The Ways Of The Force Are Strong at Spectacular Clone Wars Press Preview

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.–As Yoda would say, amazing it was.
Took full advantage of the opportunity today to tour Big Rock Ranch, a Lucasfilm development at 3838 LucasValley Road in Marin County, just across the Golden Gate bridge and into the rolling hills outside San Francisco.
The amazing creative arts campus is adjacent to Skywalker Ranch, filmmaker George Lucas’ $100 million film and TV animation empire. The occasion was the second season launch of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (beginning Oct. 5 on Teletoon), with a brand new video game also set for release. Several dozen reporters were invited to the surprisingly wide open house at Big Rock, which houses Lucasfilm Animation. The first three episodes of the new season were screened in a 300-seat theatre, with interviews set up throughout the afternoon. Scribes shot photos at will with none of the usual restrictions on photography and access.
The place is a tranquil, stunning enclave tucked into one corner of 4700 acres of land owned by Lucasfilm. Deer, turtles, frogs and other wildlife were spotted on the winding road leading up to the ranch by Teletoon’s eagle-eyed naturalist Kate Dickson, my host for the event. The large, Teak-clad building is very Frank Lloyd Wright meets Green and Green.

It is filled with many rare, one-of-a-kind movie posters from Hollywood’s golden age, part of the largest private movie poster collection in the world–all owned by Lucas. There were several posters from The Red Shoes, a number of Bogart and Shirley Temple posters, even a wall with a couple of Fellini’s framed. The Marx Bros., Buster Keaton and several westerns were also represented, many on foreign language versions. I’ve seen some of these listed in auctions in Toronto after the film festival and a caller from California was buying up all the best ones. Now I know who was on the other end of the phone.
There are several Star Wars posters and other artifacts, too, including that original, 1977 R2D2 I was hamming it up with at the entrance to the main building. Close by, a bronze Yoda greets visitors to the front courtyard.
Several voice cast members were at the event, including Ashley Eckstein, who voices spunky Skywalker protege Ahsoka Tano. Eckstein is married to former Toronto Blue Jay Dave Eckstein, now a San Diego Padre. She works in front of the camera and shot a Brady Bunch movie in T.O. (The Brady Bunch in the White House; I don’t remember it either), and proved it by going “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” (she played Jan).
Mobbed at the latest Comic-Con, Eckstein says she’s coming out with her own line of form fitting Ts and other gear for female sci-fi fans. Today was her 28th birthday, and Star Wars Wookie cookies and other goodies were shared.
Supervising director Dave Filoni pretty much admitted he had the best job ever as the guiding hand on Clone Wars. He wanted to talk hockey; the Pittsburgh-native is a die-hard Penguins fan and still plays net with animation pals working the Disney lot, including a few Sheridan grads.
Filoni posed with one of four local Bay area dudes who made their own Star Wars costumes and were featured at the event. Members of the 301st garrison, one guy said he spent 80 hours assembling his storm trooper duds and that he figures it cost around $1000 to complete. If it wasn’t already obvious that these guys were way into the ways of the force, it was comical to see them all pick up controllers and test drive the new Clone Wars video game, available on seven different game platforms including Playstation, Xbox 360 and Wii. More to come.

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