WDW Magazine - - Around The World -


In Dis­ney’s An­i­mal King­dom, you may have no­ticed that cer­tain ar­eas of the park seem bet­ter planned than oth­ers. Africa and Asia are both im­mer­sive and tell com­pelling nar­ra­tives through­out the lands. The now de­funct Camp Min­nie-mickey was a Band-aid so­lu­tion to cover-up the never built Beastly King­dom. And Di­noland U.S.A. seems cob­bled to­gether; does Ch­ester and Hester’s Dino-rama re­ally be­long in the same sto­ry­line as The Dino In­sti­tute?

It turns out, yes! But there’s a big part of the story miss­ing that ties it all to­gether. And in los­ing that piece of the puz­zle, Dino-rama be­came some­thing al­to­gether dif­fer­ent than orig­i­nally planned. Orig­i­nally, the con­cept of Di­noland U.S.A. laid out a bril­liant, thrilling, and in­ter­wo­ven theme through­out the land and its many at­trac­tions–but all that we have left to­day of that orig­i­nal vi­sion is the DI­NOSAUR! ride, The Bone­yard, and some other skele­ton ar­ti­facts.

Take a peek at the zoomed in map above. Do you no­tice any­thing dif­fer­ent about Di­noland U.S.A. from what stands in the park to­day? Well, for starters there’s a big track for a coaster that never was: The Ex­ca­va­tor.

Here’s an­other view with con­cept art from 1993 show­ing off the orig­i­nal plans for Di­noland U.S.A.:

As you can see, the land was orig­i­nally imag­ined as much more elab­o­rate–it was meant to por­tray an ac­tive dig site, and The Ex­ca­va­tor would have been an ad­ven­ture through an area that was too dan­ger­ous to en­ter. Over time, a small coaster (Primeval Whirl) was added to the land, but with­out the co­he­sive theme for the land that The Ex­ca­va­tor would have brought. To un­der­stand that, we’ll look to the orig­i­nal Di­noland U.S.A. back­story:

Ch­ester and Hester’s was the lo­cal gas sta­tion on the site of a sand and gravel com­pany, where trucks could be ser­viced and fu­elled be­fore hit­ting the road again. One day while dig­ging up sand, a gi­ant di­nosaur bone was un­cov­ered. Sci­en­tists ar­rived to ex­plore and dis­cov­ered that be­low the pit of sand and gravel was a huge arche­o­log­i­cal find full of fos­sils! With lots of field work to be done, a bene­fac­tor at the lo­cal col­lege buys up the whole site and turns it into an ex­ten­sion of the pa­le­on­tol­ogy de­part­ment—com­plete with dorms, a cafe­te­ria, and of course, The Dino In­sti­tute.

Next time you walk through this area, take a closer look and you can see plenty of ev­i­dence that col­lege stu­dents were meant to be over­tak­ing this area–like a pyra­mid of beer cans next to lawn chairs on a roof, or piles of clothes near the river where kids went skinny dip­ping. Ch­ester and Hester opened up a road­side at­trac­tion for tourists who wanted to get in on the di­nosaur ac­tion, be­cause the ac­tual dig site is closed to the pub­lic.

So on one side of Di­noland, you have this cheesy tourist trap, and on the other side, you have a fancy Dino In­sti­tute (funded by that same bene­fac­tor, who be­came ob­sessed with go­ing back in time to when the di­nosaurs were alive, thus cre­at­ing the Time Rovers fea­tured in DI­NOSAUR!). But the miss­ing link is the dig site!

Sure, you can see a bit of this to­day with The Bone­yard (which also seems out of place with­out the cen­tral story)–an area that was meant for lit­tle kids to play while their par­ents and older sib­lings rode the thrill rides in this land: DI­NOSAUR! (which was orig­i­nally called Count­down to Ex­tinc­tion) and The Ex­ca­va­tor.

So about The Ex­ca­va­tor… It was sup­pos­edly a piece of equip­ment left over from the sand and gravel pit days. It was a se­ries of cars that were used to haul ma­te­rial up out of the pit over to the dump trucks. As more sand was re­moved, The Ex­ca­va­tor be­came un­sta­ble and un­safe, so it was shut down. Then the col­lege kids show up and they fire it up again to help haul bones out of the pit!

The queue area would have fea­tured plenty of “con­demned” sig­nage, bro­ken safety bar­ri­ers, etc. The Ex­ca­va­tor would have been a much big­ger coaster than Primeval Whirl–the Imag­i­neers were look­ing to take a Big Thun­der Moun­tain Rail­road con­cept to the next level–hav­ing guests ac­tu­ally zoom through a gi­ant skele­ton, rather than just speed past a fos­sil. And right be­fore the end of the at­trac­tion, a folk art di­nosaur from Ch­ester and Hester’s would spring to life and me­nace the train­load of pas­sen­gers.

Af­ter The Ex­ca­va­tor con­cept was scrapped from An­i­mal King­dom, it was con­sid­ered for Hong Kong Dis­ney­land’s Ad­ven­ture­land, but that plan never came to fruition.

While we’re talk­ing about Di­noland U.S.A., check out this con­cept art from Count­down to Ex­ct­inc­tion (now DI­NOSAUR!) – a rap­tor at­tack scene and a more elab­o­rate finale through a swamp filled with di­nosaurs.

So there you have it–the now ex­tinct plans for Di­noland U.S.A., which would have made it a to­tally dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for guests. Maybe it’s not too late to bring some of those ideas back… We’ve got Time Rovers, right?

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