a99kitten's Musings

I blog about a WHOLE LOT of stuff :)

Yesterday I got to tour ILM in the Presdio!!! It was actually my 2nd time there but this time, we got to see some areas/stuff off the beaten track, secret floors and rooms. No pictures allowed!

A friend of mine texted me Wednesday AM before 7am saying he got us a tour for that day!! Whheee!!! But wait! Nooooooooooo!! I had a meeting that I could not change. I was so, so, so sad. My friend was bummed for even telling me after seeing how sad I was – he’s a nice guy. But work is work and being an adult and responsible is important. I guess? Still debating that general thought actually but in this case it did work out! Wednesday afternoon, my same friend said the guy who took him on the tour was bummed I couldn’t go (?) so he said anytime I can make it up, let him know! WHAT?! So I wrote down my meeting/unavailable dates and friend got us in for Friday the 13th!! I have always been a believer of good luck on Friday the 13ths. Mostly due to the fact that I am not a dumb teenager staying in a creepy camp site…

Now, I still have a broken ankle. And I’m not supposed to walk around too much on it. BUT..come on! I’ll walk slow! And I have this pinched nerve issue (from the hobbling and cane use due to the broken ankle…good frackin’ grief) so I am not supposed to hobble much. But again – come on! When I woke up on Friday, I could feel the pain in my shoulder and arm but I thought to myself too dang bad. I am not missing this.

We got up there around 11am. It was a beautiful sunshiney day in SF (rarity.)  We parked in the underground garage and saw the UPS man there – we wanted to mug him – knew he had tons of fun packages! The lobby is small but airy and filled with very cool collectibles. Life size statues of Darth Vader and Boba Fett plus tons of light sabers, statues, busts, books, pictures, etc.


Apparently, in the production “off-season”, they have some Friends and Family Fridays where employees can bring in their friends and families for tours.  This is off-season for them since all the summer movies are done and they have a bit of a production lull so people take their vacations now, not so crazed, etc. It was pretty quiet. But we weren’t the only visitors. A few families had kids and you could tell a few others walking around were like us – gawking in awe – so likely not employees. I overheard 1 lady say she had never seen any of the Star Wars movies. Everyone standing right there just stopped and looked. It was like a space alien had just landed and we were all trying to understand her. Then she added quickly “but now I will!” Uh-huh…Anyway so our friend said let’s have lunch in the Commons first and then do a backwards tour so we don’t run into other people. Plus he wanted to show us some “not toured” stuff and didn’t want anyone else following us. Umm – OK!

The Commons is their employee cafeteria. But a very nice one. And OMG – the food choices. If I worked there I’d turn in to a giant fattie! Fresh Mexican plates and burritos the size of a Jawa made for you with freshly grilled meats and the works, fresh pastas cooked to order, sushi, salads, a vegetarian station, paninis, burgers, and a whole dessert station! I opted for the daily special of 3 mushroom risotto. It was SO good. I would say 2nd only to Cipriani. Waaaay better than any restaurant in the Bay Area where I have tried it. The cafeteria is pretty big and has views of the Golden Gate and golden dome of the Palace of Fine Arts. Plus is was such a clear and blue sky day – amazing views.

Over lunch we asked the guy a lot of questions about working there and he was telling us the different things that he worked on. He told me a couple of books that I needed to read all about the early days at ILM, Star Wars, etc. He said I would totally geek out. I of course have forgotten the names of all the books with so much inflow yesterday but I know my friend will remember as he said he owned some of them already and will now read them. On of them (the one he thought I would enjoy the most) is Droid Maker: George Lucas and Digital Revolution. He said very few photos so Kindle friendly if they offered it (alas they do not.)

Also quite funnily, he had never seen an episode of Clone Wars! He said he was waiting to watch them all at once. He said he has been hearing how the show is getting more and more popular and season 3 was getting rave reviews. He asked how I liked it and I had to fess up that I’ve only seen season 1. I need to buy the other seasons on DVD – especially now that they introduced Chewie in the season 3 finale! I don’t want to give too many of his details away since he took us to some off-tour areas :)  My friend met this guy by buying something off of Craigslist from him. So he didn’t really know him that well other than a few conversations and didn’t know me at all. But he was an incredibly nice person. Who knew they still existed.

Finished lunch and off we went. We hit up the employee store to get that out of the way! I kept it simple – bought a Skywalker Ranch Fire and Rescue sweatshirt with the Falcon as the rescue vehicle in the center of the emblem. All of the Ranch or ILM stuff is apparently only available there (or at the Ranch) so I thought it was cool. We also went by Java the Hutt, their in-house coffee bar. hehehe.

