-seat screening room. Parking that is mostly concealed underground to preserve the natural landscape. Skywalker Ranch has its own fire station, which is part of the Marin County Mutual Aid system, and is often called on to assist firefighters in nearby Marinwood. Skywalker Ranch is also the home of the iconic Main House.
The Ranch is intended to be more of a retreat for filmmakers than a headquarters for Lucas's business operations. The headquarters of Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic, and LucasArts are located in Lucas's Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio of San Francisco.
The ranch is closed to the public so it's not open for tours, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the exquisite beauty of this secluded, yet open area near Nicasio, California in Marin County just as we did! Just sit back and relax as I take you on an exclusive, virtual tour that mirrors our exciting day at Skywalker Ranch for the Strange Magic Event!
The Technical Building
The Technical Building at Skywalker Ranch was our first stop of the day. As you approach the entrance to the Technical Building you pass under a beautiful, copper style arch that reads “Viandante Del Cielo”, which means “Wanderer of the Sky” in Italian. “Viandante Del Cielo” is also the name of the style of Pinor Noir wines offered by Skywalker Ranch Vineyards.
The side of the Technical Building is beautifully crafted in wood and stone with trellises covering the entrances in thick, green foliage to help preserve the natural landscape just as George Lucas desired.
The front of the Technical Building features bold red brickwork that extends the length of the building, with natural stone stairs lined by vineyards on each side.
Entering the Technical Building was in a way like entering a museum. The inside of the Technical building is just as skillfully crafted as the outside, from the open, metal framed ceilings reminiscent of a natural greenhouse that tower over live Ficus trees, to the wood, stone, and brick walls that weave throughout the building.
As we entered the building the quiet hush of the room was broken by a loud cheer as Actor Elijah Kelley welcomed us all with open arms, chatting with us, making us feel welcome, and taking selfies with anyone who wanted one (Yes, even me!).
Along the walls of the Technical Building you can find framed movie posters from (what I can assume are) some of George Lucas' favorite movies, and many that were my favorites as well.
Adjacent to the side entrance is the stairway down to the intimate, 300-seat screening room where we were scheduled to not only screen “Strange Magic,” a new animated film from Lucasfilm Ltd. with George Lucas, but to also interview Executive Producer George Lucas, Director Gary Rydstrom, and Actor Elijah Kelley. As a special treat, Elijah Kelley performed one of my favorite songs from “Strange Magic”, “Say Hey (I Love You)” which was chosen by George Lucas.
Getting ready to screen “Strange Magic” with George Lucas. That's him, two rows back and two seats over!
Inside the screening room you can find two, majestic life-sized statues that line each side of the stage, as if they're there protecting the details of each movie until their official release dates.
The back of the screening room is where all the magic takes place. Lined with beautiful gold railings, the screening room is simple, yet perfect.
The stage in front of the screen where we would soon be watching an exclusive performance from Actor Elijah Kelley, and interviewing Executive Producer George Lucas, Director Gary Rydstrom, and Actor Elijah Kelley. (I'll share more on the interviews, and Elijah's exclusive performance next week!)
Executive Producer George Lucas talking openly with us about Strange Magic, and the inspiration behind his new film.
Photo credit: Jana Seitzer
Actor Elijah Kelley (voice of Sunny) sharing his favorite moments and songs from the film.
Photo credit: Yolanda Machado
Photo credit: Jana Seitzer
Director Gary Rydstrom on the key to a great film, and what scene makes him cry in the movie.
Photo credit: Jana Seitzer
Elijah Kelley performing “Say Hey (I Love You)” for us!
Photo credit: Jana Seitzer
Don't miss them! Full interviews and performance will be posted next week! For now, back to the tour!
Once the screening and interviews were over, we were treated to a delicious salmon lunch courtesy of Skywalker Ranch. The lunch included a tangy, yet slightly sweet lemon salmon over couscous, sautéed zucchini with slivered almonds, a fresh mixed green salad, and strawberry shortcake with a balsamic reduction. Yes, it was a delish as it looks!
After lunch we split into two groups and headed out for our walking Skywalker Ranch tour, including additional rooms at the Technical Building, the Skywalker Ranch General Store, and the Main House.
The remaining rooms we toured in the backside of the Technical Building were just as beautiful as you would expect, with more framed movie poster art, a quaint little kitchen, and an intimate seating area.
We even found Tik-Tok from Return to Oz at Skywalker Sound.
Skywalker Ranch General Store
Next on our tour was the Skywalker Ranch General Store. The store is frequented by employees and their families, and can be found in a small building with a dining area and gym for employees and their families.
The Skywalker Ranch General Store sells the standard products you would find at a general store, including: jackets, shirts, hats, coffee cups, pens, and more all boasting the ranch's signature logo. You can also purchase specialty books, honey, preserves, and Skywalker Vineyards very own Pinot Noir wines.
(My cutie and me sporting our Skywalker Ranch shirts at school lunch after our trip!)
The Main House
The last stop on our tour was the Main House, complete with a company research library nestled under a gorgeous stained-glass dome. Though photographs are not allowed inside the Main House, we were able to take photographs around the outside of this spectacular iconic house complete with southern-style wrap around porches.
A view of the Main House from behind the quaint Lake Ewok.
The Main House from the front steps of the Technical Building.
The back of the Main House, but don't let that fool you. The back is just as awe-inspiring as the front.
My favorite part of the Main House tour was the stunning stained-glass dome atop the research library, and Lucasfilm graciously provided a photograph of the stained-glass dome for us to share with each you!
Photo credit: © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
While we were touring the Main house, we saw the most adorable little girl playing in the front yard.Turns out, it was George Lucas' daughter. No matter where we were at the ranch you could feel the love within everyone who was there. Skywalker Ranch was truly a unique place to visit, and an experience that I for one will never forget.
About Strange Magic
“Strange Magic,” a new animated film from Lucasfilm Ltd., is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion. Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and Industrial Light & Magic bring to life the fanciful forest turned upside down with world-class animation and visual effects. Directed by Gary Rydstrom (“Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation,” “Lifted”) from a story by George Lucas, “Strange Magic” will be released by Touchstone Pictures on Jan. 23, 2015.
And now you can learn more about the Creatures and Cast of “Strange Magic” in this latest featurette!
Portions of the material and expenses for this event has been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios, all opinions are my own.