Inside Skywalker Ranch

Bonnie Burton | February 28, 2008

(photo by Gregg Segal)

Los Angeles Times reporter Geoff Boucher visit the famed Skywalker Ranch in Marin, Calif. and reveals what mysteries lurk past the security gate. And no Ewoks do not tend to the property like Oompa-Loompas, but we do have an Ewok Lake!

Here’s what he discovered:

Walking through the Main House, with its inlaid brass, amber lights and honeyed glow, is to stroll through a stately past. It’s very different, though, at the busiest site on the ranch, the Technical Building, the sleek home of Skywalker Sound, a highly regarded brand in Hollywood postproduction. There, I watched digital artisans work in sound-effects studios, on a huge scoring stage and in mixing suites outfitted with state-of-the-art gear. Because the ranch has a pastoral, summer-camp setting, these workspaces make Skywalker a favored spot for filmmakers who yearn for Walden Pond but with the computer power of the Pentagon.

The Technical Building is just plain fun. I enter the cramped studio where foley artists are creating noises for “Horton Hears a Who.” (The foley name is a tradition throughout the industry in deference to sound pioneer Jack Foley.) The scene I’m watching has a character walking with a tray of water glasses and as he waddles on screen, the artists, with expressions of focused concentration, clink half-empty tumblers in a tinkling chorus. This crew has produced the sounds for every Pixar film–they stop to show me the strip of rubber that produces the sound for Elasti-Girl from “The Incredibles”–and their “office” is cluttered with a battered car door, toys, mismatched shoes, dishes, bottles, rusty pipes, dirt and shelves of boxes with disconcerting labels. (“Bones, fingernails, small shells” reads one.). The whole thing is so wonderfully analog. The artists tell me some of their trade secrets, how they make the creak of haunted doors and hiss of an imaginary serpent. I promise to keep their magic tricks secret, but I have to know about the old bagel sitting in a corner: What is it for? “That,” one of the foley artists says, “is what I call my breakfast.”

Read the full article with photo slideshows here:
Inside George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch (Los Angeles Times)

(photo by Gregg Segal)

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