Last week (as you know because I can't stop talking about it) I visited Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California.
I was invited by Disney and Touchstone Pictures (along with 24 other fabulous bloggers) for a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the famous ranch and for a screening of the new animated film, from the mind of George Lucas, Strange Magic.
What you don't know is that we bloggers were treated to an up-close-and-personal interview with George Lucas himself.
Before the trip, I think we had all sort of fantasized about Wouldn't it be so great if we could see George Lucas himself when we visited Skywalker Ranch?, but again, that was still in the realm of fantasy.
Then, just before the movie was about to start, George Lucas walked into the theater and sat down (right behind us!) to watch the entire film all the way through for the first time.
Stop it. That's just crazy talk!
Imagine our extreme delight and the pinch me no, seriously, Pinch me! moment when we were informed that yes indeed we would get to, not just see, but actually interview George Lucas.
Seriously? We would actually get to hear what was coming from the mind of George Lucas?
Skywalker Ranch truly lived up to its reputation for turning fantasy into reality.
So where did the concept for this film come from?
"It actually started about 15 years ago. I had the notion of making a film that was fun.
I like working with music and I like doing fairy tales and I love to do musicals especially when I can use my favorite music and so it kind of harkens back to my pre-Star Wars days.
I started working on it with a small group of people and we started designing it. Eventually we hired the director (Gary Rydstrom) and brought in Marius de Vries from Moulin Rouge to do the music because I wanted to try to tell this story through the music.”
As George began talking about the music, he really became animated (no pun intended). Every song in the soundtrack to Strange Magic is very recognizable and it's practically impossible to not sing along.
“I love music. Music’s a huge part of my life.
I love all kinds of music, and obviously I listen to music every day – on the radio, top 40 and everything in between. But with this one, one of the inspirations was, I wondered if I could tell a love story using love songs. Would it be possible to take them and string them all together so they actually told the story?
That was the original challenge and, in the beginning the movie was about twice as long as it is now. It’s like American Graffiti – I could sit and listen to it all day and that was a part of American Graffiti. I just wanted to have a movie that I could sit in the editing room and listen to and have a good time."
"I tell people I’m going to go back and do experimental films like I did in college, and this is getting myself back there. This is just a fun movie that I love to listen to. A lot of the songs were my favorite songs but a lot of them really had to do with trying to tell the story, trying to say what we needed them to say.
It was all about finding the right song that actually had the musical mood that would get us from point A to point B but also actually say the words that the actors were supposed to say to each other. That’s where Marius came in. Thanks to him, we were able to use different genres from different time periods, really different everything, but knit it all together so it sounded like it belonged together. And he’s a genius at doing that because ultimately, it had to have an evolution where some of the story was told in dialogue, some of the story was told in music and the story itself had to be tightened down and things connected which, in just using music you couldn’t do.”
We hadn't really heard much about Strange Magic until very recently.
“It really started to fall together over the last 4 or 5 years. It wasn’t involved in any studio or anything, I made it in San Francisco where I live and I have my studio there and we’re not into promoting or any of that kind of stuff – we’re into making movies.
Nobody really hears about it until it’s ready to come out. It all seems fast. We actually just finished it and 3 weeks later it’ll be in theaters”.
At this point, George started to talk about his daughters. About his family. About his wife and falling in love. He grew very tender as he spoke about his favorite song in the film.
“The song that started it is the opening song, that was the first song I picked and it’s also at the end, ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love’ by Elvis. I love that song. I grew up under the tutelage of Elvis and my wife says I still have that pompous pompadour.
It, to me, was the inspiration to say this is what this movie’s about. You know, wise men say only fools fall in love. And ultimately the only thing I can say is there’s no accounting for love, it’s just no matter how rational you think you’re being, you say well I’ll never do that, and you do it.”
"Strange Magic," he says, "is a story that needs to be told to every generation over and over again. The message is so simple and, you know it’s been around for thousands of years and yet still can always be retold.”
George Lucas waxing poetically romantic about love and the power of music?? I was very pleasantly surprised to find that this is what is coming forth from the mind of George Lucas.
Speaking of music, we also interviewed Elijah Kelley who lends his voice to Sunny the Elf in the film. I'll share that later this week.
Strange Magic opens in theaters everywhere on Friday, January 23rd, 2015.