November 4, 2011
Story & Photos by: Chris "Darth" Spice

 

IMPERIAL TROOPS HAVE ENTERED THE BASE!
The past decade of my tour of duty with this website has led me down a path of many journeys and adventure, but nothing could prepare me for my trip to Skywalker Ranch.  Seeing as I was going to be in Northern California for the Rancho Obi-Wan festivities, I figured what a better time to see if I could get a tour of Skywalker Ranch? If that wouldn't be enough, to have my tour guide be none other than Matthew Wood? I was beginning to think the Force really was with me.  Upon landing in Oakland, CA I immediately met up with fellow Midwest Garrison member Tom "TK 118" Schaefer and headed north to Skywalker Ranch.  One slight mis-step was forgetting to let the security men at the gate know "they didn't need to see our identification!" Upon arrival we noticed the massive steer that were coming down the mountain to greet us. We were also joined by four members of MintInBox.net and Ben Stevens from Official Pix. We were also joined by sound guru David Accord for our tour, and warned that George Lucas was indeed on the premises, and we were asked not to bum rush him if we did happen to bump into him.

The tour began in office of Matt Wood and David Accord. It was very cool to see the many plaques and posters that were hung up on the walls. It was also quite interesting to see some of the toys they had on display in there! Then we moved on to the tech building where we got to see the massive sound room known as the mix room. This is where they do all the sound engineering for the Clone Wars.  We even got to see where George and Dave sit during the sessions.  However for me, the biggest treat may have been the Sistros and Brata statues that were to the left and right of the screen in the Stag Theater. It was simply jaw-dropping.  I can honestly say I've never seen a sound board that big in my life either!  It spread nearly the entire length of the room and one could only wonder what each and every knob did.  Another impressive aspect of the tech building was the movie posters of past and present that adorned the walls. The place is really a tribute to film itself and not just the projects LFL has worked on, but the intricate wood that was throughout was some of the most beautiful wood work I've ever seen. 

After leaving the tech building we headed for the main residence.  For me personally, I've never seen such a beauty that is Northern California. I kept finding my mouth wide open in awe of just the landscape.  We walked around the path near Lake Ewok and just as we were walking up the stairs, George Lucas walked out the front door!  We all remembered our instructions and pretty much it was only an opportunity to say hi, and he sort of said hello in his own way and immediately drove away.  Seth Green and the writers of Robot Chicken were also right behind him, so I can only guess they might have been working on the upcoming Star Wars parody TV show that was announced last week. Once inside, we got to see the actual Lightsaber that went into orbit with the Space shuttle and many other props from Star Wars and Indiana Jones.  I've seen some pretty good replicas of those things, but to be right in front of the real deal? Simply mind-blowing! There was also a piano that used to belong to the great John Williams and once again I found myself with my jaw dropped as we entered the Lucas Reference Library. There were so many things to shoot pictures of, I found myself out of time to shoot video before it was time to "move along!"

After a gourmet lunch at the fitness center, we headed back outside and walked along the forest area where they filmed the made for TV Ewok movies.  I have heard stories from Eric Walker who starred in the films, but again there's such a huge difference in hearing about it and seeing these things with the naked eye. We were told until fairly recently there were still several props up in the trees, but we didn't see anything laying around. Before long we were at the Skywalker General Store. While I only picked up a couple of t-shirts and a Commander Colt figure that was on the pegs, the crew from France took full advantage of the weak dollar, one of them spending more than four hundred dollars! Even though Colt was a few dollars more than a regular store, finding a figure I needed in such a strange place was too much to pass up.

Afterwards we headed back to the tech building to catch up with Ben Burtt. Sadly the sound guru of Star Wars had departed for the day, but gave Matt the green light for us to head upstairs and check out his office.  What action figure collector didn't mimic the blaster sounds or chirps and beeps of R2-D2? To play on the very keyboard where those effects came from was such an honor. We were all simply star-struck as fans!  We also saw the many awards Mr. Burtt achieved over the years, I took note of the 30-year award he received of an R2-D2 under a glass dome. However I found myself in pure joy once again to see the scuba regulator they used to create Darth Vader's breathing effect. I couldn't believe this was the thing that used to scare the hell out of me as a kid!. We all felt like Wayne's World because we were indeed not worthy! After taking all of that in we stopped by Skywalker Sound and were able to see all of the Oscars and many other awards the company has won over the years, and I really felt like our journey was complete, but not just yet.

We stopped back at the office Matt Wood for an extended gift giving ceremony courtesy of the crew at MintInBox.net. They brought several packages, but there's no question one of the most amazing was a book from site founder Michel Verpoorten.  His book "Conventions" is a stunning pictorial of the many shows he's attended over the years. There's no question you'll notice nearly each and every single participant, but I was really impressed with the perspective in which he put the book together, I'd highly recommend it. To conclude our tour, we visited the Skywalker Ranch Fire Department. The crew was so impressed we even got a ride around the property in a Fire Truck! What was expected to be less than an hour turned into a four and a half hour tour. We left Skywalker Ranch with our desire to see the place extinguished, but our love of Star Wars never hotter and for me personally my resolve has never been greater in our quest to become the number one Star Wars collectors site in the world! 

PHOTO GALLERY
To see the photo gallery from Skywalker Ranch click here!