As you walk down any hallway, there are cool movie props on display – on the walls, in cases, hanging from the ceiling, etc. There is so much to take in that you cannot take it all in. So it’s a good thing we all had to walk slowly to accommodate my hobbling :) Plus there are old, original movie posters from so many old movies. A really cool Elvis/Nancy Sinatra in go-go boots one – so vibrantly colorful and huuuge. Movie posters used to be drawn and were so much more artistic than the photos we generally get now. And there are so, so many! They line the hallways. Movies and stars you have heard of (giant Gone With the Wind) to foreign films or B movies I certainly had no clue about.   But the posters were all very cool.

Obviously, tons of Star Wars stuff. But keep in mind, ILM works on so many movies. Slimer from Ghostbusters was very cool :) The giant portrait of the bad guy in Ghostbusters. As was ET. So many cool things to look at. And of course Yoda and one of many Stormtroopers (although we decided this trooper looked battle damaged!) And tons if display cases everywhere that you try and soak it all in.


ET phone home


Yoda. You seek Yoda.


Apparently the Yoda they used in TESB is in a warehouse (with the Ark?!) and it is pretty beat-up/degraded. He is pretty old though :)

They have a long hallway of all of the movie posters, in chronological order, that they have worked on. Godfather II? Who knew? We were discussing how they held a vote there about which was the best movie and it got down to a choice between TESB or Raiders. He couldn’t remember which one won though. Tough choice for sure.

Walking across a skywalk, it was lined with models used in various movies. One of the original Velociraptor models used for Jurassic Park. I mentioned how amazing I thought the effects were in that movie. The guy said it is commonly agreed in-house that the effects done in that movie are as good if not better than what is produced today. They are all in awe of the stuff from it. I do remember how amazing I thought it was when I saw it for the first time and it still holds up well now.

Also very cool was the blue lady from the end of A.I. And giant sized version of the Gentle Giant animated Leia (one of favorites – I have the small version.) She is about 5 feet tall I would say.

GG Leia

There were models used from Mission Impossible, Transformers, Starship Troopers, Curious George, Lemony Snicket and more. See – I can’t even remember there was so much to take in. He was telling us stories from when they were housed in San Rafael, before they built the Presidio campus, of when they would do the explosions for movies. The model guys would create these fantastic models and then it was explosion day. They would get a “5 minute to explosion” message and everyone stopped work, got up and went outside. Then they would blow it up! And I guess they film the explosions in slow motion, so sometimes they would see it didn’t blow up the way they needed so a new model had to be built for more exploding! He said the model guys loved it actually – when an explosion went right everyone cheered!

They had a couple big ships from Starship Troopers hanging from the ceiling. I was hoping for a Falcon but never saw one :) Did see Han in carbonite. It’s not the original from the movie though. There is also a Jar Jar in carbonite. Some kids there wanted their pics take with it and not Han! See – George wasn’t stupid when he made silly, kid-friendly characters. They act as a gateway drug. Horrendous pic of me but focus on how cool Han is!!

The guy said that the 501st actually made the Jar Jar one as well as one of George in carbonite (which I’ve seen pics of.) He said that they made them as gifts for George, who normally never accepts gifts from fans or groups as it can get weird, but did accept these and put the carbonite Jar Jar here and has the carbonite George at the Ranch.

After looking at so many different hallways and enclaves of models, posters, props, etc we got to go to the 7th floor. Apparently only 1 elevator has access to this floor. It’s the executive floor. It’s super pretty – lots of dark wood and glass. Like exec floors should be. If we turned left, you could people in offices down there. Ssshhh…don’t go that way (wonder what deals they are working on?!) Turn right and walk right past a nicely but simply decorated, unassuming office with my same Gentle Giant Chewie statue at the center of the table. The name on the office “Lucas/Spielberg”. I wanted to take a pic but no pics up there. Then you go to their exec dining area and it’s super nice and the giant conference room has a huge wall of glass overlooking the Golden Gate. Very quiet and serene up there. I did snap of a pic of these off the elevator before the no photo rule:

SW Disney

These aren’t secret though (so I don’t think bad posting!) since they are already released (2009 I think?) They are from the Star Wars weekends at Disney. I’ve just never seen them in real life before and now I need to get the Goofy Chewie and Donald Han in carbonite for sure! They are so cool IRL. The big problem with the tour was seeing so many of the collectibles that I *don’t* have in real life (although apparently I do have a lot) and totally loving them. I have a procurement list now. Oh boy…I better make some good stock trades :)

Then we went to the 6th floor. Also off-tour route. The receptionist desk had a giant “life-sized” stuffed Ewok sitting in the chair with a headset on and looking at his computer screen. Taped to the computer screen were pictures of Leia on Endor and Wicket. Very funny :) He had arranged with one of the execs up there (?she had her own office so I am guessing) unlock the secret doors for us. These are rooms where companies send SW products – some of them are unapproved so no pics were allowed. But walking into these rooms and just looking around at so, so many collectibles from around the world – some I’ve seen, some I hadn’t and some I never would (not and won’t be approved) was like a kid in a candy store. The entire area was licensing so there were just boxes and boxes and shelves and rooms of Star Wars stuff.  It was crazy. As we were walking out the lady asked if we wanted to see the new fluffy character hats (think all those asian girls wearing the cat ears beanies with long ear flaps) they were still in process of approving. Umm – yeah! Her office was a shrine to Chewbacca. She said he was her favorite. OMG. She said the Chewbacca hat HAS been approved (I NEED TO FIND THAT FOR COMIC CON!) and we got to see the Wampa and Ewok ones which was still mid-approval.

