Remembering the Magic: Countdown To Extinction / DINOSAUR

by Jonathan Heigl, contributing writer
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Welcome back to another edition of Remembering the Magic. In this edition, we will take a look back at the history of DINOSAUR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Countdown to Extinction (April 22, 1998 - May 1, 2000)

Opening with Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Countdown to Extinction was a roughly 3-minute intense dark ride on a computerized ride vehicle, called an EMV (Enhanced Motion Vehicle). The “time rovers,” which served as the vehicles for the ride, were named CTX Time Rovers for the ride, with CTX being an abbreviation or reference for Countdown to Extinction. The CTX Time Rovers are EMVs which simulate various different motions, such as bumpy terrain, uphill/downhill, loss of traction, and other motion that would be typical of a vehicle going over rough, unpaved terrain. The simulation takes place so that the top half of the vehicle (where the riders sit) moves, while the bottom half (the wheels and frame of the vehicle) does not. When you feel as if you are going over bumpy terrain, you really are not. The floor inside of the show building is actually very smooth; it is the motion simulation of the vehicle.

The ride takes place inside of the Dino Institute in DinoLand U.S.A. As Guests arrive at the show building (the Dino Institute), they see a statue of a Styracosaurus (relative of a Triceratops) on a platform with shallow water underneath and greenery surrounding it. Riders make their way to the entrance, which has Fastpass distribution machines on the right, and Fastpass return/rider entrance to the left of the Fastpass distribution area, and both are on the right side of the building (when facing it). As riders enter the building, they make their way into the preshow queue area, where there is a giant Carnotaurus skeleton (real). You can hear Bill Nye with some background narration. There are dinosaur murals near the ceiling, fossil imprints around the walls below that, and other decor. Near the back of the room is a Cast Member and a dividing point where the Cast Member will point your group to the right or to the left into one of the pre-show rooms.


Carnotaurus skeleton in the Dino-Institute. Photo by Jonathan Heigl.

Once in the pre-show room, riders stand and view a short film to set the story for the ride. Riders are first introduced to Dr. Marsh (Phylicia Rashād), and she proceeds to tell the riders that they will be boarding the Time Rovers and going back to the “age of the dinosaurs” for a nice tour. She then says that they will be seeing the Control Center where they will get the safety briefing, and then on to the tour where they will see that the “future is truly in the past”. Breaking in to the video feed is Dr. Seeker (Wallace Langham), a rogue scientist in the institute wanting to perform a mission of his own; send the riders back to the late Cretaceous period and bring back a dinosaur he previously tagged on an “unauthorized field trip.” Dr. Marsh comes into the room when Dr. Seeker mentions the late Cretaceous time frame and they argue that it is the wrong time as it is dangerously close to the asteroid event that wiped out the dinosaurs. After showing Dr. Marsh that the time coordinates programmed into the Time Rovers are securely locked, she is satisfied and leaves the room. Once she does, he hacks into them and changes the time coordinates to the period right before the asteroid event. He reassures riders they will be back before the event occurs and will be safe. Once the video is over, riders are sent through the doors into the loading area.

Upon entering the loading area, riders must go down a few flights of stairs. The area looks like a typical underground loading area might, with different piping systems winding throughout, various overhead doors, crates, etc. Some of the pipes can be seen with chemical formulas on them (those formulas are actually for ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise). Once riders get to the loading dock, they are greeted by a Cast Member and sent into a row number waiting to load the next available Time Rover.

Once aboard the Time Rover, riders begin their trip back to the late Cretaceous period. The Time Rover drives around the corner and into the tunnel where the time warp begins. After lights flash and the rover moves up and down, the lights turn off to reveal a star field for a brief second or two. After, the riders are placed into a prehistoric jungle. At first, the Time Rover drives through the jungle without any issue while looking for the tagged iguanodon. The first dinosaur riders come across is a styracosaurus. It is looking directly at the riders, but is an herbivore, so there is no need to worry. On the Time Rover’s sound system, the computer warns that the meteor shower is in range. The next dinosaur riders go by, in the distance, is the alioramus, which has a smaller dinosaur in its mouth. An adult hadrosaur watching over its babies is next. On the other side, a raptor is standing on the ledge.

As the Time Rover continues searching, there is a sudden, loud noise. Dr. Seeker asks “What was that?” and then the computer says it is losing signal. Shortly after Seeker regains the signal, and the computer reads “Carnotaurus” as lights flash on and off on the large dinosaur (similar to a T-Rex) who is standing right next to the Time Rover, roaring and snapping. Seeker says “Hold on! I’m getting you out of there!” and the Time Rover takes off on a crazy, high speed trip. Footsteps of the carnotaurus can be heard following for a short time.


