Friday, November 10, 2006

The Sacred and the Profane


One of the most revolutionary aspects of Walt’s breakthrough park in Anaheim was its attention to comforting visual transitions from one disparate themed area to another. As guests moved from the Victorian gingerbread of Main Street to a time worn Bazaar on the edge of a distant jungle the connecting rooftops, fencing and plantings gradually transformed. The goal for the early Disneyland designers was to never jar the guests eye as they moved from one ‘story’ to another; the concept much like a cross dissolve between scenes in motion pictures.

This uncanny attention to visual harmony became a cornerstone philosophy in the design and execution of Disney’s theme parks for years to come, not only serving to keep guests in the park for an entire day but assuring they'd come back for more year after year.

Once the Accountaneers stormed the castle, however, not only did the clever visual transitions between fully realized worlds bite the dust but the very worlds themselves did as well.


Nowhere is this tragic reversal of fortune more apparent than at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando. Most of the theming here is of the highest caliber, often surpassing even the best efforts of the finest Walt era Imagineers. Joe Rohde and his team have created beautiful worlds within worlds that verge on spiritual epiphanies. From the eye-popping authenticity of a meticulously recreated African or Asian village to the intimate beauty of the Pangani Forest and Maharajah Jungle trails this is a park that deepy understands the worlds its creating, wrapping the guests not only within a convincing environment but within a distinct feeling.



But then there’s Dinoland U.S.A., specifically ‘Chester and Hester’s’ Dino-Rama’, an area so sharply out of step with the rest of the park that it borders on blasphemy. Stumbling upon this loud kiddy playground after a peaceful stroll around the wondrous Tree of Life is like tripping into a pool of vomit after leaving St. Peter’s Basilica.



Blaring, vigorously repellent, patronizing, cheap and visually offensive, this carny hell-hole appears to have taken its theme from traveling fun-fairs; the kind that are quickly loaded and unloaded from the back of U-Haul trucks. One can only imagine that this addition was bourn from the spreadsheets of some Strategic Planning MBA who figured the kiddy quotient wasn’t getting it’s full share of yuks from a park that appeared to skew too ‘adult’, Walt’s admonition to entertain adults and children together long forgotten.


Though Dino-Rama might elicit pained smiles in Peoria, it severely cheapens Disney’s Animal Kingdom; a park that, at its best, reminds guests once again what the ‘theme’ in theme parks really means. That it appears in any Disney park is sin enough, but the fact that it’s butted up against some of Imagineering’s most sublime work in recent years is deeply heartbreaking.

54 comments:

Disneynorth said...

I saw this section of AK for the first time this past October and your comments are bang on. I was so disgusted by the area that I was actually afraid that a "carnie" would come out and force me to play one of the "games"! (The Carnie part is just a joke....I don't want to insult any carnival workers out there...)

My wife and I actually got lost in that area, after riding Dinosaur! I panicked!!

Another part of WDW that needs fixing....

Disneynorth said...

I saw this section of AK for the first time this past October and your comments are bang on. I was so disgusted by the area that I was actually afraid that a "carnie" would come out and force me to play one of the "games"! (The Carnie part is just a joke....I don't want to insult any carnival workers out there...)

My wife and I actually got lost in that area, after riding Dinosaur! I paniced!!

Another part of WDW that needs fixing....

Anonymous said...

The Dino-Rama area is a rotten wiener and makes the Rain Forrest Cafe look like it's a perfect fit for AK.

Long time lurker and Disney fan,

Carol

Anonymous said...

I disagree.
You left Asia and Africa and are in Dino Land. Chester and Hester's is meant to be gaudy. It is to bring you back to the 50's and 60's and to the thrill of finding dino fossels. Look at the details like the Coke machines. The rides are meant to be roadside
carnival attractions that were placed there to meat all the crowds of people coming to get in on the discoveries.

Anonymous said...

DinoLand does stick out like sore thumb but you want to talk about inelegant land transitions I think that Tokyo Disneyland still holds the crown (Animal Kingdom screws it up once, TDL screws it up every time).

Mr Banks said...

Intentional or unintentional, ugly is still ugly.

Anonymous said...

A-frigging-men, Mr. Banks!

It is to bring you back to the 50's and 60's and to the thrill of finding dino fossels.

Except that it doesn't, really. The only fossils I saw were the ride systems. Is there a dig re-creation there? It seems to be well-hidden if there is. I wouldn't have recognized the place as having anything to do with dinosaurs and fossils at all if it hadn't been for the Don Bluth-esque characters on all the ride signs. It looks like a terribly compressed DCA with the fun rides taken out.

Disneynorth - my mom and I got lost after getting off Dinosaur too. As a whole, we found Animal Kingdom quite difficult to navigate.

