Mar 11

Pete's Dragon on Location near Montaña de Oro


August 2, 1976

petes-dragon.jpgFor a few weeks Hollywood magic flipped the coasts of the United States and transformed the coast south of Moñtana de Oro State Park into Passamaquoddy, Maine. A lighthouse was built near Point Buchon as part of Pete’s Dragon, the most expensive Walt Disney production to date. Passamaquoddy is the name of an Algonquian Native American dialect spoken in Maine. Historian Dan Krieger outlines the origins of the name Buchon in a March 8, 2009 column.

I’ve edited the narrative of Font’s diary, beginning just north of the Santa Maria River at what is now called Oso Flaco Lake.
“On March 1, 1776, Friday, I celebrated holy Mass. We set out from La Laguna Graciosa at eight in the morning, and at 5:30 in the afternoon we halted at the Rancheria del Buchon (Arroyo Grande), … so called because, when the first expedition of (Juan Gaspar del Portolá) came along, … an Indian chief named Buchon (lived there). (He) was famed as valiant in the whole (Santa Barbara) Channel region on account of the damage he had done by his wars there …
“(Buchon’s) chief wife … still lived (in the village). Another concubine of his became a Christian and was then married to one of the soldiers whom the native pagans recognized, and to whom they paid as tribute a portion of their wild seeds; but the chief himself was already dead.”
“Buchon” is the Spanish word for goiter — a swelling of the neck caused by an enlarged thyroid gland.
Both Buchon Street in San Luis Obispo and Point Buchon north of Port San Luis were named in honor of this Chumash chieftain with his highly visible goiter.

dragon.jpgThe movie cost was estimated at $8 million, more expensive than Mary Poppins.
Stars were Mickey Rooney, Helen Reddy, Shelly Winters, Sean Marshall and James Dale and the most expensive star, an animated dragon.

The song “Candle on the Water” was nominated for an Oscar but the winner in 1977 was “You Light Up My Life“.

Hikers can now enjoy the spectacular scenery, minus the fake lighthouse, when they hike the Point Buchon trail. The land is owned by PG&E and the trail is open 8-5 Friday through Sunday. You’ll have to sign a waiver that includes every risk except zombie lawyers.  The trailhead is at the South end of Montaña de Oro State Park.
Photos by Wayne Nicholls

Tribune reporter/blogger Sarah Linn has written extensively about area movie making and the San Luis Obispo Film Festival, among other topics. Check out her blog She Likes to Watch.

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