She also had a Chewbacca plush that was about 2 feet tall and super plush and squeezable. When you hugged it, it made the Chewie growl. I was thinking how fast I could hobble out of there if I swiped it and ran – thinking not too fast. Dammit ankle! She said they were a UK exclusive. ARGH! I need a friend in the UK so they can scour the land in search of grawring Chewie for me!

We went into another guy’s office that was lined with shelves of prototype busts, models, etc. Holy Hell. He even had the elusive Snow Bunny Padme by Gentle Giant. Wow…..never seen one in real life. So pretty. If he would have been there, I think I would asked if he wanted to sell it. Come on dude – you have so much stuff in here and she is stuffed away on the bottom shelf! You would never miss it!!! Sigh.

One hallway had ALL of the Sideshow, Gentle Giant and Attakus statues and maquettes. OMG. Some I had never seen IRL, even at Comic Con. They were all on these built-in shelves with cool lighting. That’s what I want at home for mine!  Need to work on that. I actually got some cool ideas for my collectible displays. Silly to have them if you can’t look at and appreciate them as the art they are :) The guy was showing me his most wanted Sideshow pieces and we were talking about how the female figures are always so great. He said he felt a bit odd buying them sometimes though since they are typically quite voluptuous. I said the female statues and busts are always the first to sell out BECAUSE the geek boys buy them :)

But if I had to pick 1 item to take away if given the chance (at least of what I saw), there was a painting about 2.5 – 3 feet tall of Greedo’s face and Han’s reflection in his eyes. It was fantastic. I SO wish I could have take a photo of it. I’m guessing the original art work on the walls were all used for something – trading cards, posters, Con banners/hangings, something. I need to find this image – it was very cool. Especially knowing that was the last image Greedo saw before Han shot first :)

Yoda fountain outside is pretty especially with the blue sky day. This is outside the lobby and anyone can come take pictures. There was a line to when I took mine. I think anyone can walk into the lobby and see the lobby stuff. It’s a decent draw in the Presidio for tourists. But no further. You get issued guest badges that work certain doors/turnstiles we had to go through. You don’t get to keep them when you leave though obviously but you can keep the ILM name tag they give you :)

Sun. And more Sun. There is no fog.

By now, I was hurting pretty bad but running on joy and adrenalin. My shoulder, arm and ankle were killing me. But I was going to finish! He took us to his cubicle area (past the sign were it said NO TOURS ALLOWED…oopsie.) Previously, when my friend told him how big of a Star Wars nut I was, he asked if there was any collectible I really wanted and still didn’t have. So he told him the ILM employee holiday gift of the Chewbacca bronze bust. He said oh – I can sell her mine, I am trying to clean out my collection to buy other things. WHA?? I would also like to add here that the cubicles and offices here had WAY more toys and collectibles than me (well..at least some of them) so I don’t want to hear any more “You could open a toy store” comments at work!

The first ones I saw of these busts were selling for $800-$1200 on eBay. Zoinks. I don’t even see them for sale anymore. My friend did find one via Craigslist for me but the guy had dripped model glue on it so it wasn’t perfect and overpriced for not mint. I had a bad feeling about it :)  Apparently, within 10 mins of the gifts being handed out, one was up on eBay. That guy was fired. Bad form dude. 10 minutes??

Our guy said he would sell it knowing it wouldn’t end up on eBay and it was in the hands of a true collector who would appreciate it. :) :) And he sold it at a way beyond fair price. Like – cheap.  The bust is not the best rendering of Chewie in terms of likeness. His nickname is Stroke Chewie due to the kinda sorta lower hanging lip. But I have always wanted it. Ever since I first read about them. It’s something very few people have. And now I am one of them. Squee!