/bsdb said...

I do not inherently find DAK difficult to navigate; the layout of the park entices an adventurous spirit, as if embarking on a global trek, not exactly knowing where the journey will end. For me, that's a significant part of DAK's charm.

While DAK is my favorite WDW park, I haven't quite decided if the Chester and Hester abomination is intentionally gaudy by design, or gaudy as a 'side benefit' of being intentionally cheap.

Either way, Mr. Banks speaks truth. Intentional ugliness only works for Halloween and anti-addiction programs.

Anonymous said...

"Chester and Hester's is meant to be gaudy."

Yes, we realize the "story" behind Chester and Hester's is supposed to be a"cheap gaudy roadside attraction" but does a "cheap gaudy roadside attraction" belong in Disney World? I bet the imagineers could do a truly tacky and cheap "Disney's Whorehouse Resort." Would you then argue "it looks exactly like a whorehouse. They did a great job." Some things, no matter what the "story" is, don't belong in Disney World.

And, if we are to believe they meant it to look like a cheap roadside attraction from the 50's or 60's, they didn't even do a good job. It is much too clean and bright. Where is the wonderful "aging" that is visible in the other areas of the park. No "real" roadside attraction next to a highway would look like this.

Obviously they needed to add more rides, they didn't want to spend any money, they came up with this idea, and THEN tried to see us the "tacky roadside attraction". The entire area is insulting.

Anonymous said...

I disagree about Dino-Rama. I think it is a great homage to Florida amusement parks of old. It's like going to Old Town in the middle of Animal Kingdom. Out of place, yes. But charming? Definitely.

To me, it's a reminder of what Walt was rebelling against with Disneyland. A nice little tongue in cheek nod to what makes Disney parks better.

Epcot82 said...

Couldn't agree more. As passionate as I am about Epcot (http://epcot82.blogspot.com, if I may get in a plug), no addition from the Pressler/Eisner era needs to be razed faster and more thoroughly than Dinoland. For an area that deals with one of the most mythic (yet real), fascinating, imagination-grabbing kinds of animals ever to walk the earth, Dinoland offers no sense of discovery, of thrill, of excitement. It's truly awful.

If you want to impart the thrill of finding dino fossils, claptrap, roadside attractions from the 1950s are not the way to do it. Where's the sense of wonder and awe that dinosaurs inspire in all of us? Dinoland brings dinosaurs to the level of a cheesy footnote in history. In this respect, Islands of Adventure's Jurassic Park area wins hands down. It's not even a fair fight. And Animal Kingdom just looks cheap and unimaginative by comparison ... or even without comparing!

Epcot82 said...

Oh, and if this is "a reminder of what Walt was rebelling against," why not add an area to The Magic Kingdom filled with surly carnival barkers and unkempt shops?

(Though, sadly, The Magic Kingdom is heading that way on its own ... !)

Imagineer-in-Waiting said...

Here's a dissenting opinion from a Dad. The kids preferred Dinoland especially the Boneyard and Chester & Hester's. They loved the carnival style rides as opposed to the too scary Dinosaur ride and the too stinky Bug show.

AK has some other severe design flaws that were not addressed. The hub and spoke design is present as is with the MK, BUT where are the "rims"? There are no shortcut paths between areas. You're always transiting the hub. There is no perimeter transportation like the MK train or even the lazy rivers of the water parks. Of all the Disney theme parks, this is the one that makes my feet the most sore. The themed pavement is ugly, ugly, ugly and overdone (plus it's hard to clean and hard for me to walk on).

Where is the DRAGON! I want Beastlie Kindomme and I want it 8 years ago.

Okay, I'd settle for another continent. Everyone knows Australia is a shoe-in, but I want Antarctica. Oooo... so delightfully chilly in its own climate controlled dome. Mickeymu, the killer whale (take that SeaWorld). And, and giant electric penguins with tentacles.

Chris said...

I disagree about Dino-Rama. I think it is a great homage to Florida amusement parks of old. It's like going to Old Town in the middle of Animal Kingdom. Out of place, yes. But charming? Definitely.

Sorry, I've been going to Old Town since I was a kid and even that isn't as disgustingly wrong looking as DinoRama.

I agree with others that even if it IS a perfect re-creation of a 50's whatever, it is precisely the opposite of what Walt wanted to do with Disney overall and a true insult to everything special about the parks and imagineering.

Karl Elvis said...

The feeling i got when i came 'round the horn and encountered Dinoland was that they got a deal on some crap planned for California Adventure, and slapped the extra stuff here. It has the same cheap, not-thought-out, no-story-line feel; and here's its' worse because at least CA Adventure an (ill-advised) boardwalk theme going, so you can see why the carny rides are there.

