A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away — late 1970s California, to be more precise — the Star Wars universe came into being.
The movie and sequels that followed fundamentally changed the aesthetics and narratives of Hollywood films, ushering in the science fiction boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and making science fiction films a blockbuster genre.
Its characters, themes, catchphrases and even the movie score became deeply embedded in popular culture. So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few decades, you’re more than familiar with the Star Wars franchise and the man behind it — director, producer, and screenwriter George Lucas.
After humble beginnings, Lucas’ critically acclaimed 1973 film, American Graffiti, is what first got him noticed. However, it was his next movie, Star Wars, that really put him on the map by becoming the highest-grossing film at the time. This was the starting point of a worldwide cultural phenomenon that’s still holding strong today, more than three decades later.
Lucas is also known for his other popular franchise, Indiana Jones, which he co-created and produced with Steven Spielberg. After taking a break from directing, Lucas returned to the spotlight with a Star Wars prequel trilogy and the CGI-animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars that have gotten a whole new generation of fans hooked on the universe he created.
Since selling his production company, Lucasfilm, to Disney in 2012 and announcing his retirement, Lucas has been laying low and spending more time with his family.
And while many of his fans have speculated that the legendary director is living his retirement years on the iconic Skywalker Ranch, the award-winning director does not actually live here — and the Ranch has a very different purpose.
Although it would make an incredible residence, Skywalker Ranch is actually a movie ranch and serves as home to Skywalker Sound. And since fans everywhere would love to take a tour of the iconic property — but can’t, seeing that it isn’t open to the public — we thought we’d do the next best thing.
Join us as we take you on a virtual tour of one of George Lucas’ greatest accomplishments… after Star Wars of course!
Skywalker Ranch is its own universe
Just like the many planets and moons that make up the world of Star Wars, the Skywalker Ranch has many spaces (with vastly different purposes) that come together to make it a universe in itself.
The colossal property is tucked away in the rolling hills of Nicasio in Marin County, California. The ranch is located on Lucas Valley Road and, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t named after George Lucas but after John Lucas, a 19th-century rancher who owned the land back in the day.
Lucas bought the land back in 1978 and although it encompasses over 4,700 acres, only 15 acres of it have been developed. Don’t let that fool you though, there are a quite a few structures on the property and the rest of the land serves its own purpose.
Skywalker Ranch has 14 buildings, a vineyard, organic gardens, a bee colony, an olive tree grove, and a B&B. You may think it’s called a ranch just for the heck of it but there’s actually a barn with animals here.
There’s also a fitness center, an outdoor pool, racquetball courts, a Yoda statue (of course), and the Skywalker Ranch General Store where you can buy everything from mugs to Star Wars toys, clothing to wines from their vineyard, and much more.
The nearby man-made ‘Ewok Lake’ doesn’t have any real Ewoks but it is beautiful! There’s also a hilltop observatory from where you can see the entire valley on a clear day.
It has three houses (and one Bed & Breakfast)
The three houses have dedicated office spaces and each has their own theater where filmmakers can view projects that they’re working on.
While all three were built in the 80s, they were inspired by styles from different, very specific eras. The Barn and Gate House was inspired by properties built in the 1870s, the Brook House by 1913, and the Craftsman Carriage House by the 1915 era.
The Main House at the center of it all, as the name suggests, is the main attraction here. The most spectacular part, however, is the Lucasfilm Research Library with its domed stained-glass ceiling, spiral staircase, and wooden walls.
This space houses thousands of reference books about movies, television, theater, as well as other books and picture files, making it every cinephile’s dream library. Not to mention that it also holds Lucas’ private art collection and priceless Hollywood relics!
The main house was built using a lot of vintage materials. The wood paneling in the hallways, for example, was made from redwood from one of California’s oldest bridges.
Lucas loves using recycled materials and believes that is what makes the property more authentic. In his words, he didn’t want it to look like an interpretation of a Victorian building but rather like the real deal instead. We think he has succeeded in doing just that.
Victorian architecture predominates at Skywalker Ranch
Considering the fact that Skywalker Ranch was built by someone who spent most of his life creating an epic space opera franchise, you’d expect it to be sleek and modern. Surprisingly, the property is on the exact opposite end of that and Lucas himself claims that he has never “been into science fiction.” Can you imagine that?!
In fact, he says that Star Wars didn’t have much to do with space and was based on 2000-to-3000-year-old mythology. Apparently, his style has always been more romantic and he loves Victorian and Mission architecture from around the year 1910, showcased throughout his iconic property.
The Technical Building is where all the action is at
The Tech Building houses Skywalker Sound, which is the sound division of Lucasfilm. It spreads over 150,000 square feet and has state-of-the-art facilities that filmmakers, sound engineers, and producers can use.
There are six feature mix stages, 15 sound design suites, an ADR stage, 50 editing suites, and two Foley stages. Also located in the Tech Building is a 300-seat theater called “The Stag” which is said to be equipped with the most advanced sound system in the world.
The archway leading to the building has the words “Viandante del Cielo” which roughly translates to “Travel of the Sky,” the closest Italian translation of “Skywalker.”
Lucas wanted to create a nice, quiet space where writers and filmmakers could retreat to whenever they were working on new movie ideas. Needless to say, the property has top-notch security to ensure the privacy of their guests.
Which basically means that one can’t just walk up and ring the doorbell (like they Sheldon and Leonard do on an episode of Big Bang Theory) and you definitely can’t sneak in like they did in the movie Fanboys. But if you still decide to try and get in, may the force be with you…
Featured image credit: Skywalker Ranch – Mike McCune, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; George Lucas – nicolas genin, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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