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  • Trip Report Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

    I went to Disney's Golden Oak Ranch on Saturday May 17th. I'd say it's hard to get in there but that's not true. It's closer to impossible since there are no public tours of the place. Here's my trip report.


    I had heard about the Golden Oak Ranch in Disney history but didn't really understand how deep and extensive it was until I read about it in The Vault of Walt Vol 2 by Jim Korkis. I'm going to take a minute to plug this book and everything Jim writes because he's under-rated. I've read plenty of biographies and autobiographies by Disney celebrities and to be honest many could have benefited by ghost-writers, but Jim's books are 100% interesting story-telling from start to finish. If you're a Disney fan and a reader, you've really missed the boat if you haven't checked some of his books out.

    Book Review at Yesterland: The Vault of Walt: Volume 2


    The Golden Oak Ranch was the property Walt leased ( at first ) for use in TV shows like the Mickey Mouse Club and Spin and Marty TV serials. Ultimately he bought the property in 1959 to guarantee his own availability for projects. To this day it's kind of a movie industry standard that sound stages and filming locations are so tightly booked that the availability if often less than 1%.

    Productions that have been filmed here are too numerous to list but a fair cross-section over time would be such features as Old Yeller, Toby Tyler, The Shaggy Dog, Follow Me Boys, The Santa Clause, Princess Diaries 2, and Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3. Ongoing productions include CSI, Entourage, Boston Legal, Sons of Anarchy, American Idol, Bones and just about every car commercial that features a car driving around a town where the traffic is suspiciously light and the streets are suspiciously well maintained.



    As we entered the first thing we noticed was that cabin from that one movie where, um... You know, it looks familiar but seriously I can't place it. My guess is it's been in dozens of shows. Maybe Walter White is in there, I didn't' look.

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    We stopped to park in a dirt lot to the side and made our way to the first checkpoint, the lodge used in the 2002 movie "The Country Bears."

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    Although for those who saw that movie it would be more recognizable from the front. To give you a size of scale I'm 7.5 feet tall so this is a pretty big place. ( Correction, 5.7 but who's counting? ) Still, that's a big door.

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    You could almost imagine Big Al the rest of the country bears running into the place through something that size.

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    Er, uh.... Okay, let me rephrase that. Everyone ran but Big Al gets winded kind of easily.


    Thankfully Wendell helped Al to the door while Liver Lips and Shaker made their way in.

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    Wendell ordered drinks, Shaker talked about the heat, Liver Lips picked up cocktail napkins and Big Al kept clutching his heart. Seriously kids, cholesterol is a bad thing. My favorite part about this picture is how absolutely no one in here has even noticed that four bears have just walked into the building. You just know as soon as one takes off his hat to wipe their brow someone's going to notice and yell BEAR!!!

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    Inevitably some dancing breaks out because they're Country Bears and, well, what else are you going to do?

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    Okay, seriously. I need to dwell on this a bit longer. There's a joke here, right? Someone write it for me. "A bear and a bartender walk into a wine and cheese mixer..." Finish the joke.

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    Standing outside the main doors and looking from left to right,...

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    One of my favorite things about the second picture above is that those logs that make up the front of the building are the only fake ones on the property. Everything else is wood, but despite these being large, sculpted fiberglass logs it seems every woodpecker in the Golden Oak has come here to drill holes and hide nuts for winter. We're past winter but that doesn't stop this thing from stiff being chuck full of nuts hidden deep inside an expandable foam core. Those damn animatronic woodpeckers!


    A quick shot of the inside of the stage

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    "Mr. Smith" enjoys a drink while admiring the architecture. We had a lot of fun trying to figure out where the ladders go and what was a prop versus working.

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    Truly the scale of it was amazing.

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    There were some nice touches inside like a poster from the movie

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    Doors big enough for the Hulk to comfortably walk through

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    And of course Disney touches like the metalwork on the lighting fixtures

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    With stages on both sides and balconies above those, it really had the feel of the original attraction at DL.

