Yoda says hi: A visit to Letterman Digital

Atop a fountain, Yoda welcomes visitors to the Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center in the Presidio, San Francisco.

A storm trooper, um, welcomes visitors into the Lucasfilms lobby.

A storm trooper, um, welcomes visitors into the Lucasfilms lobby.

So much to see in the City by the Bay. But when I heard visitors were welcome inside Lucasfilm’s offices in the National Park Service’s Presidio, all other sights paled. I admit I’ve been to wonderful San Francisco a number of times and have done the usual tourist-y things.

But step into the hallowed halls of the maker of Star Wars? Yes please!

Philo T. Farnsworth, creator of TV, is the subject of one of several monuments to communications pioneers set around the Letterman campus.

Philo T. Farnsworth, creator of TV, is the subject of one of several monuments to communications pioneers set around the Letterman campus.

The entrance of Lucasfilms faces away from the main roads and sidewalks so we had to walk around the leafy campus — not a bad thing — until we found it. Around the campus are statues of great pioneers in the communications field, including Philo T. Farnsworth, the creator of television, and Edward Muybridge, a cinema pioneer.

And there he was, Yoda himself. Standing tall (for the little Jedi master) in the middle of a fountain at the entrance of the Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center. AKA Lucasfilms.

I have to admit it felt a little odd going into an office building where I had no business. But, let me freely admit, I’ve been a Star Wars fan since the franchise was new. So I forged ahead.

Who wouldn't like Darth Maul's face staring at them from their end table?

Who wouldn’t like Darth Maul’s face staring at them from their end table?

There isn’t much to see. The bright low-ceilinged lobby is decorated with mission furniture with walls of windows and bookshelves. Nice; tasteful.

But welcoming you in is a storm trooper, weapon at the ready. I didn’t know this but this particular storm trooper is from the newer movies. (I have my Star Wars nerd sources.) In the Star Wars world, I’d have been terrified. Here I was entranced.

Darth Vader is big, really big.

Darth Vader is big, really big.

Add in the enormous figure of Darth Vader and the robot-like Boba Fett, Jaba the Hutt’s minion, and I was a happy fan.

The bookshelves are filled with a variety of novels and Star-Wars inspired books — and a few of the hand-held weapons used in the films. I always thought light sabers were basically digitally-enhanced flashlights, all the same. No, no, no, no. Yoda’s is plain, designed to fit a small creature’s hand. Darth Sidious is a marvel of curved chrome and black accents and much bigger.

We had the place to ourselves at first, but then a few other fans stopped by, and then a van full of visitors speaking German (I think.) No one asked why we were there. They knew.

Here, seeing is believing. Star Wars is only a space fantasy, right? Step in the LucasFilms lobby and you’ll wonder if Luke and Leia, Obi Wan and the rest really are out there fighting for their own empires.

Yoda's light saber.

Yoda’s light saber.

A visit takes only a few minutes. But it was enough. This is hallowed ground, after all. Not just because of Star Wars, but because of the creative genius at work in the rest of the compound. We can only hope that it will be soon that their inspiration will bring us another new story that captures our imagination as much as Star Wars has for nearly 40 years.

A shout-out to Hidden SF for the article that inspired this visit.

ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

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