In Dinoland though, it just feels like someone had leftover rides and they needed a place to leave them. Like later, someone will come back and take them out and put them elsewhere.

Sigh. With the brilliant quality of the rest of Animal Kingdom, this isn't just a sore thumb, it's like the giant clown-sized sore thumb you can buy in a joke shop.

Anonymous said...

"...like tripping into a pool of vomit after leaving St. Peter’s Basilica." Now that made me laugh! Very descriptive. And very true. The area is awful. Agreed.

Anonymous said...

"Stumbling upon this loud kiddy playground after a peaceful stroll around the wondrous Tree of Life is like tripping into a pool of vomit after leaving St. Peter’s Basilica."

I will be laughing for the rest of the day. Laughter eases the pain.

Thanks, Mr. Banks, for a perfect article. Quite right, quite right.

Anonymous said...

The issue of the demise of Disney Theme Park/Imagineering standards and values, has been well rationalized by current (past?) execs. But like a great lawyer, this blog is usually good at presenting the facts- indisputable pieces of evidence that the reader cannot help but connect to see the bigger picture. The only thing that bothers me is how often the blog suddenly throws in words like "ugly" which quickly reclassify what's being said as opinion. Obviously these are opinions, I guess nothing changes that. But to call DinoRama ugly, is inaccurate and inadaquate to say the least. There are so many specific "laws of design", Disney and non, that are broken in the new parks/attractions and usually these are mentioned, but "ugly" just tends to dumb the whole thing down. I agree wholeheartedly with this post, but your use of overused words like "ugly" always throws me off and makes an otherwise well presented case sound like a disgruntled fans ramblings.

I'm just a rambling disgruntled fan myself, so I can't hold it against you too much, but don't follow my example ;)

FigmentJedi said...

Don't worry too much about it. Dino-Rama was meant to just be a temporary thing to help Animal Kingdom with capacity troubles. Once they expand further, make it more of a full day park, they could easily take it down. Joe Rohde himself once said proudly "We can tear this thing down in under 72 hours", so clearly it was built as a temporary fix.

Anonymous said...

I avoid that portion of the park like the plague, having only gone in there once. The only thing that got me to go in the first time was Lucky the Dinosaur, who is quite amazing.

But Dinoland and that god-forsaken petting zoo? Both need to go. I mean can't Disney do a petting zoo better than any other place? Ooo....goats.

Anonymous said...

Well lets get a few facts out of the way first so we all are on the same page.

The area with the carny rides is called DIN-O-RAMA this is a subsection of the overall land which is called Dinoland USA. I think most people are OK with Dinoland, rather it is Din-o-rama that people dislike.

Now lets address the idea that the carny rides of Din-o-rama were just tossed in with no thought. the simple facts are that these theme was present from day one at AK. it was NOT new when they added it years after the park opened. You see, the over arcing problem with Dinoland USA is that unlike the other lands there is not one clear theme but rather THREE. The backstory is this:

A huge and unprecedented fossil find was unearthed in this small, back water American Westeren town (pressumibly in Montana or Utah or the like). This theme can be found in the Bone Yard section of the land and in the wondering "students" and "paleotoligists" who roam the area and interact with guests. So theme one of the land is "Active dino dig site". This theme ties in to the McDonald's sponsored restaraunt which is set up as the base camp for all the studies going on. It is actually WONDERFULLY themed and really tells a complete story.

The back story continues... Because of this remarkable fossil find tourists started flocking to the area. As this happened the locals quickly tried to take advantage of this opportunity by openig up road side attractions. THIS is where the Din-o-rama area comes into play. However for several years before that section opened there was Chester and Hester's ...not as the crappy toy store it is today but rather another AMAZINGLY well themed store that sold everything dino related. The theme was (and still sort of is) that the husband and wife team of Chester and Hester turned there gas station into a souvenier shop to make some quick cash off the influx of visitors. By extension they now supposedly run the carny rides which is why you will see it is named CHESTER AND HESTER's Din-o-rama.
So theme #2 is modern day toruist trap, intentionally tacky and kitchy but also silly and fun.

Finally the backstory goes... The dino dig is SO huge and SO important that the Dino Institute was established. This musuem like operation not only is dedicated to preserving and showcasing some of the finds from the dig, but also secretly transporting scientists back in time to study REAL LIVE dinos. Somehow this area has a rip in time or something that allows time travel to take place.

Theme #3, big city style museum with time travel.

OK, now lets look at WHY this does not really work all that well because it is MUCH more complicated then simply "They threw some carnival rides in there and tried to make up a story to justify it."

