It was unclear whether viewers would connect with the plot of a pioneer family scraping by on the land when the TV series Little House on the Prairie made its pilot film debut in early 1974. The film’s success secured the show’s future, and it ran from 1974 until 1982 with strong ratings. The cast of characters and the endearing, if occasionally graphic, depictions of what life must have been like for the settlers won over viewers over time.
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The Big Sky Movie Ranch, a well-known location among Hollywood producers, is close to Newhall, California, and is where the show was shot. Over the years, among many other shows and films, scenes for Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Flicka, The Thorn Birds, Dallas, Quantum Leap, and Rawhide were filmed there.
Many of the scenes in Little House on the Prairie wouldn’t work on a sound stage because the show relied on reasonably realistic buildings and outdoor vignettes.
Parts of the show’s set, most notably the town of Walnut Grove, were destroyed in a staged explosion for the series finale in the third and final Little House film, The Last Farewell.
Because of the nature of Hollywood filming, many sets and costumes from various iconic productions were destroyed or reused, which is not uncommon in the industry. Still, if you enjoyed the show, it’s a shame that none of the buildings remain standing today. What was left of the set was destroyed in fires in 2003 and 2019.
Take a look at what the Big Sky Ranch looks like today in comparison to scenes from the show shot in the same locations.