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Disneyland Article
A Look Back At Disneyland Circle D Ranch

Source:Orange County Register
Author:Sarah Tully
Dateline:October 08, 2015
Posted:October 13, 2015
Circle D Corral
Circle D Corral
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While the Millenium Falcon is going to land on the Big Thunder Ranch at Disneyland, some of the backstage areas north of there, including where the Resort takes care of its horses - the Circle D Ranch are going to be home to a large part of the Star Wars Land expansion.

The story of the Circle D Ranch

Way before Walt Disney bought the property that would become Disneyland, horses and other animals lived on a ranch north of the orange groves that would be razed for the theme park.

In fact, Disney used to saddle up on the ranch's horses to tour the property that he was considering buying. One day, he told a ranch employee the check was ready.

Today, the land is still a working ranch - Circle D Corral houses horses, goats and other critters that are part of Disneyland's attractions.

"It's part of Disney's history. Walt's two favorite things were trains and horses," said Maggie Gitchen, guest service manager, who oversees Circle D. The corral is considered Disneyland's first attraction, starting in 1954, a year before the park opened, although it has never been open to the public, Gitchen said.

Back then, the ranch was more than 10 acres. Now, it's less than five, still sitting just outside the park west of Mickey's Toontown and Frontierland.

Disney invited a couple, Dolly and Owen Pope, to live at the ranch to raise the horses. Disney moved a 1920s bungalow that used to sit where the old Disneyland marquee stood along Harbor Boulevard to the corral property. The Popes were the only people who ever lived there.

The bungalow remains today, used for offices, a break room, tours and, occasionally, a sleeping area when a horse is real sick. An original metal barn and harness room, including a 1900s sewing machine that was retrofitted for repairs, also remain.

Over the years, the Cast Members at the corral and the nearby Big Thunder Ranch have cared for other animals including: goats, donkeys, cockatoos, a sheep, a cow and turkeys - for several years the turkeys pardoned by the president each year have found a home at Disneyland.

In earlier years, other animals joined the group including: pot-bellied pigs, mules, bunnies, chickens, tigers, camels and elephants. Snakes, spiders and lizards arrived when the Indiana Jones Adventure opened. Though specialty trainers were hired on a temporary basis for many of the more exotic animals.

The horses' main job is to power the Horse-Drawn Streetcars along Main Street, U.S.A. and pull the carriage for weddings held at the Disneyland Resort's hotels.

It can take months to teach horses how to deal with crowds and noise.

Some times a horse is roped to a pole to stand for a while to learn patience.

Other times, horses are taken into corrals with strollers, streamers, rolling trash cans, wheelchairs and balloons - giving them stimulus overload so they learn to be calm in the parks. The nightly fireworks displays do not even phase them at all, according to the trainers.

In years past, Santa has brought eight reindeer-in-training from the North Pole to stay with him while he visits children at Disneyland. Officials won't discuss any other details about the reindeers' whereabouts the rest of the year, except they live up north.

The Circle D Ranch leads in recycling at the Disneyland Resort

In 2014, Tully revisited the ranch to learn about its extensive waste recycling program:

The ranch could produce a lot of trash. But thanks to some Cast Member led efforts, it has only one kitchen-size garbage can.

Over the past five or so years, Circle D Corral employees have adopted a zero-waste policy at the facility that stretches 21/2 acres just beyond the Big Thunder Ranch area. Their efforts were led by Andrea Raney, a stable attendant lead who lives in Yorba Linda and took it upon herself to spearhead the practice.

"To know it's going somewhere positive, it's a big thing," said Raney as she cleaned out the stall for a white shire horse, Reggie.

The Walt Disney Co. has ramped up its environmental efforts since 2008 when Bob Iger, Disney's chief executive, announced a long-term goal to produce zero waste. Raney looked around her workplace to suggest changes.

"I think we have a culture of doing the right thing at Disney," Raney said. "It's easy to get that excitement going."

At the time, Circle D had a 30-cubic-yard trash bin that collected virtually all of the waste. A single bottle-and-can recycling bin was in the break room.

Now, it's the opposite - a 30-yard composting bin sits where the trash bin was. The composting bin is filled weekly, with the material sold to an off-site business, where it is taken and sold again. Disney does not make a profit on this.

Circle D even takes composting materials from other locations within the Disneyland Resort. Employees from Starbucks in Disney California Adventure bring over buckets of coffee grounds. A tall cart with 15 boxes of dryer lint, a week's worth from hotels, is rolled over.

A large trash bin for soft-plastic recycling takes one of the biggest commodities - the plastic wrapping for animal bedding. It's emptied every four to seven days.

The future of the Circle D Ranch

The horses used to pull the Horse-Drawn Streetcars on Main Street, U.S.A.. Are going to get a new home away from the resort, and be brought in daily for their on stage role. The critters in Big Thunder Ranch will be sent to a new home to be named, to be replaced by Banthas and other creatures from the George Lucas' inspired universe.

Attractions Referenced

Big Thunder Ranch

Circle D Corral

Horse-Drawn Street Cars

Indiana Jones Adventure, Temple Of The Forbidden Eye

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