First of all the three themes are too disparate and convoluted. Since when does a huge, big city style museum get built in the middle of nowhere at the location of a dig site? NEVER. It makes no sense. While I happen to really enjoy the Dinosaur ride (they need to change the name BACK to Countdiwn to Extinction) and I also really love the building it is housed it, the bottom line is that the theme here makes no sense for the area.

Likewise the idea of theme #2 is not bad. Fun, silly and kitchy tourists traps CAN be fun. They CAN be enjoyable and they CAN work. However there was enough of this theme when the park first opened with only haveing the Chester and Hester store. By expanding it into the huge carny area that now stands they have opened up a can of worms. What's worse is they ruined the store which DID work very well and made it into a Mattel outlet that feels like it should be in your local mall, not AK. I think that MOST visitors to the park have NO IDEA of the backstory I just outlined. they see a bunch of carnival rides and take them at face value. They do not see them as ironic (since when has irony become a core Disney value for the parks?) or as kitchy fun. Rather they see them as actual cheap rides and actual midway games designed to suck some cash from visitors wallets. In other words the THEME of a tacky tourist destination fades away and it becomes an ACTUAL tacky tourist destination... not good. it is true that these same guests have no clue as to the massively detailed backstories found elsewhere in the park either, but they can still enjoy those areas on a simple level of "Look, pretty tree" or "Look, cool mountain" You don't NEED the backstory to enjoy Asia or Africa... if you knwo it great, the layers of theme are incredible but even without ANY knowledge you can enjoy the rest of the park, Dinoland REQUIRES you to understand too much. They need to offer manuls and classes to get everybody up to speed.

Finally there is theme #1, an ongoing dino dig. This is the one theme that probably makes the most sense and should be spread throughout the land as it would be easy to communicate very quickly. Of course this was part of the original plan.

The Bone Yard was to feature a large but family friendly coaster that zipped in and around the dig site over rickety scafolding holding up various dino bones. Not an E Ticket by any means but a nicely themed way to work a small thrill ride in to the park. But as has been pointed out... money got tight, surveys showed they needed more kids rides, so off the shelf carny stuff was poured in there... suddenly they could claim several more attractions fit for all ages... bad mistake.

So how do you fix it? I think it is not too late and actually fairly easy. You leave the Bone Yard alone and you leave Dinosaur alone for the most part. You remove the carny stuff and restore Chester and Hester's to the wonderful, tacky store it once was. Now you change the front end of Dinosaur, you remove the big city museum feel. Again, I love it but it makes no sense here. You replace it with more dino dig themed areas (tents, field labs etc.) The idea here is that the dig is important and all but what is REALLY important is that they found this portal in time. They are trying to HIDE it from the public, not inviting them to visit. Ou back, behind all the front end dig site stuff is the secret lab that we find our way into and are then off on our adventure through time.

Finally build the original bone yard coaster where the carny stuff now is.

So in the end you have one COHESIVE land that has a good solid range of attractions, ONE theme (with a little side theme of the tourist trap) and s MUCH easier to communicate story.

Animal Kingdom is an INCREDIBLE park. It was forced to be half a park (because of budget cuts) but what they did build is for the most part at the highest levels Disney has ever worked on. It is the only current park that can give Tokyo Disney Sea a run for the money in it's level of detail. I would ove to see the Dinoland area pulled together and salvaged. The park deserves it.

No don't even get me going on why the heck a talking fish show is in the park and worse yet, in Dinoland... but one step at a time.

Anonymous said...

Well lets get a few facts out of the way first so we all are on the same page.

The area with the carny rides is called DIN-O-RAMA this is a subsection of the overall land which is called Dinoland USA. I think most people are OK with Dinoland, rather it is Din-o-rama that people dislike.

Now lets address the idea that the carny rides of Din-o-rama were just tossed in with no thought. the simple facts are that these theme was present from day one at AK. it was NOT new when they added it years after the park opened. You see, the over arcing problem with Dinoland USA is that unlike the other lands there is not one clear theme but rather THREE. The backstory is this:

A huge and unprecedented fossil find was unearthed in this small, back water American Westeren town (pressumibly in Montana or Utah or the like). This theme can be found in the Bone Yard section of the land and in the wondering "students" and "paleotoligists" who roam the area and interact with guests. So theme one of the land is "Active dino dig site". This theme ties in to the McDonald's sponsored restaraunt which is set up as the base camp for all the studies going on. It is actually WONDERFULLY themed and really tells a complete story.