Countdown to Extinction stock photo courtesy of Disney.

Once escaped from the carnotaurus, the Time Rover comes across another dinosaur—a sauropod. This is a long-necked, herbivorous dinosaur. The computer comes on to say that the asteroid impact is in 90 seconds. Pterodactyls are flying overhead as the computer identifies them. The computer warns of the asteroid impact in 60 seconds, as a group of small compsognathus jump overhead. A little further ahead the Time Rover comes across the carnotaurus again, but this time, it is not directly facing the Time Rover, it spies the Time Rover and is pretty interested in it. The computer says that the power level is critical and shuts down. When the lightning flashes again, it illuminates the carnotaurus who is now in front of the Time Rover, roaring and standing up straight as if it is posturing for battle. Seeker comes on and says “OK! Juiced!” as the Time Rover recharges fully and begins getting out.

Just before exit, the vehicles come across the iguanodon, which is identified by the computer. A laser net shows on it and Seeker yells out, “That’s our dino! We got him!” The computer calls out “Asteroid impact in 3…2…1…” and an asteroid is shown coming down right in front of the Time Rover as everything goes dark and electric noises are heard. Then, the Return Time Travel chamber lights up. Seeker says “Good work team! You made it back, and so did our dino.” The Time Rover pulls back to the unload bay and the riders disembark.

Since the ride originally opened, there have been some adjustments made to the ride and effects. The first time warp tunnel (where the Time Rover is “sent back into the past”) no longer uses the lasers and pyro effects. The compsognathus that jumped over the Time Rover were on a chain and pulley system. This was deactivated and now they are only illuminated. A lot of the audio effects were tamed down, especially the chase with the carnotaurus. This was done as a lot of Guests were saying the ride was simply too frightening for children (and maybe themselves too!). The laser net was no longer used and the asteroid that is coming right at the Time Rover at the end is no longer in place; it was changed to a carnotaurus.

DINOSAUR (May 1, 2000 - Present)

On May 1st, 2000, the ride changed its name and signs to DINOSAUR to coincide with the movie release of the same name, although the movie is nowhere near as “terrifying and intense” as the ride. The statue of the dinosaur in front of the Dino Institute was changed to Aladar, the iguanodon in the film. On the ride itself, the dinosaurs remain from the original, but the narration has some additions and deletions. The narration was altered slightly to add sensitivity feel, as well as add more drama to the ride; the previous narration didn’t have as much urgency and intensity as the narration for DINOSAUR does. For example, when the computer says the asteroid impact is in 90 seconds, Seeker says, with a bit of stubbornness and worry in his voice, “We can’t stop now!”

After the last encounter with the carnotaurus, Seeker finally says “That’s it. Abort mission.” As the Time Rover begins to make its way out, it comes across the iguanodon and Seeker says, “Forget it. Get them out now.” After the computer calls out the asteroid impact is happening, Seeker says, “They’re not gonna make it. They’re not gonna make it.” All of these changes add drama and intensity to the original, even though the original was toned down previously.

My verdict – revert, update, leave alone, or re-imagine?

I am actually a big fan of DINOSAUR and enjoy the seemingly increased intensity as compared to Countdown to Extinction. I think it is really cool how most of the effects of the ride are simulated by the ride vehicle itself, meaning the bouncing up and down, the bumps, the rough terrain, the loss of traction, and so on. I love dinosaurs and I love the effects in the current version. I would definitely not revert the ride itself, but I would prefer the name return to Countdown to Extinction, or something along those lines. DINOSAUR just isn’t a great name of a ride in my opinion. Personally, the ride hasn’t grown stale on me yet, so I wouldn’t vote for re-imagine either, nor would I go with update since I don’t feel it is outdated (except for the name of the ride). I would vote for leave it alone.

 

Comments

  1. By danyoung

    Excellent article, although I have a hard time believing that the carnotaurus in the queue is real.

  2. By Jimbo996

    Re-Imagine is my vote!!!

    I would prefer they change Dinosaur to an Indiana Jones Adventure ride and remake the whole Dinoland. Disney tried to capture the Jurassic Park craze, but they failed in their attempt. Universal owns the dinosaur theme. It is better that they replace Dinosaur with a better concept and Disney now owns Indiana Jones after acquiring Star Wars from George Lucas. Every time I visited Animal Kingdom in recent trips, I never visited the ride. I only went on it once over a decade ago and it was forgettable. I couldn't get enough from Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland.