Was a fantastic trip and fantastic day. I was in a LOT of pain for the rest of the day and night but there is not one teeny itty bit part of me that doesn’t think it was worth it. Plus the guy said he was trying to get us into Skywalker Ranch!! He said it’s harder to do now since someone took a friend up and they saw and took photos of some stuff from Iron Man 2 before it came out and posted it online. Bad, bad form. So they tightened up friends and family tours. But he said he was fairly sure he could arrange it. I have ALWAYS wanted to go there. So that would be an amazing experience that I would love. Crossing fingers:)

In honor of San Diego Comic Con, that I am sadly missing this year :(, I have been staring at my collectibles for the past few days. Sometimes I just like to take them down and look at them. Truly renews my affinity for them.  I usually get something new at the Cons when I go. And I have to pre-order at least 1 Con exclusive each year. This year, even though I am missing it, a friend is picking up my pre-ordered Gentle Giant Darth Vader helmet in PINK! YAY! But still quite sad I am not going. There really is a crazy fun energy there and I ALWAYS have a great time. I won’t be this stupid next year and miss it again…

But as I was perusing the Sideshow Collectibles site for their convention pre-orders I saw their new Millennium Falcon. Wow! This is a pretty awesome collectible!


Sideshow's Falcon

Sideshow's Falcon

I love all things Millennium Falcon – mostly because I love all things Falcon’s Captain and co-pilot :)  I am definitely a sucker for these particular character/ship purchases.  I have a dangling tiny Falcon suction cupped right under the rear view mirror in my car.  And Chewie is my co-pilot after all :)

Chewie is my Co-Pilot sticker

Chewie is my Co-Pilot sticker - have the Diesel Sweeties t-shirt too :)

I have the Code 3 Collectibles Millennium Falcon which is sold out on their site so no link to theirs – but here is mine!:

Code 3 Falcon 1

Code 3 Falcon 1

Code 3 Falcon 2

Code 3 Falcon 2

Rebelscum.com has a great description/specs: http://www.rebelscum.com/code3millenniumfalcon.asp

It’s a GREAT piece. I remember when I bought it and how excited I was! I believe it was the 3rd or 4th relatively pricey Star Wars collectible I bought.  I had been collecting mostly the action figure/toy lines up until then. Of course, I think that’s right around the same time Gentle Giant, Master Replicas, Sideshow and others all decided that little geeks grew up to be adult geeks who had cash to spend and the same geeky passion for Star Wars. Damn that George Lucas!!

When I went and visited ILM in the Presidio in SF (thanks to a friend who was AWESOME and hooked me and a few other SW nuts up with a tour), I got to eat lunch in their very generously-subsidized employee cafeteria and felt no guilt due to the thousands and thousands of dollars I have generously given up to the Lucas cult over the years :) (p.s. It’s awesome there – please hire me!!!)

Me at ILM in front of Yoda Fountain :)

Me at ILM in front of Yoda Fountain. Yes...in my Han & Chewie t-shirt :)

My Code 3 Falcon is proudly on display in my office and it always gets a lot of attention from new employees or vendors who come by :)

Of course, I also have the (released 1979 I believe) Kenner Millennium Falcon – in original box – from The Empire Strikes Back. This is the old Kenner commercial for the Falcon. This one is for the Star Wars version but dang cool:

I did most of my original toy collecting right before and after (and forever after) this movie (TESB) came out. Had more allowance to spend :) And yes, I kept them all unplayed with (had them on display in my room) and kept the boxes.

I love my old stuff. I take it out and look at it sometimes (like the giant dork that I am.) But it generally stays safely packed away in my home office closet. My home office is my dedicated Star Wars/collectibles room (there and my work office!) I have 1 large bookshelf full plus some of my framed posters, my Master Replicas lightsaber rack, and a few things on the desk. What I want…someday…is a dedicated room for my collectibles with glass cabinets to house my old and pricey stuff. Again…DORK! But really – how many Hummel, Lladro, doll, art, watch, etc, etc, etc. collectors are there out there?!?!? NOT DIFFERENT! :)

I also covet the Master Replicas Falcon.  It was $$$ ($2800 plus tax and shipping) with only 500 made. They sold out at MR then. There were a few that Harrison Ford signed which I would have given up a kidney for…every so often I check eBay for them and they are still going for $$$. Hmmm…I only really need ONE kidney, right??  Here is my pic of it from SDCC 2006:

Master Replicas Falcon

Master Replicas Falcon

Close up this thing is AWESOME! And it’s big! Like 3 feet wide! Sigh…there is one on eBay right now ending Thursday. The bank probably wouldn’t mind if the mortgage payment was short $3000 – right? Right??

But this Sideshow item is fantastic! I wish I was going to SDCC this week so I could see it (they MUST have a prototype there on display!) Very pricey though…but they are offering it as a FlexPay (their version of lay-a-way!) option…I think my husband’s head would explode. But then more room at home for my Star Wars collectibles!! Hmmmmm….. :)

Now if only Sideshow would GET ON IT and make the Premium Format figure for Chewbacca (to go with my Han and Leia)!! But Han and Chewie collectibles really deserve a posting of their very own…

For history on the Falcon (is to a real ship!) you can peruse Wookiepedia.  I love Wookieepedia because…well…it’s called Wookieepedia: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Millennium_Falcon