Strap in and hang on for what some may call Disney World’s scariest ride.
The Walt Disney World Resort offers Guests an almost limitless selection of rides and attractions for Guests to experience. These attractions range from thrilling coasters like Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Splash Mountain to classic dark rides such as The Haunted Mansion and Peter Pan’s Flight.
These attractions’ primary goal is to provide wholesome, family-friendly fun to Guests of all ages. One attraction at Walt Disney World is quite different, however, with its design philosophy leaning towards terror more than joy. Found in DinoLand U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, this ferocious four-wheeling adventure through time puts Guests face to face with intense terrain and terrifying dinosaurs. And speaking of dinosaurs…
DINOSAUR is an intense, exciting, and downright prehistoric trip through time, letting Guests witness the moments just before the dinosaurs were wiped out of existence due to an asteroid impact. As its slogan states, “It’s fast, it’s a blast, It’s in the past!”. But before we examine the actual ride at the Disney Park, let’s take a trip back in time ourselves.
DINOSAUR’s History at Animal Kingdom
DINOSAUR opened alongside the Animal Kingdom Park in April of 1998, although it had a different name and offered a slightly different experience. DINOSAUR is an extremely dark ride that showcases dinosaurs of all different sizes and species. When DINOSAUR opened, it was actually called “Countdown to Extinction,” but this name was changed just a few years later in 2000 to help promote the animated Disney film Dinosaur (2000). Although the track layout, ride vehicle, and story are all almost entirely the same, the ride was a bit different before becoming the DINOSAUR we know and love (or love to hate!).
DINOSAUR is located in the DinoLand U.S.A section of Animal Kingdom and is found at the very back of this land. The entire area is themed around dinosaurs and, more specifically, the discovery of them. More on DinoLand U.S.A. here:
DinoLand U.S.A. originally started as a small highway town where an amateur fossil-hunter found some dinosaur bones in 1947. After contacting some scientist friends, they gathered their money together to purchase the site. Since then, scientists, volunteers, and grad students have been living there trying to find answers about dinosaurs. The Dino Institute was founded and opened the site as a “fossil discover park”. An old fishing lodge of the property became the Restaurantosaurus. Meanwhile, the Dino Institute and their partners at a research facility called Chrono-Tech discovered how to warp vehicles through time, and thus started doing time tours.
Chester and Hester, two locals, were determined to make a quick buck and converted their gas station into a fossil souvenir shop. Not to be out done by the Dino Institute, they turned their parking lot into a small amusement park called “Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama”, featuring their own version of DINOSAUR named Primeval Whirl. They also added TriceraTop Spin and the midway games.
The biggest differences between DINOSAUR and “Countdown to Extinction” were the voice lines that played during the original version of the ride. Dr. Seeker, the scientist in charge of Guests’ trips back in time, sounded a lot more laid back in the first version of the ride, which is slightly confusing due to the ride actually being louder, darker, and more intense than it is currently. The dinosaurs roared more ferociously, the jungle seemed to be even more pitch black, and the time rover, your ride vehicle, which teleports you back in history, created a lot more of an intense and rough ride experience. Along with script changes, the ending was also different. Here’s some concept art for Countdown to Extinction:
In the current DINOSAUR ride at Animal Kingdom, the ride ends with a chilling close-up encounter of the vicious Carnatorous. But in the original version of the ride, as Guests are heading down the final ramp, they are almost taken out by the actual asteroid, which causes the extinction of the dinosaurs. The two endings essentially function the exact same, it’s just one is a dinosaur head on a stick, and the other is an asteroid on a stick.
Another interesting aspect to note when looking at Animal Kingdom’s DINOSAUR is that it is actually a nearly identical copy of the Indiana Jones Adventure which can be found at both Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. While the theming is completely different, with Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea featuring characters and scenes from the Indiana Jones series, the track layout and ride vehicle are the exact same.
Over the years, DINOSAUR has undergone a few changes, regarding lighting, sound, and upkeep. The ride’s biggest upgrade came in 2016 when DINOSAUR received several refurbishments to its sound system, lighting, screens, and most importantly, the dinosaur animatronics. Some of the robotic dinosaurs had little to no movement over the years and this refurbishment allowed the dinosaurs to go back to their full range of terrifying motion. This refurbishment breathed new life into the attraction, adding high-tech screens, as well as improving the quality of life for the attraction in general.
A Walkthrough of DINOSAUR
As soon as Guests enter the queue for DINOSAUR, the story has already begun. Guests will walk through the DINO institute which is part research center and part museum, letting Guests learn all about various prehistoric species and time periods. Guests can see multiple small exhibits including a display of fossils, animals that can be traced back to the dinosaur ages, as well as theories and evidence regarding the reason all of these animals went extinct.
