So, in case you hadn't heard, there's a new STAR WARS movie out. Back in the nineties, I had several "Star Wars" related experiences of a lifetime and I really can't top any of them. I once wrote a (subsequently unproduced) video game for LucasArts during which I paid my first visit to the beautiful Skywalker Ranch, Lucas' lush, idyllic headquarters in Marin County. During that visit, I was given a tour of ILM, Lucas' award-winning special effects unit (which was actually nowhere near Skywalker Ranch). Years later, sometime in the mid-nineties, after I had finished producing and writing " Spider-Man: The Animated Series," I was hired to work personally with GEORGE LUCAS on a top-secret project for the George Lucas Educational Foundation (or GLEF). During that time I spent two magical weeks actually living at Skywalker Ranch in their sumptuous, "themed" living quarters. Each day, I and three or four other carefully selected writers would be quietly ushered into George's office at 10am to be with him all day until 6pm thrashing out scripts for a project that, I guess according to the NDA I signed, I'm still not at liberty to discuss. I know his large office like the back of my hand. Over the fireplace was a huge painting by artist Howard Pyle. On one wall was a painting by his frequent sound designer, Walter Murch. I usually sat in a cushy chair in front of a table upon which sat the round chess board and stop-motion monster "chess pieces" from the very first "Star Wars" film. That gave me a real thrill! Very few people realize this, but Skywalker Ranch houses some of the largest collections of original paintings by early 20th century artists - like N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish and J. C. Leyendecker, to name a few. And there are plenty of security people on hand to quietly and inconspicuously guard them. As I recall, they are called "Firemen," and they are stationed in a building known as the "Firehouse." Many times I gazed at what I thought was a print of a famous painting, say, in the cafeteria or library, only to get close enough to realize that it was the original I was looking at. Waking up every morning at Skywalker ranch was like waking up in a David Lean movie shot in Imax. It was almost too beautiful to believe. I frequently had to pinch myself. As for George, I took great delight in realizing that, like myself and mostly every other writer on the planet, he loved to goof around and discuss everything under sun EXCEPT what we were there to do, until it got so late in the day that we absolutely HAD to get SOMETHING done, or risk the wrath of the stern executive in charge of the project, Patty Burness. For somebody who, at that time, had a reputation for being a recluse, I found George to be great fun - a guy who liked having company around him. He liked to laugh a lot - as well as ruminate and speculate about the future - of film, the world, everything. Even during our lunch breaks, he sat and had lunch with us a few times, and he once invited us to sit in his plush screening room and watch a final mix of an episode of the "Young Indiana Jones" TV series, the only thing he was actively producing in those days. I sat right next to him! Yikes! One day, in the middle of our usual morning chit-chat, he revealed to us that he was considering writing a new, fourth "Star Wars" movie. Wow! What a bombshell! In this day and age, I could have conquered the internet with that bit of news (alas, there was no internet as we know it back then). I wish he had asked us to write it with him. It would have turned out a hell of a lot better than the one he made - I'm sure of that. Anyway, these memories are my own personal STAR WARS CELEBRATION, and I replay them often in my head. Oh, and as a footnote, I also had MARK HAMILL, aka LUKE SKYWALKER himself, as a recurring cast member on "Spider-Man: TAS", and, over several years, I got to know him pretty well. He played "The Hobgoblin." And he's a really amazing, talented guy, too. So really, when it comes to connecting to "Star Wars," I feel like I've nailed it. (P.S. As was usually the case back in those days, I didn't take a single picture. I just wasn't that motivated - hey, there was no Facebook. But somewhere, in the vaults at LucasFilm, there's a picture that was taken by Lucas' people of us all together in his office. Perhaps some day, I'll get my hands on a copy of it.)


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