History of the Olympic Game Farm
For most of his life, Lloyd Beebe, the founder, has had a love of the outdoors and a certain awe for the wildlife of this state. He liked to roam in the mountains and became fairly skilled in observing wildlife on its own turf. He worked as a logger, but in the back of his mind he kept the dream of one day owning his own place. In 1942 that dream came true when he was able to purchase a farm and begin dairy farming. That same land eventually became Olympic Game Farm.
Dairy farming is a very demanding occupation, so whenever he could find some spare time, Lloyd knew that a few hours in the mountains observing wild animals on their home ground would refresh his mind from the financial cares and physical labor of making his farm a success. To him, this was recreation in its purest sense.
Because it became second nature for him to observe wildlife, the thought occurred to him that he would like to share these experiences with others, but taking people into the woods with him could spoil the whole thing. Using a camera to photograph the things he was seeing so they could be shared was the logical conclusion to which he came. This led him to putting his old car up as collateral at a local bank for a small loan, with which he purchased his first camera.
It was at about this same time that Walt Disney Studios were producing their first nature films. Lloyd admits that way in the back of his mind was the hope that perhaps the studio would be interested in buying some of the film he was shooting. Of course, that film was getting better as he had more practice. Besides sharing the film he was getting in the woods with his family and friends, Lloyd had a notion that perhaps schools and other organizations might be interested in his footages, but he didn’t feel that he would be very good at providing the monologue for his films. He decided to try a film which told a story that perhaps he could sell.
From time to time the Beebes had taken in wild animal orphans. In 1947 there were some of those babies being raised by Lloyd and his wife, Catherine, here at the Farm.
Mrs. Patsy Sinkey, who made wildlife films for the game Department, gave Lloyd invaluable advice and taught him tricks for using his camera that really improved his ability to produce clear cut footages. With this newly found expertise, and with Mrs. Sinkey’s help, he produced a short movie called “The Little Archer.” Son Melvin, five years old at the time, was the human star.
The little boy, quite skilled with his bow and arrows, sets out on a hunting trip after kissing his mother goodbye. He hadn’t gone too far when he encountered a fawn. Now, that’s too pretty an animal to shoot, so he continues on his way. Before too long, little Melvin sees a bear cub sitting on a stump. He takes deadly aim with his bow and arrow, then has second thoughts as the cub gets off the stump and ambles over to him.
Since the bear is a friendly sort, the little boy and the bear sit down and eat the lunch Melvin’s mother has packed for him. Lunch finished, Melvin continues his journey. Before too long, he spies a cougar cub, who joins in the fun of this parade of youngsters, all of who return home with the archer to continue their play in the yard at the house. At this point, our intrepid hunter puts on a demonstration of his shooting prowess for the benefit of all who will watch.
“The Little Archer” sold to Warner Brothers for $2,000, half of which went to Mrs. Sinkey for her assistance. The other half paid for a new camera for Lloyd.
Money was a continuing problem, and since Lloyd was getting some outstanding wildlife footages, he took the bull by the horns and wrote to Disney, sending some footages that he thought were worth consideration. The same day they received the film from Lloyd, the Disney people reviewed it. They liked what they saw, but told Lloyd they wanted shots of cougars. At that particular moment Lloyd had none, so he took his dogs out and captured a couple of juveniles, which were trained for the desired footages.
The Beebes were invited to go to Hollywood to talk business with the Disney Studios. While they were eating in the studio commissary, Walt and his brother, Roy, came over to their table and introduced themselves to the Beebes. Lloyd and Catherine stayed a week and were escorted around to see the sights and were even taken to Disneyland. It turns out that this was the beginning of a relationship between the Disney Studios and the Beebes that was to last for many years into the early 1970’s.
On their return to Sequim, Lloyd went to work on the film “Vanishing Prairie.” It was on that film that he used the two young cougars mentioned above. When the shooting was completed, Lloyd was told that the Disney Studios wanted to do another film in Canada that was to be titled “White Wilderness.” Wolverines were to be used in the film. The Game Department of Canada told them that there was no way wolverines could be tamed enough to be used in a film, but supplied five of them anyway.
Lloyd had the job of taming them and training them for the roles they would play. The animals were in small cages in a large warehouse. He moved in with them, placing his sleeping bag just close enough to the animals’ cages that they wouldn’t snarl at him, but it wouldn’t allow them to relax. He kept up a steady stream of soothing chatter with them, and when he had to leave the building, turned on the radio. Whenever the wolverines became comfortable with him, he’d move closer, again being careful to not get so close that the animals were upset with his presence, but close enough that they wouldn’t be comfortable enough to relax. Using this approach, Lloyd went through his daily routines, sleeping, eating and building larger cages for each of the animals, all the while keeping up a running chatter with them. When they became comfortable with him, he moved his activities even closer until at last the day came when he was feeding them by hand. On occasion he even broke an egg in his hand and let the wolverines lick the dripping mess off the palm of his hand and from between his fingers. At that point, their trust in him had come to the point that they were able to be trained for the film and the shooting, which, while not uneventful, proceeded on schedule.
In preparation for the International Geophysical Year, Lloyd was sent to Antarctica as a photographer by the Disney Studios. There he was involved in the filming of “Seven Cities of Antarctica.” It was a film that depicted the preparations that were made for the housing of the scientists from around the world who were to be making the studies. Lloyd stayed there for eighteen months and then returned to continue working on other Disney wildlife and nature films.
By 1962 they started filming at the Farm and in the vicinity with incredibly good luck. Lloyd was called away at one point when “Those Calloways,” being filmed in Vermont, ran into trouble. They brought it to the Farm and finished it here. This happened on several other films, and the Disney Studios were quite happy with the results.
In the meantime, native and endangered animals were accumulating at the farm. When a scene couldn’t be shot in the wild, a trained animal from the Farm was used. The Disney Studios didn’t want the Farm opened to the public, so for many years it remained simply a repository of animals for use in films.
By 1970, Lloyd and Catherine were able to fulfill one of their dreams. They built the house overlooking the Farm, in which they presently live. It was also during this period that the Beebes found themselves caught up in other activities that pertained to the welfare of wild animals and endangered species. They were in touch with other zoological organizations and contributing the sperm of endangered species to the sperm bank as well as the blood of many species for use in human cancer research.
After the death of Walt Disney in 1965, the Disney Studios began to move away from the nature films that had been so dear to Walt’s heart. Periods of employment were farther and farther apart as a photographer, trainer and even director for Lloyd, so he and Catherine, using a rather large nest egg they’d set aside, provided new, secure housing for the animals.
In 1972, with the approval of the Disney Studios for using the Disney name, Olympic Game Farm, Inc. was opened to the public. In the beginning there were only guided tours, and the cost of admission on that auspicious occasion was $1.00
At the present time, the Beebe family owns and operates Olympic Game Farm, Inc.
History of the Barn:
Our historic Studio Barn (built in 1862) as well as our property and animals were commonly used for filming over 100 motion pictures with Disney studio’s, Suncest Productions and many others. The Studio barn is still home to Classic Movie sets (Lesslie’s Rainbow) and The original cave scene of Those Calloways The barn is full of props, lights, antiques, and memoribila of our filming days which Lloyd inherited in 1972 with the passing of Roy Disney.
Be sure to make your plans to visit the Olympic Game Farm near Sequim, WA. Click here for directions and a map.