The back story continues... Because of this remarkable fossil find tourists started flocking to the area. As this happened the locals quickly tried to take advantage of this opportunity by openig up road side attractions. THIS is where the Din-o-rama area comes into play. However for several years before that section opened there was Chester and Hester's ...not as the crappy toy store it is today but rather another AMAZINGLY well themed store that sold everything dino related. The theme was (and still sort of is) that the husband and wife team of Chester and Hester turned there gas station into a souvenier shop to make some quick cash off the influx of visitors. By extension they now supposedly run the carny rides which is why you will see it is named CHESTER AND HESTER's Din-o-rama.
So theme #2 is modern day toruist trap, intentionally tacky and kitchy but also silly and fun.

Finally the backstory goes... The dino dig is SO huge and SO important that the Dino Institute was established. This musuem like operation not only is dedicated to preserving and showcasing some of the finds from the dig, but also secretly transporting scientists back in time to study REAL LIVE dinos. Somehow this area has a rip in time or something that allows time travel to take place.

Theme #3, big city style museum with time travel.

OK, now lets look at WHY this does not really work all that well because it is MUCH more complicated then simply "They threw some carnival rides in there and tried to make up a story to justify it."

First of all the three themes are too disparate and convoluted. Since when does a huge, big city style museum get built in the middle of nowhere at the location of a dig site? NEVER. It makes no sense. While I happen to really enjoy the Dinosaur ride (they need to change the name BACK to Countdiwn to Extinction) and I also really love the building it is housed it, the bottom line is that the theme here makes no sense for the area.

Likewise the idea of theme #2 is not bad. Fun, silly and kitchy tourists traps CAN be fun. They CAN be enjoyable and they CAN work. However there was enough of this theme when the park first opened with only haveing the Chester and Hester store. By expanding it into the huge carny area that now stands they have opened up a can of worms. What's worse is they ruined the store which DID work very well and made it into a Mattel outlet that feels like it should be in your local mall, not AK. I think that MOST visitors to the park have NO IDEA of the backstory I just outlined. they see a bunch of carnival rides and take them at face value. They do not see them as ironic (since when has irony become a core Disney value for the parks?) or as kitchy fun. Rather they see them as actual cheap rides and actual midway games designed to suck some cash from visitors wallets. In other words the THEME of a tacky tourist destination fades away and it becomes an ACTUAL tacky tourist destination... not good. it is true that these same guests have no clue as to the massively detailed backstories found elsewhere in the park either, but they can still enjoy those areas on a simple level of "Look, pretty tree" or "Look, cool mountain" You don't NEED the backstory to enjoy Asia or Africa... if you knwo it great, the layers of theme are incredible but even without ANY knowledge you can enjoy the rest of the park, Dinoland REQUIRES you to understand too much. They need to offer manuls and classes to get everybody up to speed.

Finally there is theme #1, an ongoing dino dig. This is the one theme that probably makes the most sense and should be spread throughout the land as it would be easy to communicate very quickly. Of course this was part of the original plan.

The Bone Yard was to feature a large but family friendly coaster that zipped in and around the dig site over rickety scafolding holding up various dino bones. Not an E Ticket by any means but a nicely themed way to work a small thrill ride in to the park. But as has been pointed out... money got tight, surveys showed they needed more kids rides, so off the shelf carny stuff was poured in there... suddenly they could claim several more attractions fit for all ages... bad mistake.

So how do you fix it? I think it is not too late and actually fairly easy. You leave the Bone Yard alone and you leave Dinosaur alone for the most part. You remove the carny stuff and restore Chester and Hester's to the wonderful, tacky store it once was. Now you change the front end of Dinosaur, you remove the big city museum feel. Again, I love it but it makes no sense here. You replace it with more dino dig themed areas (tents, field labs etc.) The idea here is that the dig is important and all but what is REALLY important is that they found this portal in time. They are trying to HIDE it from the public, not inviting them to visit. Ou back, behind all the front end dig site stuff is the secret lab that we find our way into and are then off on our adventure through time.

Finally build the original bone yard coaster where the carny stuff now is.

So in the end you have one COHESIVE land that has a good solid range of attractions, ONE theme (with a little side theme of the tourist trap) and s MUCH easier to communicate story.

Animal Kingdom is an INCREDIBLE park. It was forced to be half a park (because of budget cuts) but what they did build is for the most part at the highest levels Disney has ever worked on. It is the only current park that can give Tokyo Disney Sea a run for the money in it's level of detail. I would ove to see the Dinoland area pulled together and salvaged. The park deserves it.

No don't even get me going on why the heck a talking fish show is in the park and worse yet, in Dinoland... but one step at a time.

FoxxFur said...

I find Animal Kingdom itself to be a totally hollow, charmless facade with absolutley nothing behind it to validate its' extravagences outside of shrill, pedantic enviroment-babble of the lowest variety. But even I have to agree that if Dinoland USA were razed and the earth sown with salt it would require, by default, for the rest of the park to suddenly "click" into a more unified whole and strengthen it.

