Journeys Through Life: At the front doors of Lucasfilm, LTD
In December of 2011, I made a short trek up to the San Francisco bay area, as part of a creative journey that would take me to the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA, the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, and PIXAR Animation Studios in Emeryville, CA.
On my second day, I headed to the Walt Disney Family Museum, but not before making a short stop mere steps away.
The Museum is located in an area called The Presidio, a park and former military base whose buildings have been given over to museums, businesses, and much more. One of the areas that had been newly-developed in the northeastern section of the Presidio, was the Letterman Digital Arts Center. In 2005, three of George Lucas’ production divisions would be moved under one roof, from their previous, separate homes. These included his video game division Lucasarts, visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic, and his main company, Lucasfilm, LTD.
Of course, for years, Lucas and several of his cohorts (such as Francis Ford Coppola), had championed filmmaking in the Bay Area. In fact, several Lucasfilm LTD productions have been shot up there. And thanks to movie-magic, you’d never know unless you dug a little deeper.
For example, in 1981, the interior of the City Hall showed up at the end of the Spielberg-directed/Lucas-produced Raiders of the Lost Ark. After his meeting with the guys in Washington DC doesn’t go over well, Indy meets Marion on the steps inside the City Hall rotunda, before going off to get a drink (and as we thought at the time, to a happily-ever-after).
Needless to say, I detoured into City Hall just to walk down the same steps that Harrison Ford had. Yes, I’m that geeky.
Then, it was time to head off to the Presidio. The cab I took dropped me off right near the entrance to Lucasfilm. One of the ways that one can tell you’re in the right spot, is the fountain out front, adorned with the wise Jedi Master, Yoda.
Entering into the main lobby area, a relaxing atmosphere is to be found. Well, as relaxing as one can get when Boba Fett and Darth Vader (off camera-right) are nearby. On the nearby tables, were numerous books related to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series.
It was definitely exciting to be in the lobby of the company, but I did get a little case of the green-eyed monsters when I saw many people checking-in for appointments or to see friends working at the company, and being admitted through the doors into the hallowed halls.
Nearby, a festive Christmas tree and a Menorah had been placed for the Holiday Season. I was a little surprised that this was one of the few Christmas displays that had no red coloring.
Right next to the tree, was a sculpture that seemed to scream ‘centerpiece’ for the small lobby: A sculpture of stop-motion pioneer Willis O’Brien, setting up King Kong atop the Empire State Building. Many of ILM’s alumni have often spoke of the early stop-motion films as the inspiration for them getting into the world of Special Effects. After all, without those early pioneers, there surely would never have been Star Wars.
In the case along the wall, there were some medals and accolades for the Lucasfilm companies, like this one, presented to Industrial Light & Magic.
Also around the room, were several art pieces, notably vintage film posters, like these:
And then there was this art piece, that still makes me wonder what the inspiration behind it was:
Wherever I go, I’m sure to always see or experience something that noone else will, and that is displayed in the pic below. I saw this guy wheeling this empty keg out the front door of Lucasfilm, but what made it stand out, was that there was a film title taped to the front of the cart. And what was that title? Battleship. As the film was still in development at the time (and almost everyone I knew had zero interest in its premise), I like to think the keg was added ‘liquid propulsion’ to help keep the animators at ILM motivated.
I soon took my leave of the inside of Lucasfilm, and decided to patrol the grounds. Off in the distance, I saw a piece of Naboo transplanted in San Francisco. Actually, the dome of The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, but one has to figure it did serve as some inspiration for the designs on the peace-loving planet in Episode I.
Walking around the oustide of the Lucasfilmi headquarters, there wasn’t really that much to see, except a few people hard at work in the upper windows. The company is in a couple different buildings, and has entrances around back and an elevated walkway overhead.
From a distance, I could make out what appeared to be miniatures and models lining the walkway. If you look closely, you can make out the fuzzy silhouette of a velociraptor maquette.
I entertained the idea of bribing a few of the Lucasfilm employees, or sneaking in with them when they returned from their smoke break, but seeing as I fear being blacklisted, I reconsidered.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to enter and see what’s beyond the lobby area. But as it is, I’ll just live vicariously through press articles and junket visit recaps online…unless someone sees this, and is willing to let me through (I’ll buy you lunch at a great little place nearby!).
A shiny little statue of R2-D2 in the Lucasfilm lobby