Strange Magic at Skywalker Ranch #StrangeMagicEvent

There are places in this world that are legendary to us über-nerds. Skywalker Ranch, located 40 minutes north of San Francisco is one of those places.

Earlier this week I was privileged to visit the fabled home of Lucasfilm's amazing postproduction facility, Skywalker Sound and tour the ranch itself.


I was invited along with 24 other bloggers to come up to Skywalker Ranch and preview the latest film from the mind of George Lucas, Strange Magic.


So, let's just review so far: 

I went to George Lucas' famed Skywalker Ranch to preview the latest film from the mind of George Lucas. (I know. Shut up.)

Let's continue now, won't we?

I have made notes and composed this post at least a dozen times because I want to share every little detail with you, but seriously, there's just too much to tell. 

Skywalker Ranch is a gorgeous slice of heaven. It's George Lucas' vision of perfection. Tranquil, without any extraneous signs of techi-ness (is that a word?) lies the most celebrated (arguably) audio post-production facility in the world.

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The feeling I got when we arrived at the property was that I had stepped right onto the set a beautiful movie. 

The Tech Building

Our first stop was the Tech Building, which looks nothing like you would imagine a Tech Building to look like, because it fit right into the scenery and looked more like a fabulous Tuscan vineyard.

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This is the home of Skywalker Sound. This Tuscan-villa-looking place houses a world-class scoring stage, six mix studios, ADR and Foley stages, 34 editing suites, and a 300-seat screening room. All in this breathtakingly pristine setting. 

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If you didn't know any of this, you would just be in awe of the majesty of the place and wondering which way to the tasting room.

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But right when we walked in, I felt comfortable, and welcomed. Not intimidated at all. (Unless, of course, I stopped and remembered that we were truly in the very heart of all that is good and holy about the center of the Lucasfilm Universe, at which point I freaked out just a litte, but that's not important right now.)

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The property includes the iconic main house, just down there, past the vineyard at the end of the road.

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And the beautiful Lake Ewok. (I swear that's the name of it. Isn't that just delicious?) We were told that it's stocked with fish and even suitable for swimming in the summer time.

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We entered the Tech Building. (did I mention it looked more like a villa in Tuscany than anything to do with tech?)

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And we were escorted straight into the main dining area. (This made me very happy, but that's not important right now, either.)

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This open, airy, bright, naturally lit space was much more "ranch-like" than what the exterior portrayed. It was decorated simply with George Lucas' extensive collection of classic movie posters from as far back as the 20's and 30's.

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The Stag Theater, a 300 seat beauty with the Most Perfect Sound and Acoustics of Any Movie Theater on the Planet (OF COURSE), was where we were treated to the screening of the film, Strange Magic. 

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The screen is guarded on either side by the statues that were seen in Star Wars Episode II in Emperor Palpatine's office. (Excuse me, please. My nerdiness is showing.)

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Strange Magic opens everywhere on Friday, January 23rd. I promise to review the film next week, but until then, here's a preview.

Just before the film began, George Lucas himself snuck into the theater to watch the movie with us. (I know. Don't hate.)

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Kudos to Tee of That's IT Mommy for this amazing Ninja Selfie

So, again, let's just recap where we are right now. We were screening the new animated film, Strange Magic from the mind of George Lucas with George Lucas. 

I can barely stand it myself.

After the screening of the film, we were treated to a performance by Elijah Kelley (Hairspray, Red Tails, The Butler), the voice of Sunny the Elf in the film.

We interviewed director Gary Rydstrom, Elijah Kelley, and George Lucas himself. I'll post those interviews next week, I promise. 

Meanwhile, back at The Ranch... (<--see what I did there?)

Lunch happened. And excuse me while I get off track here for just a moment, but wow! that was the best strawberry shortcake I've ever tasted. *starts researching strawberry shortcake recipes* 

Please notice Humphrey Bogart, the obvious predecessor to Indiana Jones watching over our strawberry shortcakes. 



