Initially built in 1938, Old Tucson Studios is located west of Tucson, Arizona and built as a movie studio/theme park. The studio was modeled after 1860’s Tucson for a movie titled, Arizona. In 40 days they managed to construct 50 buildings for the movie. Countless movies and television shows, such as Little House on the Prairie and High Chaparral (1967-1971) were filmed on site in the dusty desert studio. In 1960, the studio was accessible to everyone and presented the crowds with historical tours, Wild West shootouts and amazing stunt shows.
There was a bit of a gap between the movies “Arizona” being filmed in the studio before others would follow. From 1945 until the mid 1990’s, Old Tucson Studios was cranking out many movies and had famous actors such as John Wayne gracing the dirty streets. Wayne starred in at least four movies made there; Rio Bravo, McLintock, El Dorado, and Rio Lobo. Many structures were added to accommodate these movies. By 1968, a large soundstage was constructed to meet the demands and keep up with other larger studios. In the 1980’s, Three Amigos was filmed there, and later the television show, Young Riders was also shot there as well.
The studios was a hotspot for many westerns filmed in Arizona, but a fire on April, 25, 1995, almost demolished all of the sets, but did destroy the soundstage, and 25 buildings. Many valuable items were gone by the fires rage such as a copy of a short film about the history of Old Tucson Studios, behind the scene footage of several actors, costumes (Little House of the Prairie wardrobe) and memorabilia. Over 300 people were in the park when the fire began and had to be quickly ushered out. Because of the wild winds the fire spread like crazy, this arson suspected blaze could not be controlled. Many wooden buildings were just temporary and had no sprinklers in them. The liquid propane and gunpowder on the grounds made it imperative that the fire be put out immediately. The firefighters were having trouble with all the nasty elements which were fighting their attempts. To make matters worse, water was in short supply.