Twentieth Century Fox recently held a press junket for the re-release of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace 3D Skywalker Ranch in Marin County and to ILM. Not only did they invite press, but they also asked journalists to bring their kids. On this press junket, the kids, from ages 6-18, would serve as the main reporters, doing all the interviews with the various Lucasfilm and “Episode I” talent.
Here is a chronicle of our two day visit to Lucasfilm
Let me preface this article with the fact that I am a huge “Star Wars” fan. I was 14 in 1977 when the original Star Wars came out – I saw the film opening weekend at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I walked out of that screening in 1977 like many other people, I was blown away. I went home that afternoon and started building my own Darth Vader mask out of paper mache (I still have it). Like many modern day filmmakers who cite “Star Wars” as the creative flashpoint that made them get into what they do today, I was no different! So the idea of being flown up to the land of LUCAS was hard to pass up. The bonus would be that I would spend it with my son, Benjamin!
Day One: We boarded a press shuttle bus from our hotel for the drive up to Marin County, about 40 minutes outside of San Francisco. After almost running over two wild turkeys on Lucas Valley Rd (no relation the road is named after a turn-of-the-century landowner) we entered the gates at Skywalker Ranch. The ranch has been operating since 1987. It was built by a filmmaker for filmmakers, and is one of the largest, most versatile full-service post-production facilities in the world.
Inside we were greeted by R2D2 and C-3P0, given our special VIP press badges and treated to a nice breakfast featuring various plays on “Star Wars” characters – YODA’s Yogurt and NUTE Fruit GUNRAY fresh berries. Inside the rustic lobby and entertainment room, I was in awe of where I was, I was a total geek and found myself reverting back to my 14-year-old self! But we had a job to do, after we took a few photos of the screen-used costumes of Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn and Queen Amidala in the lobby. We were given a great tour of the facilities including The Akira Kurosawa Stage, the 300-seat Stag Theater, George Lucas’ private screening room, the Scoring Stage decked out with young Anakin’s podracer. After the tour, the press were broken up into groups as Benjamin would be reporting for ComingSoon.net. We had prepared a few questions for the talent, and before we knew it he was on the Front Porch overlooking the vineyards and Ewok Lake doing his very first reporter’s stand-up, he did great for someone who had never done anything like this before. He did his intro cold and in three takes he was now a real reporter! As a father, I couldnt be more proud.
After getting his feet wet with his stand-up intro, Ben was off to interview one on one with the various Lucasfilm talent. First up from “Episode I” was Concept Model Artist John Goodman on the scoring stage, then with Matthew Wood, Skywalkers Sound Editor and voice of General Grievous. Ben kept his cool especially since Grievous is his favorite “Star Wars” character. Next he interviewed CG Supervisor Joel Aron. Aron is responsible for the designs on the animated TV series “The Clone Wars.” He was on hand to discuss the addition of Darth Maul to the series; again Ben was awesome, firing off questions like a pro. Ben ended his interview gig with Lightsaber Stunt Coordinator, Shawn ‘ObiShawn’ Crosby. Dueling it saber to saber with the Jedi Master/cosplayer and dishing out interview questions. You can check out the intro and interviews using the player below!
After all the interviews were completed, our official job now done, we were treated to a Lucasfilm lunch with Bantha Beef sandwiches and Palpatine Pasta Salad. We had free reign to walk around the facilities, our only warning was NO PHOTOS allowed of the priceless vintage film posters that hung throughout the ranch. George Lucas owns one of the largest collections of ‘vintage