In 1917, Edgar Rice Burroughs published in hardcover a novel from which much of our modern Science Fiction is derived. A Princess of Mars, the first featuring John Carter, details the story of a Confederate veteran from the American Civil War who, through some combination of magic and science, finds himself on the fourth planet from the sun. In case you’ve not read this masterpiece, I won’t spoil it any further (but I would suggest you go to read it!). However, in 2010 when a film about the character was finally reaching reels, Disney needed to find someplace to replicate the wild imagined landscape of the Red Planet. Enter Southeast Utah.
Moab, at the risk of sounding Nighvalian, is a friendly desert community in which Disney found much of its resources. While this particular town is a good distance from major cities, it is located off of I-70 and has its own small airport North of town. Perhaps most importantly, however, is its proximity to several major landscapes- including Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, the Colorado River, and the La Sal Mountains. The red dirt of the area, coming from the iron found in the sand and soil, allows for cinematographers to imply a Martian landscape with little to no work in post. Of course, John Carter wasn’t the first (nor the last) movie to work in the area. Galaxy Quest and Star Trek are counted among the area’s credits. In addition, the lack of human development tends to work well for a Wild West shoot (for instance, Disney used the area again for The Lone Ranger).
Of course, Moab and its surrounding desert are so much more than a movie set. The land is biologically diverse at nearly all levels and it’s ripe for exploring- even if you’re not much of a hiker (many of the National Parks have accessible paths). Beyond the science, you’ve also go interesting history. Petroglyphs and pictographs can be found all over town and along hiking trails- we went to see a beautiful example in a small suburbanesque neighborhood. Plus, you can find anything to trip your trigger from art to music in this community.
And, finally, should you have an adventurous streak, there’s hiking, biking, canoeing, rock climbing, and so much more.