Family Films and the Santa Clarita Valley
Santa Clarita is widely hailed as a family friendly community and family films continue to shape our shared experiences. If you’ve been following this column, you can probably guess where this is headed. Santa Clarita has a rich history with some of the most noteworthy family films ever created.
There is a famous line from the movie “Stripes,” where Bill Murray’s character asks, “Who cried when Old Yeller got shot at the end?” Well, whether you did or not, “Old Yeller” was filmed right here in Santa Clarita at Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch. In fact, many of Disney’s most beloved films were shot at the ranch, including “The Shaggy Dog,” “The Parent Trap,” “The Santa Clause,” “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,” “The Apple Dumpling Gang,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” and the list goes on.
According to Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch’s website, “Walt Disney first leased The Golden Oak Ranch in the late 1950s for the Spin and Marty segments of ‘The Mickey Mouse Club.’ Because of the variety of natural settings available there, the Studio purchased the property in 1959 and, over the years, acquired additional land which has brought the total to just under 900 acres.”
Nate Johnson (Cedric the Entertainer) and family also found their way to Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in 2004 for their annual family reunion in “Johnson Family Vacation.”
Most of these films took advantage of the Ranch’s lush fields, man-made lakes and cabins. “The Country Bears,” modeled after the famous Country Bear Jamboree attraction at Disneyland and released in 2002, featured the famous Country Bear Barn in the movie and was built at the ranch, housing both exterior and interior scenes.
Also having roots in Santa Clarita is Pee-wee Herman, played by Cal Arts Alumnus Paul Reubens. “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” had multiple noticeable locations in Santa Clarita. Fans might recognize the Old Road as Pee-wee hitchhikes in a red convertible past the white split rail fencing and then turns left onto what used to be the dead end “Chiquitta Lane,” but is now the continuation of the Old Road north towards In-N-Out. One of the most famous scenes in the movie was the “Tequila” song where Pee-wee has to dance his way out of danger at a biker bar. The “biker bar” is located on the west side of Sierra Highway, north of Soledad Canyon Road, and is now a restaurant called Mi Tierra.
The 1988 follow up to “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” titled “Big Top Pee-wee,” was filmed at Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch. In 2015, Pee-wee returned to Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch once again for “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.”
This couldn’t be a Film Santa Clarita article without mentioning Vasquez Rocks, and we should note, in this family friendly edition, that the 1994 movie “The Flintstones” was filmed right here in the Santa Clarita Valley. Vasquez Rocks set the scene as the town of Bedrock, as the park was filled with massive sets of the prehistoric metropolis.
The 2009 film “Race to Witch Mountain” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, also filmed in Santa Clarita. Some scenes were filmed in an industrial area off of Railroad Avenue, by The Saugus Café. However, the namesake of the movie Witch Mountain…? You’ve guessed it! Witch Mountain was Santa Clarita. The area behind Saugus Speedway, known as the Bermite property, as well as parts of Vasquez Canyon, served as the mysterious formation.
Additionally, many famous movies were filmed right here in Santa Clarita under our very noses, and we would never be the wiser, because they shot on studio soundstages.
“A Wrinkle in Time,” starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling, was released in March 2018 and grossed $33 million on its opening weekend alone. The film adaptation of the classic children’s novel has some pretty serious Santa Clarita roots. The film was based in town at our very own Santa Clarita Studios. If you watch the film, you might not recognize Santa Clarita, but that’s only because it was shot on sound stages where elaborate sets were built, including the interiors of the home where the story began. The production also shot on location at the Southern California Innovation Park.
There are many other fun family films that called Santa Clarita home. These include the “A Doggone” series, “Fat Albert,” “Holes,” and “Marmaduke,” which we will explore in future articles. But if one thing’s clear, it’s that Santa Clarita has a hallowed place in your favorite family films.
The City of Santa Clarita’s Film Office was started in 2002 and today processes over 500 permits per year, leading to over 1,300 film days! Filming is a great benefit to the community, adding over $30 million of positive economic impact per year to the local economy. For a list of what has filmed in Santa Clarita, go to www.FilmSantaClarita.com and follow the City’s film office at Instagram.com/FilmSantaClarita.
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