Catherine Beebe, left, and Lloyd Beebe, right, are little-known players in Disney’s film history. They devoted their lives to the care and training of animal actors. Photo courtesy of Robert Beebe
by AMANDA WINTERS
Lloyd Beebe died Jan. 6 at the age of 94. Two days later his wife of 71 years, Catherine Beebe, died at the age of 88.
“He did what he wanted and concentrated on his wife and making sure she was taken care of,” Robert Beebe said of his grandfather’s later years.
Earlier in life Lloyd Beebe was a logger, huntsman, woodsman, Antarctic explorer, animal trainer, director, cinematographer and property rights advocate on many issues affecting Clallam County residents along the Dungeness River, Robert Beebe said.
“Catherine was the consummate businesswoman, socialite and homemaker that somehow made everything so seamless and effortless to all who knew her — a true force of nature,” he said.
The couple invested most of their savings from making films with Disney in new pens, fencing and training fields for the animal stars. It was always their intent — and continues to be — that the animals receive attention, respect and care long after their film work is completed, he said.
The Olympic Game Farm began as “Disney’s Wild Animal Ranch,” a filming location for Walt Disney in the early 1950s.
The farm was designed as a holding facility for animal actors between movie shoots by Disney Studios, to provide care and training for the animals for future movies. The farm was opened to the public by Lloyd and Catherine Beebe, with permission from the Disney board of directors, as Olympic Game Farm in 1972.
Filming continued until the late 1990s. The 150-year-old barn on the farm was converted into a studio to film certain scenes, as well as the fields and hills as backdrops by Disney Studios.
Memorable films with the Beebes’ animals include “The Vanishing Prairie,” “The Incredible Journey,” “Charlie the Lonesome Cougar,” “King of the Grizzlies,” “Never Cry Wolf,” “Grizzly Adams” and “Northern Exposure.”
“Lloyd Beebe’s humility was so great that outside of the most rabid Disney fans, his enormous accomplishments are barely known,” Greg Heberlein, of Seattle, said.
Heberlein is part of the MountainEars chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club. Some in the fan club visited the game farm in September 2009 and got to meet Lloyd and Catherine Beebe, he said.
“One of the things that struck us about Lloyd, then 92, was his size,” Heberlein said. “You expected some sort of Goliath to be such a famous outdoorsman and risk his life so often, but he was slender and rather small in stature. He was also very alert. Catherine’s memory was fading but she was truly gracious.”
Lloyd Beebe revolutionized the way animals were trained for films. He elected to make friends with the animals rather than employing a whip, Heberlein said.
It wasn’t uncommon for the couple to raise young wild animals in their homes in a humane way, he said.
Robert Beebe can attest to that. Raising jaguar cubs, lion cubs, cougar cubs, wolf pups and baby bears with his grandparents are some of his favorite memories, he said.
A celebration of life reception for family and friends will be held from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23, at the Sequim Elks Lodge, 143 Port Williams Road, Sequim.
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.