For a three-day walk in Walt’s footsteps, D23 Members enjoyed old-fashioned country-western fun, heard firsthand stories from some of Disney’s brightest luminaries, and vacationed among friends at D23′s Smoke Tree Ranch Roundup on January 23-25, 2012. “I really got an insight on why Walt Disney came out here,” says D23 Member David Ludwig from Orange, California. “We went for a morning horseback ride in the desert—the scenery and the landscape are so beautiful—and it’s a great place to decompress. Walt brought his family here to unwind.”
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” admits Pete Renoudet, voice of Henry the Bear from the Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and a special guest at D23′s Smoke Tree Ranch Roundup. “It’s such a large ranch with all of the different buildings, hiking trails, horseback riding… and it’s really unique.” Dana Daniels, another special guest, who is an alumnus of the legendary Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland at Disneyland, added, “You can see how Smoke Tree Ranch had an influence on Walt when you look at the different parts of Disney.”
Walt and his family were frequent visitors to Smoke Tree Ranch, and Walt built a home here twice. (He sold the first one in 1954 to help fund the Disneyland effort.) There, Walt would relax and read the briefcase of scripts he often brought with him. “Sometimes,” he once said, “I relax so much that I find myself dozing over the scripts.” Once one of Smoke Tree Ranch’s directors, Walt loved his peaceful retreat in the living desert, and he was often photographed wearing his STR logo tie. “This is where Walt used to like to come and enjoy time with his family and relax,” Dana Daniels says. “I was getting a little tingle—like it was my first time at Disneyland—as I walked around and looked at some of the pictures.”
D23 Members explored the ranch as Walt did… and among Disney Legends and luminaries. Members gathered with cocktails and wine for D23′s Smoke Tree Ranch Roundup welcome, including special guests—Smoke Tree Ranch historians Bill Bailey and Tracy Conrad. And a few Disney voice actors also joined D23 Members during the event, including Bill Farmer, voice of Goofy; Tony Anselmo, voice of Donald Duck; Bill Rogers, voice of Disneyland, Anaheim; Bret Iwan, voice of Mickey Mouse; Disney Legend Bob Gurr, contributor to Disney parks through Imagineering; and Academy Award®-winning composer and Disney Legend Richard Sherman. Among the many memorable times had by all, there was storytelling in the Ranch House, breakfast in the desert, horseback riding, a sing-along around the campfire, entertainment in the Walt Disney Hall, and a western barbecue, to name just a few.
It was a rare look into Walt Disney’s life and, thanks to the Smoke Tree Ranch team, an enjoyable, relaxing, and unforgettable weekend. Thank you to all the D23 Members who made this special event so memorable. And happy trails to you all.
By D23′s Billy Stanek