"The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story" (Disney, 1998)
The halcyon days of the Iverson Movie Ranch were already decades in the past when Disney brought a large crew to the former location ranch to film the 1998 live-action sequel "The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story."
Brandon Baker on the Iverson Ranch, behind the scenes on "Mowgli's Story"
The movie introduced audiences to Brandon Baker, who was 12 years old when he landed the role of Mowgli.
"Mowgli's Story": Brandon Baker as Mowgli, with "wolf" friend on the Lower Iverson
The youngster was practically the only human actor in the movie, working with special effects along with a variety of animal actors who were brought to the ranch for filming in the spring of 1997.
Mowgli, with his wolf pack, faces his nemesis, the tiger Shere Khan
A major shoot took place in a section of the Lower Iverson that longtime Iverson watchers know as the Hangover Rock area. Fake rocks and other props were installed by the Disney crew to dress the place up.
Mowgli's "wolf parents" Akela and Raksha at Hangover Rock
Plenty of artistic license is taken in "Mowgli's Story," especially when it comes to the animals. The many "wolves" in the movie are played by dogs, including the breeds Laika and Canaan Dog.
The tiger, on the other hand, is real — and it's a beautiful animal. In this shot the tiger stands on a fake rock, but the grass and rocks in the background are part of the natural setting.
"The Nevadan" (Columbia, 1950)
In the Randolph Scott Western "The Nevadan," filmed almost a half-century before "Mowgli's Story," we get a look at the same shooting location that would later be used for the tiger shot.
The Heroes Tower area in 2008, covered with paintings for the TV show "Heroes"
I took photos of the same spot on a visit to the Iverson Ranch in the summer of 2008, when the area was being filmed for the NBC TV series "Heroes."
"Mowgli's Story": A "wolf" stands on top of Heroes Tower
The top of Heroes Tower also appears in "Mowgli's Story," with a wolf placed on top of the rock. The dark vertical "stripes" on the rock are made by running water that was added by the "Mowgli's Story" production team.
"Mowgli's Story": Shere Khan on his fake rock, with running water at left
The running water installed for "Mowgli's Story" can also be seen in this shot of Shere Khan. The rich green shade of the grass is evidence that the shoot took place in the spring following a relatively wet winter.
The tiger, still on his fake rock, has a conversation with a spotted hyena
This shot provides a good look at Shere Khan's fake rock, along with more of the green grass. If you've been to the Iverson Ranch you probably know it's unusual to see the place looking this green.
Green grass abounds at Iverson in "Mowgli's Story"
The "Mowgli's" shoot followed the La Nina winter of 1996-97. Rainfall wasn't nearly as heavy that year as it would be a year later, when El Nino hit Southern California, but it was wet enough to make the greens pop.
"Mowgli's Story": Bagheera, the black panther
Another big cat that took part in the shoot was this black panther, which spent the bulk of its Iverson Movie Ranch screen time lounging in a fake tree. My guess is the cat was sedated the whole time, as it barely moved.
Baloo the bear struts his stuff while the panther, still in her tree, appears unfazed
Panthers and black bears don't normally live in the same place, but in Disney's "Jungle Book" universe they do. The bear, too, filmed scenes live at the ranch — including this sequence with the panther and the fake tree.
Bagheera's fake tree in recent times — still located at the site, and largely intact
The fake tree remains at the site today, a little bit the worse for wear. The tree is located on private property and is not generally accessible, but I obtained special permission from the owner to photograph the area.
Howling at dusk in "Mowgli's Story"
In a movie prominently featuring a pack of wolves, there's bound to be some howling. This shot captures the ranch as sunset approaches, along with some of the foothills adjacent to the western San Fernando Valley.
Howling in the daytime on top of Church Rock, on the Lower Iverson
For this daylight howl, someone managed not only to get a dog actor all the way up on top of Church Rock, but also convinced the animal to howl. My guess is the wrangler had a harmonica.
"Cheyenne Takes Over" (Eagle-Lion, 1947) — Church Rock in background
Church Rock gets its name from the church that stood on the Iverson Western street from 1947-1949. As seen in this shot from the Lash LaRue B-Western "Cheyenne Takes Over," the rock stood just behind the church.
Church Rock towers above a tent city from an unknown production, circa early 1930s
This unusual shot captures Church Rock from an angle more closely approximating the angle seen in "Mowgli's Story." The shot is taken with the camera aimed toward the east.
"Circle of fire" scene near the end of "Mowgli's Story"
In a climactic sequence in "Mowgli's Story," Mowgli sets a ring of vines on fire, trapping the tiger Shere Khan inside a circle of flames.
Behind the scenes of the "circle of fire" shoot on the Lower Iverson
An actual circle of fire was created at the location, as seen in this behind-the-scenes photo. The fire can be seen at the right, and above the tiger's head are the propane tanks used to fuel the fire.
"One World" (NBC, 1998-2001) — Brandon Baker, top left
Following up on his title role in "Mowgli's Story," Brandon Baker went on to a fruitful acting career. He's probably best known for his run as Cray Blake on the Teen NBC sitcom "One World" from 1998-2001.
I couldn't track down a DVD version of "Mowgli's Story," but the above link will take you to a digital version of the movie you can rent or buy on Amazon. This is the version I scanned to get screen shots for this post.