Like most lands at Disney theme parks, Dinoland U.S.A. has an intricate backstory that, once understood, is meant to unify the land into a coherent storyline. It may not look like the various elements here fit together, but they do!
It begins with the road. As the story goes, the road was here first, and not long after came a tiny little gas station, complete with a gas pump. This was owned by a married couple, Chester and Hester.
The road in question is US-498. This sounds like a plausible real road, but the number is a tribute to Animal Kingdom’s opening, which took place in April 1998.
For many years, their gas station remained a sleepy area, until dinosaur bones were discovered nearby (the area we know today as the Boneyard playground).
The dinosaur discoveries naturally attracted archaeologists, who needed a place to stay. So they “took over” the nearby Restaurant, naming it Restaurantosaurus in the process. We see evidence of this in their sleeping arrangements in the loft areas of the dining facility. The building wasn’t big enough, so it grew by adding “tents” on one side and fusing mobile home trailers to the other.
So many dino bones were found that a museum was created to showcase them all; we know this as the Dino Institute and the home of the Dinosaur ride.
Seeing all the traffic come into the Dino Institute, resourceful Chester and Hester – owners of that original gas pump – began to turn their little gas station into a gift store (just look at the all the glitzy advertisements on the roof).
Their big inspiration was to turn the nearby parking lot into a roadside carnival with tongue-in-cheek dino references, all in an attempt to cash in on the visitors coming for the Dino Institute.
You can see Chester and Hester in a photo in Restaurantosaurus, holding hands. They became fossil hunters themselves, because it, too, generated a revenue stream.
About Kevin Yee
If you like D-Tales, you’ll love Kevin Yee’s book Walt Disney World Hidden History (second edition, 2014). This softcover book tracks Disney “hidden history” — remnants of former attractions and tributes to Imagineers as well as other Disney officials — hiding in plain sight in the parks. There are over 300 entries in the book! Whether tribute or remnant, each item discussed starts with something visible in today’s parks; the idea is that this is something you could visit and see with your own eyes, and then appreciate the historical thinking behind it. Since most visitors aren’t local, the book includes a photo of every item discussed so you’ll know what to look for. The softcover book has a digital counterpart with the Kindle version. (You can also read a Kindle book on PC or Mac even without a Kindle device – the software itself is free.)
Kevin is also the author of the recently-published book The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2014, an annual publication ($12.99) that tracks all the additions and removals from the WDW parks, providing full-color photo-rich retrospectives of everything. Things added in 2014 include Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Concert in the Wild, Harambe Nights, Frozen Summer Fun, Villains Unleashed, Marketplace Co-Op, Exposition Park, Happy Hound, Harambe Theater, Isle of Java, It All Started With a Mouse, Lilo’s Playhouse, Meet Baymax and Hiro, Memento Mori, Move It Shake It Dance and Play It, Spice Road Table, United World Soccer, Tinker Bell’s Garden Theater, Trattoria al Forno, Pineapple Lanai, Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post, Rock Your Disney Side Party, and Smokehouse.
Meanwhile, the following items were removed from Walt Disney World: Maelstrom, Studio Tram Tour, Camp Minnie-Mickey, American Idol Experience, Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, Ride the Comix, Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade, AFI Showcase, Heritage House, Kouzzina, L.A. Prop Cinema Storage, Lefty, Moana Mickey’s Arcade, Tinker Bell’s Magical Nook, RIDEMAKERZ, Team Mickey, Yankee Trader, Wyland Gallery Babycakes NYC, Blink by Wet Seal, and Bodie’s All-American.