The Main House

The 50,000 square foot main house was all comfort and charm. With miles of wrap-around porch around this Victorian home with all redwood construction, it is the crown jewel of this property.

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"Wait. What? We get to go inside?" Color me crazy-happy.


photo credit:


This is the part where I could not take any photos, so you'll just have to bear with me

The furnishings were very comfortable and had an earthy down-home feeling. Nothing pretentious at all. It could have been anyone's home, except for the curio cabinets found in the main entry. Imagine my delight that the first thing we encountered was a cabinet housing George's collectibles, mementos and gifts.

Among those was a weathered brown hat and bullwhip. (Use your imagination, please). And the Holy Grail. The HOLY GRAIL, people. Luke and Obi-wan's original light sabers and small scale models of the all terrain armored transports from Star Wars. I was in Star Wars über-nerd heaven. 

And then...

The Library

Lucasfilm Research LIbrary

@Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved

The Lucasfilm Research Library.

You know that moment in Beauty and the Beast when Belle breathlessly sees the library for the first time? Yeah, that was pretty much all of us.

A stained glass dome at the top covers the 2-story fabulousness that is this library. Seriously, it has to be one of the 7 Wonders of the Movie-making World. The centerpiece of this glorious place is the grand spiral staircase, made entirely of wood, which was constructed right there at the ranch. The library houses the entire Lucasfilm collection of books, magazines, and periodicals.  I could have easily spent days right there. 

The Magical Light

I was impressed with the beautiful natural lighting everywhere in the main house. Lots of skylights and windows welcoming nature to literally come inside.

It felt warm and a little ethereal. There was a feeling of magic almost everywhere. And yet, maybe it was just the peaceful vistas from every window.

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The General Store

We wrapped up our visit with a stop at the Skywalker Ranch General Store.

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As you can imagine, I came home armed with logo gear for the entire family. Because SKYWALKER RANCH, of course. 

Lake Ewok

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As we finished up our tour, we stopped and looked back at the house from the aptly named Lake Ewok. This is the picture I wanted to keep in my mind of the beauty and perfection that is Skywalker Ranch. 

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What a blast to get to share the adventure with all these lovely bloggers. Thanks to Disney and Touchstone Pictures I can cross another item off my Bucket List.

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photo credit:

The spell cast by Skywalker Ranch is indeed some Strange Magic. 

Stay tuned! I'll be writing much more about this trip next week. Strange Magic opens in theaters on Friday, January 23rd, 2015.

I'm going to Skywalker Ranch and Pixar. (Don't hate me.)

You know that thing we Cubans do on New Year's Eve?

Not just the eating of the 12 grapes and throwing the bucket of water out into the street, but the one about carrying a suitcase out into the middle of the street at midnight if you want to travel in the coming year?

If you are confused about any of these Cuban New Year's Eve Traditions, read all about them right here.

So, back to the suitcase at midnight. I was one of the many Cuban Faithful who grabbed my bag and took it out into the street as the rest of the world was hip-hollering "Happy New Year!" Because I want to travel this coming year and that's what we do and I may or may not be a little superstitious about this stuff. (Full disclosure: I did not make my way completely around the block, seeing as we live on a hill, but that's not important right now.)

Which makes my announcement today super delicious...

I received an invitation from Disney/Pixar and Touchstone Pictures to a very special event. The invitation read like this:

We are looking to invite 25 of our top Bloggers to San Francisco from Monday, January 12th – Tuesday, January 13th to screen the new Lucasfilm and Touchstone Pictures film STRANGE MAGIC (opening in theatres on 1/23) up at Skywalker Ranch ( where you will receive a tour of the grounds and interview Director and 7 time Academy Award® winner Gary Rydstrom!

While up at Skywalker Ranch you will also interview Elijah Kelley (“Hairspray,” “Red Tails,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”) who voices Sunny in the film!  

And finally, you will also attend a reception at Pixar for an INSIDE OUT presentation (opening in theatres on 6/19) and a screening of the short film LAVA!

