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Taking a close-up view of the parks
Text and photos by Karl Buiter, contributing editor
May 2000 marked the national release of Disney's new computer-animated film "Dinosaur."
But this is not the first animated Dinosaur effort - even for Disney. Dinosaurs took a starring role in the original Fantasia's "Rite of Spring" segment. And well before that, Winsor McCay animated "Gertie the Dinosaur" back in 1914. Of course the biggest hit dinosaur movies to date are the two Steven Spielberg "Jurassic Park" films.
Besides popping up in the movies, Dinosaurs have also been stars in Disney theme parks over the years. To help you find examples to satisfy the Magic Kingdom paleontologist in you, here are some of the places where you can find dinosaurs inside the Disney parks, both in Anaheim and Orlando.
Disneyland's Primeval World
At Disneyland in Anaheim California, Primeval World presents a classic, museum-like diorama depiction of dinosaurs in what could be considered typical [Disney art directed of course] habitats. Originally developed for the 1964 New York World's Fair's Ford pavilion, this attraction debuted on [the then] Santa Fe / Disneyland Railroad on July 1, 1966.
The exhibit is part of the Disneyland Railroad trip between Tomorrowland Station and Main Street. Two dioramas are housed in a pair of buildings the train travels through. The first is the Grand Canyon (not pictured here), which, after then crossing a land bridge, is followed by the much larger and more elaborate Primeval World. As the train travels the length of the diorama, it passes about a half dozen scenes including a climatic battle with a T-Rex on the conductor's right hand side.
Disneyland's Big Thunder Railroad
Disneyland also is the home of Big Thunder Railroad's impressive T-Rex skeleton, which riders pass by [and the wait queue also goes near] on their ramshackle journey.
Disneyland's Big Thunder Railroad. Photo by Karl Buiter.
One thing there is lots of in any Disney park, is bones, bones and more bones. The parks are full of them!
Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur [formerly Countdown to Extinction]
Back at Walt Disney World in Orlando, a major section of Animal Kingdom is built around the "Countdown to Extinction" attraction, which as a film tie-in has now been re- christened simply as "Dinosaur."
Pretty much just a re- dressed version of Disneyland's Indiana Jones attraction, Dinosaur whisks visitors back in time on a time- travel jeep. Of course something goes terribly wrong - as always seems to happen on Disney attractions - and visitors end up taking a harrowing journey through the land of dinosaurs mere moments before their extinction.
Epcot's Energy Pavilion
Walt Disney World has a diorama-style attraction featuring dinosaurs at Epcot. Hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres and plaintiff Bill Nye [currently he's suing Disney over royalties due him], this colossal attraction explores the originations of fossil fuels and the sources of energy in the future.
The centerpiece of the attraction is a slow moving journey through a huge landscape of animatronic dinosaurs. It's at a scale that's much larger and more immersive than Primeval World at Disneyland.
While the attraction can eat an amazing amount of your time on a hectic visit, it's well worth the experience. Thanks to some newly added humor, this newer show is no longer the boring corporate lecture it used to be.
Miscellaneous "Dinosaur" Park Buildings
Somewhere in the past, probably on a deserted desert roadway, American pop culture and architecture intersected, creating strange fantasy-like buildings in the shapes of creatures and food. Even today, a leisurely drive through parts of the country will take you past buildings shaped like tee- pees, donuts, chili-bowls and... you guessed it dinosaurs!
This fantasy architecture is given a tribute in at least two Disney theme parks - Disney / MGM Studios in Orlando, and in the new California Adventure park within the Paradise Pier section, in Anaheim.
One of the founding members of MousePlanet, Inc., Karl Buiter is now a contributing writer. He lives in Las Vegas, NV, and is a software developer with an interest in monorails.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Karl here.
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