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    A poster by the front doors on your way in foretold of what we'd be seeing today. The Golden Oak Ranch currently has a residential street, rural and natural sets as well as a business district with plans for a multi-building studio expansion at the far end closest to the freeway. ( Where having large buildings doesn't matter and is out of shot. )

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    I have to be careful on some of these other shots. People here may not want their faces on a public form but there's one face I will identify in this shot below. In the middle of the 3 people below, the gentleman in the dark blue shirt with grey ballcap is Dario Guerrero. He and his brother have been with the ranch since about 1963 and although his brother has retired, he can still be found there tending to the ongoing care of the facilities.

    Below is the entry to the city district

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    Since Oak trees are protected, everything has been built around them. Here's the back of one such set where the buildings were built in a curve to avoid harming the nearby oak.

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    Here's the doors to the Utah County - Provo Office of the Coroner.

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    Most of these buildings have been specifically made with level roofs so that digital effects can add stories to them later or alter the looks of rooftops in post-production. Also, as is typical to most movie sets all the streets are at non-linear angles to provide depth and allow different architectures to be seen from different angles.

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    For example if you hang a left here you'll see nothing, but more importantly if you film facing this building the angle of the windows isn't lined up with the windows across the street. If it were, you'd likely catch a reflection of the crew filming or other buildings across the street that are decades apart from the facaes on the other side of the street.

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    Here's a good one walking down the main street. The red brick builings seen on the left line up with the two streets seen on the right. If you were fiming down either street on the right you'd be in the Chicago or New York alley type streets. Any shot taken down those streets needs these red brick buildings to be seen, not the white stone library seen in between them.

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    Because when you're a dead body in CSI and laying on the ground taking your final gasps in a Chicago alley, the last thing you want to do is look down the alley to see a Wells Fargo stagecoach riding up to that building during a snowstorm. ...or maybe you do, if so, you are weird.

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    Looking down that same alley you can see the weathered brick and how it out of place it would otherwise be.

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    Last edited by fifthrider; 05-18-2014, 09:27 PM. Reason: Forgot Dario's name.

  • #2
    Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

    Leaving the city area, here's a quick shot of "Bob's Diner" named after Bob Iger.

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    As the sign implies, we are not in Kansas ( City ) anymore.


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    Although they rattled off a bunch of names for all the TV shows and movies filmed here, the only thing that really stuck in my head was the Capital One commercials where the vikings become "security consultants". The red barn-shaped house above was the guillotine house whereas the blue one below was where the boiling oil was dropped.

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    Or just see it here:




    Wanna see the inside of these fully furnished beauties? Prepare for disappointment, unless you're a fire inspector. I'm doing my best to show show any faces but this is about how it looked everywhere. Almost no wood or fiberglass, almost all metal and brick. Come fire season this place isn't really a risk. Since Golden Oak has world-class irrigation and water recycling techniques that are Disney level ( meaning, the rest of us are all behind their innovation ) it's unlikely that it will ever stop being green or burn. Also, their lakes are capable of replenishing at a rate of 500 gal per minute in the event local fire crews need to chopper in and drop the hose to suck up some water.

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    Why is this cabin in the woods? The same reason as every cabin in the woods, because Mark Harmon made them lift it there by crane and drop it.

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    You'd never know it to look this way, but this is where they built the castle facade for the start of of Pirates 2 where all the pirates were being lead to their execution. ...and you thought you were looking at a Caribbean stronghold, right? Me too.

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    A bridge for those scenes where you need something askew and unsafe

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    And one for Fred MacMurray to accept an award at the end of the movie "Follow Me Boys."

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    Finally it was time for dinner and a slideshow where we were shown famous places and scenes related to the spots we had just been.

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    And then we all lucked out with a little parting gift on the way out.

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    A special brand was made for this occasion and everyone received a branded piece of a tree from the ranch.

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    Here's a map of the area as it would be seen now.

