On the Trail of Disney -- A Guide to Locations with Disney Connections
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On the Trail of Disney -- A Guide to
Locations with Disney Connections
By Don Bitz
Originally published in the February, 2001 Los Angeles Chapter newsletter, The Key Light
In addition to Disney, another of my hobbies is finding and visiting interesting sites and locations used for filming movies and TV shows. For this edition of "On the Trail of Disney", I thought it would be fun to combine the two interests and tell you about a few Los Angeles area sites used to film scenes for some Disney movies. The sites I've chosen to tell you about are all places where you can spend a leisurely morning or afternoon walking or hiking, or perhaps enjoying a picnic in pleasant outdoor environments.
You can see this Western town movie set at Disneys Golden Oak Ranch from Placerita Canyon Road. The facades have been altered since it was used for the CBS series Guns of Paradise a few years ago.
The Disney Studio used its Burbank backlot to film many exterior scenes for live action movies and TV programs. In 1959, Disney bought the 315 acre Golden Oak Ranch property in the Santa Clarita area, near Newhall, which they had used to film Triple R Ranch scenes for the Mickey Mouse Club "Spin and Marty" serials, to use as a supplement to the studio backlot for filming outdoor scenes. With its varied scenery, the Ranch would serve as an economical additional outdoor location site reasonably close to the Studio. Walt feared that with the increasing urbanization of Southern California many of these ideal locations would eventually be lost to development, and realized the importance of preserving such a place to use for his movies and TV shows.
The Studio eventually acquired more land surrounding the Ranch, increasing it to 691 acres. Scenes for many, many Disney productions have been done at Golden Oak Ranch over the years. (Some scenes for the upcoming Country Bears movie were filmed at the ranch. An elaborate Grizzly Hall set was built there.) Many non-Disney productions have also used the Ranch. Disney still maintains Golden Oak Ranch, using it for Disney projects, as well as renting it out to other productions.
Golden Oak Ranch is strictly off limits to the public; however, you can see some of it from Placerita Canyon Road, which passes next to it. Head north on I-5, and then head northeast on the 14. Exit Placerita Canyon Road and head east. After about 1 mile or so, you'll pass the entrance to the ranch on the left. Further up the road, you can see the Western town set, originally built for Roots II, also on the left. (You cannot see Grizzly Hall from the road.)
Proceed a little further still, and you'll come to Placerita Canyon State and County Park. Here, you'll find a trail to the "oak of the golden dream", where gold was first discovered in California, in 1842, seven years prior to the well-known gold rush of 1849. The tree is at the edge of Golden Oak Ranch, so you can see some of the scenery inside the ranch from there.
Placerita Canyon Park has a Nature Center, picnic areas, and many trails that you may wish to explore while you are there.
On occasion, crews would need to film scenes in locations other than the Disney properties. There are a lot of places that were used over the years, but I'm going to tell you about three interesting places that still exist today that you can visit.
Stone entry gates that can be seen in The Absent Minded Professor.
Pomona College in Claremont was used for several establishing shots to represent Medfield College in The Absent Minded Professor. The stone entry gates and several buildings of the college can be seen in the movie. A stroll around the campus, which reminds one of a small Ivy League campus back East, is a pleasant afternoon activity. Pomona College is actually just one of an unusual assortment of six college campuses all situated adjacent to one another in one area.