‘Star Wars’ fanatics travel far for glimpse of iconic sites

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A statue of the Jedi master Yoda at Lucasfilm Ltd.'s headquarters in San Francisco is one of many special sites visited by "Star Wars" fans from around the globe. Other locations include a desert in Tunisia and a Tuscan lakefront villa.ASSOCIATED PRESS A statue of the Jedi master Yoda at Lucasfilm Ltd.’s headquarters in San Francisco is one of many special sites visited by “Star Wars” fans from around the globe. Other locations include a desert in Tunisia and a Tuscan lakefront villa.
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On the sweeping grounds of Villa del Balbianello, visitors can get married in the setting overlooking Italy’s Lake Como where Queen Padme Amidala married Anakin in “Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones.”

The epic film series has spawned a franchise including collectables, books, television series, video games and comic books that Forbes magazine estimated in 2007 had earned more than $22 billion.

Lucasfilm is among several businesses and nonprofits that have relocated to the Presidio, the onetime military base turned national park overlooking the bay and the Pacific Ocean. Run-of-the-mill fans, however, aren’t invited past the plush company lobby without invitation.

“The Yoda fountain is the public face of Lucasfilm, the one picture-taking opportunity that they have with something from ‘Star Wars,’ ” said Steve Sansweet, a fan relations adviser to Lucasfilm who houses a trove of collectables on his land in Northern California, dubbed Rancho Obi-Wan.

Jay Shephard, a manager at an online testing company in Baltimore, went a step further, calling the fountain a mecca for fans.

“Yoda’s like what I would like to aspire to be in the way that I live my life and the way I raise my kids,” said Mr. Shephard, who founded a fan site called TheForce.net. “Here’s this little guy who’s really unassuming, and you think ‘How could this little creature be a warrior’? But the messages he shares with Luke in the movie really resonate with all of us.”

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