    Map | A Movie Ranch Like No Other


    ...and a link to some spiffy new upgrades they've got planned for the future.

    Disney | ABC Studios at The Ranch
    Last edited by fifthrider; 05-18-2014, 06:54 PM. Reason: Not done with initial post, images stuck during upload.

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    • #3
      Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

      Whoa, this report was absolutely amazing! MiceChatters certainly go to some really cool places! I never knew this place existed, so this was definitely interesting to read! May I ask why you were at the Golden Oak Ranch? Was it because of some D23 event or something? Anyways, thanks for sharing!
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      • #4
        Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

        Um,... Something like D23, yes. Very similar.

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        • #5
          Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

          Originally posted by KiMcHeEfOrLiFe View Post
          Whoa, this report was absolutely amazing! MiceChatters certainly go to some really cool places! I never knew this place existed, so this was definitely interesting to read! May I ask why you were at the Golden Oak Ranch? Was it because of some D23 event or something? Anyways, thanks for sharing!
          Look at the last pic in the 2nd post an dyou will see the "or something" this was involved with.
          If you see a cute yellow lab puppy with a yellow cape, WAVE! It might be us! (Or it may be someone else that lurks here!) Thank you for asking before you pet! Next trip, Dec 22-Jan 3rd.

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          • #6
            Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

            Originally posted by Malcon10t View Post
            Look at the last pic in the 2nd post an dyou will see the "or something" this was involved with.
            Oops, somehow missed that! I also missed the Club 33 symbols on the bags as well. Well that's embarassing!:shy:
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            • #7
              Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

              thank you for that great trip report. I never knew that place existed.

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              • #8
                Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

                Is this the property in Simi Valley? the town from Little House on the Prairie was there, I think.
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                • #9
                  Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

                  Very neat!! Things like this are what make Club 33 so appealing to me - this is what really gives it "value". So many opportunities for unique experiences!!

                  Thank you so much for sharing!

                  Thank you to Poisonedapples for my awesome signature!
                  KellyMcG86's Disneyland To Do List

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                  • #10
                    Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

                    I always wanted to visit the Triple-R Ranch. I understand that very little of the ranch still exists.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

                      Not Simi Valley but close, just east of Santa Clarita. They did mention something about certain scenes from Little House on the Prairie being filmed there.

                      Our speaker Stacia was wearing a Triple-R pin in memory of the ranch and you're mostly right Gary, very little still exists. ....but there is SOME! The 2 stables and the barn behind it were all still there. In front of the stables is a wider area for horses to roam but I seem to think that had been built over something that was previously there.

                      Fun fact, they mentioned that "Marty" of Spin & Marty went on to design the body for the original Toyota Celica.

                      Glad you guys enjoyed me sharing the trip, I was fortunate to be invited to go. There couldn't be a nicer bunch of people than the ones I meet on these tours.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

                        Olivia’s House | Golden Oak Ranch | A Movie Ranch Like No Other

                        Looks like a place where unwashed hippies would make a commune for themselves in the late 60s.
                        ~ Erik

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                        • #13
                          Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

                          Originally posted by Erik Olson View Post

                          Looks like a place where unwashed hippies would make a commune for themselves in the late 60s.
                          Actually, that house was Don Draper's childhood home in the Mad Men episode "The Hobo Code."
                          DLR APDL Paris 2002WDW 2007, 2013, 2015TDL & Sea 2009DCL 2014
                          To Do: ABD in 2016; Hong Kong DL & Shanghai Disney: see you in 2017!
                          GROUNDHOG DAY: WDW and DLR in the same day: 2/2/13
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                          • #14
                            Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

                            Thanks for sharing. Glad you got to go.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Tour of The Golden Oak Ranch - May 17, 2014

                              Thanks for the great trip report. I was there also and was my first "event." It was amazing about the history of the site along with the extremes that the Disney Company goes to support the local area with food and fire (water) support!
                              Next DLR Trip: 6-11 Oct 2010
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