It's not even a DCA-style problem (to me a more intimate and interesting park - there, I said it dammit), where the area of strongest visual interest and identification is also the gaudiest (and one must admit, Paradise Pier looks charming when you're nowhere near it). AK would lose nothing if Dinoland were destroyed, as not even Dinosaur is of remote value.

Anonymous said...

The worst part of this is the VERY IDEA that there needs to be a "kiddie land" place for parents to sit by and watch their kids play--as if it's a chore. It's as offensive as the idea of Downtown Disney being a place that adults can get away from their kids and shop and/or have a drink.

The Disney parks were supposed to be a place where parents could enjoy doing things WITH their kids...a FAMILY experience. It shouldn't speak down to kids or (supposedly) up to adults. It should just be COOL. And as an adult with no kids, I get a kick out of seeing entire families enjoy doing things together at the park.

Sightlines and transitions throughout the theming of the parks are an integral part of this. The "what's around the corner" or seeing things framed off in the distance properly makes people want to see what's ahead. When the transitions are jarring, it just plaing ruins the joy of what's next. The ANTICIPATION of the "next thing" is what makes things that much more fun.

BTW, I've not heard the term "Accountaneers" before...but that hits the nail on the head.

Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

"If you want to impart the thrill of finding dino fossils, claptrap, roadside attractions from the 1950s" just stop at any one of dozens of places along the road throughout Florida. Not only have many of them NOT changed since the '50's, but many of them retain their odd/bizarre charm as well. Gator farms run by a 2 toothed meth addicts can be interesting, but they don't belong in Disneyworld.

Anonymous said...

Your title of the Sacred and the Profane could also apply to how we keep getting farther and farther from "family" entertainment, and keep making stuff that is either "adult/mature" or "for kids". There's just nothing cool about middle ground anymore. The world in general does this, but of course with Disney it's extremely bothersome. They underestimate both audiences. They play down to kids nowadays, figuring they can't grasp subtlety in design or story, and we get DL's Pooh ride or Dinorama, and then realizing how imbecilic the "kiddie" rides are, they figure that to get the adults hooked they have to amp up the violence (Alien Encounter), Thrills (Mission Space) or Sex quotient(applies more to films really but do we doubt it's coming to an attraction someday?). I just got back from WDW and really was bothered by how little the whole family could do together.

dean said...

Thanks (anonymous) for that excellent explanation for the story(ies) behind Dinoland. I had it all entirely wrong. I thought it was more of a moral parable. One first encounters the boneyards of fossils and that sets up the intrigue for discovering what type of creatures Dinosaurs were. Then we are invited into the institute to go back in time to the very moment of the Dinosaurs' extinction to discover the true cause of their fate......but something goes horribly wrong with the adventure and we never really find out. We then discover that the Dinosaurs were actually the purveyors of cheap, tasteless carnivals of the worst kind that not even Walt Disney himself would condone. No wonder they went extinct!!!!

You are correct that the type of convoluted storytelling expressed in Dinoland is not appropriate for successful themes. The reason why the early Disney attractions were so successful was because they were designed by people in the animation business who were extremely talented in conveying ideas in a matter of seconds, using very sophisticated, yet simple, visual cues. The Dinoland story is a pure and simple forced concoction that forsakes comon sense in favor of irony and self-importance.

Thenightchild said...

One of the reasons I loved the Disney parks was that we could enjoy most of the attractions together as a family. If I want to sit and watch my children go on rides, I can to a local amusement park for a lot less money.

JiminyCricketFan said...

I totally agree. Dinoland cheapens Animal Kingdom. I believe that a fun and theme fitting kid's area could have been built. It was that beastly kingdom idea. I think a world of fantasty tastefully done would have truly thrilled kids of all ages.

BTW, the plastic magic carpets of aladdin screws up Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom too. Kids love adventure, but those plastic camels don't do it for me. Disney could have used that space as a place of wonder. Think of snake charmers and magic acts fitting Africa. It could have been wonderful.

PARISINJUNE said...

How much does it costs to tear it down? -I'll bet you I can find someone who will do it for free.

