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Panel approves Disney studio development near Santa Clarita

August 28, 2013

A sprawling Santa Clarita Valley landscape that Walt Disney selected decades ago to be the backdrop for his movies and television shows will be transformed into one of the largest new studio developments in more than a decade under a plan approved Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Burbank-based Disney's Golden Oak Ranch will include more than 500,000 square feet of studio space, multiple sound stages, writers' bungalows, a commissary and other developments spread over 58 acres of oak-studded land in Placerita Canyon, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The vote marks the culmination of a four-year effort by Disney/ABC Studios to build a high-tech production center in the historic ranch where such classics as "Old Yeller" and the more recent "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" were filmed.

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The development is also the latest sign that north Los Angeles County continues to be an attractive site for the entertainment industry.

The Golden Oak site is among nearly a dozen ranches in the Santa Clarita area that have become increasingly popular for filming in recent years because their wide-open spaces and varied terrain can be used as stand-ins for Afghanistan or the Old West. The Santa Clarita Valley, often dubbed Hollywood North, promotes itself as a low-cost, film friendly destination that saw record production levels in the last fiscal year.

County supervisors hailed the Disney/ABC studio project, saying it would create $533 million in annual economic activity at time when the region continues to battle runaway film and TV production.

"Many of the film production companies are now going out of state," Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said before the 4-0 vote. "This is an opportunity to increase film production in Los Angeles County."

California has lost more than 36,000 jobs and $2.4 billion in wages since 1997 because of lost film and television production, according to a 2010 Milken Institute Report. Business leaders urged the county to support the project and others like it in hopes of stemming that trend.

Los Angeles' entertainment sector — which employs about 160,000 people — faces an "existential threat" from other states "actively pursuing, enticing and poaching these productions out of our own back yard," wrote Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. Chief Executive Bill Allen in a letter to the county supporting the project.

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