Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Directions: Old Tucson Studios is located near Saguaro National Park West. From town take Speedway BLVD west toward the Tucson Mountains. It will become Gates Pass Road. Drive over Gates Pass and continue driving until you reach a major T-intersection. Turn left and not to far down the road the studios will be on the left.
History: For the western movie history buff The Tuscon Studios have a rich history. Columbia Pictures built 40 buildings to recreate Tucson for the move Arizona. After a few years of dormancy, The Bell's of Saint Mary's was filmed on location. In the 1950s and 1960s John Wayne filmed four movies at the location including McLintock!, Rio Bravo, El Dorado, and Rio Lobo. Directors filmed a number of successful television series. Among them was The High Chaparral which aired for four years and Little House on the Prairie. In 1959 Robert Shelton leased the property and he added gunfights, shows and a small train. Through its history over 100 films and television shows have been filmed at Old Tucson Studios making it one of the most successful studios outside of Hollywood California.
In 1995 tragedy struck when a fire destroyed buildings, memorabilia, and costumes. According to investigators the fire started at a sign shop on Kansas Street. The fire spread quickly as a result of insufficient fire suppression equipment because most of the buildings were classified as temporary structures and did not have to have sprinklers installed. As a result of a call for resources, over 100 fire engines and 200 fire fighters responded. It took fire fighters over four hours to extinguish the flames and hot spots. Losses amounted to $10 million with all of Kansas Street and the Mission Area destroyed. (information from wikipedia and Old Tucson History Museum)
Visiting Information: I have to admit I am not into gimmicky tourist attractions and that is what kept me away from the studios. However, over the course of a year and a half everyone I talked to had visited the attraction and they raved about how much fun of an experience it was. In May, Tara and I decided it was time to visit with our son. After paying our entrance fee which is steep we were pleasantly surprised at how many performance the park offered. Over the course of the day we attended comedy shows, gun fights, reenactments and singing and dancing shows. My son also had a fun time riding the miniature train and merry-go-round. Unless a visitor is obsessed with western film history, one visit is enough. During the summer Old Tucson Studios is open Saturday and Sunday from 10-5.