Kids get to play at California ranch where ‘Star Wars’ films are created


Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, left) and Darth Maul (Ray Park) wage a fierce lightsaber battle. (KEITH HAMSHERE/LUCASFILM )
February 7, 2012

It’s every “Star Wars” fan’s dream.

Dueling with lightsabers, seeing models of spacecraft that were used in pod races, creating the voices of clone troopers.

And for one day, about 40 kids got to play at Skywalker Ranch, the place where “Star Wars” creator George Lucas does his work.

The day was part of the promotion for the 3-D release of “Star Wars Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace,” which will be in theaters Friday. The lucky kids were the children of journalists who went to the ranch to learn more about the movie and how it was re-created in 3-D.

Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace” was first released in 1999. It is the first of what’s known as the “Prequel Trilogy,” three films that explain the origin of Anakin Skywalker (better known as Darth Vader). These movies are set in times before the events shown in the original 1977 “Star Wars” movie, but they were actually made after that film. (If you want to drive your parents crazy, ask them what’s the first Star Wars movie. Most parents will talk about the 1977 film, while most kids will talk about the “Phantom Menace.”) In any event, Lucas plans to convert all six “Star Wars” movies to 3-D in coming years.


At Skywalker Ranch in California, on Saturday, P.J. O'Connell, 7, receives lightsaber training from Shawn Crosby, also known as Jedi master ObiShawn. (ARAYA DIAZ/LUCASFILM )

Visiting the 4,700-acre Skywalker Ranch (named after Luke, get it?) is a treat. It is located in California, not far from San Francisco, and includes Ewok Lake and the Skywalker General Store. Every kid got a lightsaber, which he or she used in training exercises with Shawn Crosby, or as he was known at Skywalker Ranch, Jedi master ObiShawn.

The kids also got to learn about different parts of moviemaking from experts. Model artist John Goodson demonstrated how imaginative designers constructed the high-speed “Phantom Menace” pod race. Sound editor Matthew Wood recorded kids’ voices and ran them through a digital simulator so they would sound like clone troopers. Computer-graphics supervisor Joel Aron discussed the techniques that go into each episode of Cartoon Network’s popular animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” Before lunch, each kid prepared questions for the “Star Wars” experts and conducted one-on-one, on-camera interviews that will air on television.

P.J. O’Connell, 7, went to Skywalker Ranch with his father, who wrote this story for KidsPost. His favorite part of the day was the lightsaber training. “I got to learn a lot of different moves, which I can now use to defeat a lot of different people,” he said.

Ahh, but remember, young P.J., as Yoda told Luke: “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”

— Sean O’Connell

Show Comments