What's worse than this mess is just when you thought that the Eisner administration could step no lower they went and made Disney Hong Kong. Granted Iger has agreed to expand the park, smart move, but the Hong Kong tourism department should be given a heartfelt apology for this serious undercut in judgement. I would even wager that major corporations like China's Cosco shipping Company would be willing to invest in expanding the park..
Now, if only we could get rid of this mess in Washington and many of these leaders whom are destroying our tourism industry. I'd say we would have a serious shot at putting this company back on the map. I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm ready to see many of these nations that have been closed to the U.S. due to this Imperalistic crappy leadership reopened. I think our theme parks have been running on the same half baked ego trips as our tourism/ Trade industry. How can we expect other nations to want to buy our products if we aren't even proud enough to showcase them properly in our own parks. Give us your money, cries the whore of Corporate America, but screw your time. Sadly, DAK, DCA, and HKD scream it loud enough for the entire globe to hear. And they do. And soon, very soon, if things do not change quickly, what few doors are open will slam shut. Walt would never insult a nation in the manner to which we have done through the use of his name. Blasphemey is a sin Mr. Banks, but what we have done here is far worse. Much, much worse.

Mr Banks said...

Huh?

Mr. Taste said...

Imagine if there actually WAS a recreated dinosaur burial site at Animal Kingdom; giant bones sticking out of the ground, rib cages to run through, footprints to discover. Kids AND adults could explore together and find hidden treasures at every turn. And, god forbid, actually learn something together.

Cheshirekatz said...

While I agree with Parisinjune that blame for most of the ills of the world can be laid at the doorstep of the current administration in Washington, it might be more focused to keep comments narrowed to the damage Disney has managed to do to itself.

Anonymous said...

While a lot of negative comments are made about DAK (too boring, squeeze it in if you can, etc), I've always enjoyed DAK. But, I fully agree with the comments made about Dinoland. I used to work at DAK and I always avoided this area (Dinoland) of the park. I might venture over to the other areas after work, but never Dinoland. There's nothing majestic or intriguing about Dinoland and I know it's not supposed to be, but c'mon. The rest of Animal Kingdom has great landscaping, theming, and spacing. I just don't see any of that in Dinoland. Now, if Disney wants to make a traveling carnival theme park, then that's your fit right there.

Anonymous said...

What you just described more or less DOES exist at AK, it's called the Bone Yard and it has bones, rib cages, skeletons and all of that (see my post above out lining the back story of Dinoland).

Also, there is a QUANTUM difference between AK and Hong Kong Disneyland versus DCA and worst of all Disney Studio Paris.

All of these parks were limited by severe budget cuts, but the difference is that AK and HKDL built very high quality attractions and atmosphere... but they only built half or less of what they needed. The other two parks, DCA and DSP failed to recreate any Disney liek atmosphere and struggled to be "complete parks" by amping up the ride count with medicore attractions.

in other words what AK built (aside from the later addition of dinorama) was incredibly well done, same goes for Hong Kong Disneyland. What is there is VERY well done. The problem is that they simply built MUCH too little. This however is preferable to the alternative (which is what they did at DCA or DSP). You see, it is EASY to add on to Hong Kong Disneyland or AK. The basic structure is there, the framework is there. In the case of AK it has in fact been expanded nicely (remember, none of Asia was there at opening, not just Everest, NONE of it was there). At DCA and especially Disney Studios Paris it is a MUCH more dire situation. Those parks do not even have the basic foundation of a good park. DCA is certainly better off than DSP but both suffer from this same problem.

This is also far from a new problem. Go back to 1989 and look at Disney MGM Studios at opening. Hell, look at Disneyland at opening (though I admit, that is a bit of an unfare comparison as it was a different time with different expectations).

Animal Kingdom is an incredibly well done park, full of magic and wonder and details beyond most anything else Disney has done. They certainly screwed up with Dinorama but that is the EXCEPTION at AK, not the rule. Take a trip to Paris and check out Disney Studios Paris... it is an entire (VERY small) park of NOTHING but Dinorama quality experiences. There is virtually nothing of value there. It is not even a matter of expanding the park, you almost need to raise it and start again.

Dinorama may stick out more in contrast to how great everything else is at AK, but several other parks have MUCH deeper problems to deal with.

pariartspaul said...

mr. taste - are you joking? You just described the Dinoland "Boneyard" perfectly.

But about Dinorama, I guess this proves you can only carry a tongue-in-cheek joke so far. I like the basic idea of poking fun at old roadside attractions but obviously this wasn't the best way to do it.

I agree with a lot of the comments, especially anonymous above who said,
"The worst part of this is the VERY IDEA that there needs to be a "kiddie land" place for parents to sit by and watch their kids play--as if it's a chore."

After all as the old story goes, Walt wanted Disneyland to be a place where the parents and kids could do things together.
It just shows how far they keep going from Walt's concepts of family entertainment. I hope the new influences at Imagineering pick up on all this.

And through a lot of these posts another subject keeps coming to the surface; the need for a return to... dare I say it... design elegance! Enough with the big fiberglass cartoony things please.

Will Robison said...