Once inside the main circular room, Guests can hear the voice of Bill Nye (The Science Guy) narrating the events of how the dinosaurs all went extinct. bill Nye shares some facts and theories about the age of dinosaurs, using a giant globe hung to the ceiling. If the ride is not very busy, Guests will most likely miss this part of the attraction (but it is still entertaining!). Next, Guests will funnel into one of two rooms where a video will be played explaining the story and the role of the Guests in this attraction.
Once in this miniature standing theater, Guests can watch a video that explains the story of the ride, presented by Dr. Helen Marsh (played by Phylicia Rashad) and Dr. Grant Seeker (played by Wallace Langham). Dr. Seeker explains to Guests that the iguanodon is needed for further research and that the plan is to travel back in time, find the iguanodon and bring it back to the present. After Dr. Marsh disapproves of this “unauthorized field trip” Dr. Seeker secretly switches the coordinates, putting Guests right at the end of the Cretaceous periods.
After the video ends, Guests walk down into the depths of the Dino Institute, a cold and industrial facility. After Guests sit down in the time over, strap in and pull on that yellow strap, they’re off bracing for an “interdimensional joyride”
More on DINOSAUR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
A Race Against Time!
A paleontologist recruits you for a secret mission to bring a 3.5-ton Iguanadon back to the present. There’s just one problem—the giant meteor that wiped out life on Earth is on the way!
Board a rugged Time Rover vehicle and set off on a thrilling adventure through a primeval forest filled with life-like dinosaurs. Careen through unpredictable hairpin turns. Dart around a fearsome Velociraptor hunting for prey. Avoid the clutches of a Cearadactylus soaring overhead!
As the clock counts down, fiery meteors crash down around you. Will you make your escape before the dinosaurs—and you—become extinct?
Is It Too Scary?
The main reason DINOSAUR has garnered the reputation it currently has is due to just how scary, intense and frightening it is, not just for younger Guests but Guests of all ages. DINOSAUR features loud sounds, dark environments, and terrifying dinosaur encounters, all with that level of realism and detail only Disney Imagineering can offer. To young children, this ride is horrifying and leaves many crying by the end. For adults who really let themselves get invested in the story and theming, DINOSAUR can prove to be a thrilling experience as well.
Walt Disney World has a unique relationship with scary attractions. Very few tides and attractions could really be considered “scary” by Disney Guests. Sure The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is pretty creepy, not many consider it “scary”. The Haunted Mansion, while spooky, is more of a comedic ride through an eccentric ghost filled mansion. The one attraction that really gives DINOSAUR a run for its money would the defunct ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. This attraction literally closed due to how scary it was, meaning that while DINOSAUR is not as innately terrifying as Alien Encounter, DINOSAUR still remains one of if not the scariest rides at Walt Disney World.
Is DINOSAUR The Scariest Ride at Disney World?
While rides like Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain at Animal Kingdom and The Twighlight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios exist, neither of these come close to the fear factor that DINOSAUR brings. None of the other attractions at Disney World make Guests feel like they’re about to be eaten by giant dinosaurs or be blasted by an imminent asteroid impact. More on those rides below.
Next Stop: The 5th Dimension
Step uneasily inside the infamous Hollywood Tower Hotel and find a dusty lobby frozen in time. Even the subdued hotel staff seems strangely out of another era.
Suddenly a television set springs to life and Rod Serling welcomes you on a journey into the Twilight Zone. He reveals that on a gloomy Halloween night in 1939, some hotel patrons were riding the elevator when a violent storm struck the building… and they were never seen again. The hotel closed down and has stood empty ever since.
Enter the rickety, elevator-style lift, strap yourself in and prepare to discover what lies beyond the darkest corner of your imagination.
Shriek in terror as you’re suddenly propelled up and down the abandoned shaft—unexpectedly dropping and rising—as you hear the sound of cables snapping and metal clanging overhead.
Will you make it back to the real world… or will you become a permanent resident of the Twilight Zone?
Yeti or Not, Here He Comes!
Wander into a Tibetan village at the base of Mount Everest and board a train to the “top of the world.” Beware: Some say a legendary snow monster lives deep in the mountain.
After a steep ascent, your train picks up speed and races into the darkness. Without warning, a broken and twisted track appears in front of you. Brace yourself as you plummet backward into total darkness. Inside the cavern, the mythical tale comes true as you see the shadow of a massive, growling beast!
Race to escape the cursed mountain—before the Yeti claims another expedition.
A Word of WarningSome parts of Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain may be scary for children. This attraction features loud noises, fast drops, high speeds, dark places and frightening creature effects.
Do you think DINOSAUR is Walt Disney World’s scariest ride? What do you think is the scariest ride at Walt Disney World?
Let the expert team at Academy Travel help you plan your next magical vacation to Disney World’s water parks, four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios — and the Disney Springs shopping and dining district!