  3. By carolinakid

    I first rode Dinosaur in 2004 after the "frightening" aspects were tweaked so I never experienced the original. Sounds like it was really neat! My only complaint now is that some parts of the ride are so dark that you hardly see anything (maybe that's the intent!). I have also heard that all of the AAs are not working but I couldn't tell the last time I was on it (September 2014). I'm not really a dinosaur person but I like the attraction enough to keep it. I don't like DinoLand USA much at all and we only stay long enough to do Dinosaur and Primeval Whirl. We are not fans of Finding Nemo-The Musical which is technically part of DinoLand USA. AK needs all the help it can get.

  4. By DwarfPlanet

    Rode this a couple times, it is so dark and overly bumpy and speedy it is now a pass by for us. On the other hand we love Indiana Jones Adventure. I would love to see a redo on Dinosaur.

  5. By Boundyman

    If I had it my way, I would merge it with the Dinosaur scene at Universe of Energy. The story would be that they first transport us to a safe period of time and then a malfunction transports us to the time of the asteroid and they have to find a way to transport us to our time.

  6. By Els Withers

    I rode this just once, and found it to be a case where the queue was much more interesting than the ride. The old Epcot Universe of Energy is a much better dinosaur experience in terms of atmosphere and attention to detail. All I can recall of Dinosaur! is a dark room and a sequence of Vehicle lurch! Stop! Dinosaur lunges! Vehicle lurch! Stop! Dinosaur lunges! etc. There was no pacing, or variety to the experience.

  7. By jheigl

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    Excellent article, although I have a hard time believing that the carnotaurus in the queue is real.

    Thanks!! From all of the research I have done I have seen mention of real fossils in the pre-show area. I have not seen any mentions of fake or fabricated fossils. I cannot confirm with 100% certainty since I am not privy to that information, nor on the "inside", but if you are able to find out for sure I'd ask you keep me updated! As always, my articles are written from my perspective and research and information I have done throughout the years. I do not, and never have, professed these articles to be without any error! Since I am not, and have never been an employee of Disney or exposed to the actual documents and such for the rides, I can only write about the research I have done and the knowledge I have gathered.

    Thanks again!!

  8. By SimbaOne

    Just a quick correction: it is an alioramus eating a crocodilian, not an allosaurus eating another dinosaur. Allosaurs lived during the Late Jurassic period, and were roughly the same size as carnotaurus. You may remember back when the ride was sponsored by McDonald's, the line of posters along the wall outside the gift shop used to have McDonald's-inspired captions; one of them had the alioramus eating the crocodilian, and a cute caption saying "Have you had your crocodilian today?"

    I agree that DINOSAUR is a weak title, and most people these days don't even know that movie exists. When I was an intern there and used to do the presentations in front of Dino Sue, I can't recall many people recognizing the film when I mentioned it. I wish they would revert the name back to Countdown to Extinction, and also bring back the much cooler styracosaurus statue. It was still backstage near the boats when I worked there in 2009, and I bet it's still there now! I do like the epic score from the film that they play at the attraction entrance... they can keep that!

  9. By jheigl

    Quote Originally Posted by SimbaOne View Post
    Just a quick correction: it is an alioramus eating a crocodilian, not an allosaurus eating another dinosaur. Allosaurs lived during the Late Jurassic period, and were roughly the same size as carnotaurus. You may remember back when the ride was sponsored by McDonald's, the line of posters along the wall outside the gift shop used to have McDonald's-inspired captions; one of them had the alioramus eating the crocodilian, and a cute caption saying "Have you had your crocodilian today?"

    I agree that DINOSAUR is a weak title, and most people these days don't even know that movie exists. When I was an intern there and used to do the presentations in front of Dino Sue, I can't recall many people recognizing the film when I mentioned it. I wish they would revert the name back to Countdown to Extinction, and also bring back the much cooler styracosaurus statue. It was still backstage near the boats when I worked there in 2009, and I bet it's still there now! I do like the epic score from the film that they play at the attraction entrance... they can keep that!

    Great catch! Thanks for noticing that. I will ask for that to be corrected. Thanks again!

  10. By Jimbo996

    I propose they redo the ride as Indiana Jones: The Dinosaur Expedition. Remove the dinosaurs from the ride and set them in the queue as a Natural Science Museum with animation. They can even have an extended queue where you can see the dinosaurs as if it is an actual museum. For the ride, make it seem like you're entering the dinosaur excavation site. Indiana Jones has decided to participate in dinosaur anthropology. Unknown to him, it was also the site of an ancient human tomb and you awaken the malevolent spirits. You ride in some jeeps to get out. Some dinosaur spirits were awaken as well and you try to avoid them. You see amazing special effects, which were missing from the current attraction. You also see Indiana Jones, which I always love seeing.

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