Friday, August 2, 2013

The One Where I Write About Dinoland U.S.A.

Okay, I'm going to take a stand here. There is a particular land in Animal Kingdom that fans young and old alike almost universally hate and despise. They claim it was built on the cheap, it's a shameless cash grab, and that it goes against Uncle Walt's values. Well, all of these might be true, but hot damn! I love me some Dinoland USA! Yeah, I said it. Let's dive into this highly misunderstood land!

When the people make claims that this is a cheap, awful land, I don't think they're looking hard enough. It seems most people are just focusing on the carnival-style Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama section of this land. Yeah it looks like a tacky roadside tourist trap, but that's exactly what they were going for! Look at the tall brontosaurus, and then look at the dinosaurs in Cabazon, California. You can see what Disney was going for here. Here's a place you can come see tacky kitsch without the worry of being stabbed by a junkie with a rusty screwdriver. Everyone wins!
Here's a brontosaurus at Animal Kingdom...
...and the grumpy-looking, track mark-pocked inspiration,
found in California. I feel safer in Animal Kingdom.

But there's so much more to this land than the carnival area. Let's back up a bit and start from the entrance. First of all, there's the Boneyard. All I'll say here is that this is a great playground. Dig for dinosaur bones? Check! Slides? Check! Caves and tunnels? Check! Hell, I played on this thing before I even had kids! It's a really fun diversion for the young and the old. Now let's move on real quick before you judge me for playing on a playground meant for kids.

You want some CHEESE with your meal?! YOU GOT IT!
Just past the Boneyard, you find the Restaurantosaurus! This is your typical Disney theme park food fare, but look around! There's a story here! This is no ordinary restaurant. This is where the students and crew from the Dino Institute (the museum housing the Dinosaur ride. Sit tight, you'll see.) work, live, research, and apparently cook up some grub for the theme park visitor. A surprising amount of thought went into this place.
Dinosaur! *fanfare*

The museum inside. Complete with
the Science Guy.
Next is the ride Dinosaur! If anything in this land screams "cheap," this is definitely not it. This ride is scary, intense, and technomologically extreme! So much so that I make up words to describe it. The outside of this ride has a nice nature walk with plants, dinosaur statues, and shade! You'll appreciate that on the hot days. The building itself is the Dino Institute. (See! That does make sense from the last paragraph!) It looks like a museum on the outside, and when you go in, it still looks like a museum! Because it's supposed to be a museum! Theme nailed. You're not going to top that. Oh, wait. It can be topped. The disembodied voice you hear is freakin' Bill Nye! The ride itself is full of goodness. Oh, you want to travel back in time and have multiple brushes with death, be chased by a carnotaurus, and narrowly avoid the asteroid impact that killed most life on the planet? This is the ride for you! I almost piss myself every time. What? You're sure judging me a lot on this post...
This is where they need to hand out spare pants.

That's some good theme splattered around.
Beyond Dinosaur is...a gift shop! But probably one of the coolest gift shops you'll see on your trip, and one of the very few I even give a crap about. This gift shop is the staple of Dinoland! You see, this was once a gas station owned by Chester and Hester, and once the Dino Institute moved in next door, these podunk back-roads hillbillies wanted to cash in on the recent popularity of the Dino Institute. You see, they're the ones that built the road side carnival. But hold on, this is about the gas station, which they turned into a dinosaur and fossil gift shop! Much like the Restarauntosaurus, go inside! Take a look around! There's so much in here to look at!

The rest of this land is the part that people really seem to hate. Because it's a carnival. But guys, come on, at least it's a clean carnival! No one smells like cabbage here! We're all good! And there's a great spinning wild mouse-style roller coaster called Primeval Whirl. And I use "great" loosely. Although extremely fun, I always get off this thing feeling like my ribs have been assaulted. That being said, it's never enough to drive me away. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, I dunno. 
A heaping spoonful of pain and excitement!

One of the best aspects of this carnival area is that Disney actually went all out to make it feel like a carnival! It comes complete with creepy-as-all-hell shady walk-around dinosaur characters! I don't know who they are (and I'm open to answers if you know) but there's something about them that's just great. It fits the theme! Seriously, Disney went the extra mile on this crap!
It scares me but I like it!

Now I must end on a sour note. The rest of the land is grifter carnival games and a frikkin' spinner. I have no use for carnival games, but someone deemed them to be crucial for the land. Whatever, I can walk past them. What I don't like is the TriceraTop Spin. Why? Because it's a spinner! Why do we need another spinner? There are more spinners in Disney World than there are parks! It just irritates me because Disney could have chosen from any number of happy-go-pukey carnival rides. I would've loved a kitschy dinosaur-themed Tilt-a-Whirl. But no, a spinning toy of sadness and despair. I don't like it and I won't stand for it. 

So there you have it. My thoughts and feelings on Dinoland U.S.A! Yeah it's a tacky theme, but boy-howdy, the Imagineers really dove deep into this theme. And as much emotional response as it warrants, I'd say they did a pretty damn good job.

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