My initial reaction was disbelief. So I re-checked that my name was actually on the invitation. Because SKYWALKER RANCH AND PIXAR, people! It's as if someone had peeked into my super-secret-double-probation Bucket List and created an event of Perfect Perfection for a Super Star Wars/Pixar über-nerd Devotee such as myself. 

So, (I'm trying to say this as casually as possible) next week I'll be traveling (with 24 other bloggers) to Skywalker Ranch and receiving a tour of the grounds.


I'll be interviewing Director and 7 time Academy Award® winner Gary Rydstrom. And also Elijah Kelley (the voice of Sunny)

And watching a screening of the new Lucasfilm/Touchstone Pictures film, Strange Magic.

Strange magic

After which I'll be attending a reception at Pixar for an INSIDE OUT presentation (opening in theatres on 6/19) and a screening of the short film LAVA.

Inside out

Which looks super promising already. Check this out.

If you want to follow my trip, follow me on Instagram (I'm Smrtqbn) or Twitter. Or follow the hashtags, #StrangeMagicEvent or #PixarInsideOut.

I promise to be appropriately insufferable as I overshare the details of this trip.

Because how am I feeling about all this?

One emotion - one word...


Also, I will never again underestimate the power of Cuban superstitions.


My four kids have always been in super different places in life, which has always kept our lives interesting.


I remember when Amy Kikita started college. It was the same year Jonathan started Kindergarten. Yeah. Kindergarten and college. With Lucy in grammar school and Adam in high school there was never a dull moment around here. 

Change is inevitable. Kids grow. They go out into the world to find their fortunes. They meet other people. They make new friends. They have adventures. They find their way in the world and add different kinds of cares (good and bad) into our lives as parents. 

So I mark the passage of time as I always have, by the ages and activities of my children. Eric and I find ourselves navigating some challenges that we hadn't experienced before. But that's what keeps life exciting, right?

And, yes, our kids have always been in different places, but this season totally wins as far as the most diverse changes for all of them. Read on.


Amy has moved to South Florida. Specifically to Hialeah. With nothing to hold her here in Southern California, she has struck out to find adventure in Hialeah to get her Cubanity on. She has a job, an apartment, and a car. We text multiple times a day, but even at those times, I'm acutely aware of the distance between us. I miss her desperately. (Shh! Don't tell her.)


Adam has ventured into marriage and fatherhood. He and his wife, Alysha live near us and we have the good fortune to see them on different occasions.


As you can see, our dinner table is still quite full. (Also, I'm trying to master the art of picnicking, but that's not important right now.) The faces around the table are changing. And I'm not just talking about the extra wrinkles that are adding *ahem* character to our faces.

Eric and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary on August 8th. We had a lovely, quiet dinner and recapped all of our adventures. We agreed we would say, "I do" all over again. We also decided that quiet and calm may be over-rated. We have also categorically reserved the right to change our minds.


I took Lucy to San Francisco to celebrate her 21st birthday. We saw all the cool spots in the city and even had a cable car adventure. All the while, I kept hyperventilating when I remembered that my daughter was now 21. "Deep, slow breaths, Mom."


Jonathan started his first week at the local community college (where Lucy is employed, by the way). He is taking theater classes and also going out on lots of auditions in Los Angeles. I'd tell you what exactly he's been doing, but then I'd have to kill you. 


Jon's first day of school photo

Last week, Adam and Alysha were blessed with the birth of their baby. A beautiful boy. My son has a son. Making me an abuela. (I had a dream in which the baby called me, "Wella." I'm going to go ahead and go with that.)

People, meet my grandson, Asher. I think this guy has changed my life forever.


So many changes. 

In between all these milestones, I've made dinners, and done loads and loads of laundry. I've visited my 100 year old mom, and gone swimming in pools and at the beach. We've hosted lots of outdoor movie nights and have attended concerts and baseball games

I know this post sounds like somebody's annual Christmas newsletter, but guys, this only encompasses the last 6 weeks of my life. 

A few months ago I might have said, "I hate change." But now I embrace the many and varied happenings and simply say, "Bring it." 

Life is in session. Amen.