I like Chester and Hester's, but the problem with the area isn't the theming, its the lack of follow through. When AK first opened, Chester and Hester's was the ultimate in kitsch. It was awesome. Having visited Route 66 attractions like Bedrock before, it harkened back to that era of roadside shops.

The next time I visited AK, they had just opened the new carnival. At first, I was disappointed. I thought it was ugly. But then I started walking around it and found all the usual homages and imagineering in place. Like the fact that the cheap rollercoaster is themed exactly the same as the Dinosaur ride. Like the fact that it appears they dropped this place right down on a parking lot when no parking lot had ever been there before. I came away impressed with the design aspects and the little in-your-face message - a sort of, "This is what it was like before Disney." Besides, we all know that AK needed rides for the smaller kids. There's only so many animals they can see.

However, this last time I went, my opinion changed. The accountaneers had obviously embraced this part of the park as a money making enterprise. Gone was the kitschy charm of Chester and Hester - now its just another toy store. And as a result, the entire "theming" of the Dino-rama area went with it.

It was nice while it lasted. But tear the thing down and put in a couple of proper dinosaur type rides. And while you're at it, change the name back to Countdown to Extinction. The ride was soo much better when it first opened!

Mark said...

Dinowhatever is a disaster, a jarring collection of uninspired off the shelf carnival rides that would seem happier if installed in the craptastic California Adventure. I've been to AK twice and each time visited with non Disneyphiles who also found the area to be a headache inducing inchoherent mess. On the last trip my traveling companion said to me, with all seriousness, "Is this where that Superstar Limo thingy is?" His common knowledge of THAT miserable experience speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

Whiel Will Robinson is actually correct in stating that the Dinorama area DOES have many details and typical imagineering touches the fact is that almost everybody missies them.

This is a case of the imagineers trying to make lemmonaide out ouf lemmons. They were given the impossible assignment of spending no money and using off the shelf carnival rides. The best they could do was add some fun touches as Will Robinson mentioned. But again, those touches are only noticed by the very few people who actually understand the backstory of this area. And even those of us who DO understand it may STILL find it ugly.

You can do a wonderful job of executing a theme but if the theme itself is flawed you are left with nothing.

The ORIGINAL Chester and Hester's store was WONDERFUL and all the area needed in terms of kitchy, tacky road side attraction.

The real bottom line here is not whether Dinorama is executed well or not, or even if it is fun or not... it is that the THEME is convoluted, confused and a poor fit for the park. It is actually BETTER than the similar garbage at DCA (because at least here there is a backtory where at DCA there is none) but it still should be removed and replaced with better attractions.

Anonymous said...

Me thinks "parisinjune" has forgotten to take his meds...

Ted said...

Thank you anonymous above!!
I thought I was the only one that thought that parisinjune has a few screws loose.

Jeffery said...

I worked at DAK when it first opened. The theme back then was one of a dinosaur dig complete with huts and a central cafeteria for the local Archaeologists who used to drive around in a truck and talk to people. The cafeteria housed several of the grad students working at the dig and you could see their bunks etc. scattered all around. The children's dig where you could find bones buried in the sand was a favorite among the few kids who got to see it. This part of the park though was really only there for Dinosaur (formally Countdown to Extinction) and there wasn't a whole lot there other than the giant McDonalds. I do believe I was told at the time that several sections of that side of the park were cut by the powers that be. Of course all the cool animatronic dinosaurs went the way of Beastly Kingdom.

***Dave Hill said...

1. I agree that the whole carnival is grossly jarring and out of step with the rest of the marvelous theming of DAK.

2. The whole Dinosaur Dig ... the land as a whole, in fact, except for the "serious" stuff ... is *the* favorite spot in DAK for my 3-6 year olds. It's the place that is asked for, sought after, planned for every time we visit WDW.

Not sure about the best way to deal with that, but there it is. And a solution that ignores that is just asking for trouble.

pragmaticidealist said...

I visited Imagineering before this addition was built at Animal Kingdom, and I was able to see the hideous model.

Just as with the Route 66 area of D.C.A., the term "roadside amusement-park vernacular" was thrown about, but everyone conceded that Chester & Hester's was merely a way to add cheap off-the-shelf filler rides to an underdeveloped park and, in turn, satisfy Eisner and his ilk.

Anonymous said...

I think parisinjune has got it right. George Bush is the reason Disney parks have gone downhill! Oh, at first I agreed with his unsanctioned war on Disney, and I even swelled with pride as a disheveled Eisner was flushed out of the boardroom with headlines proclaiming "We Got Him!". And yes, so a few Weapons of Mass Depression were found inside the parks, such as Journey Into Your Imagination and all of California Adventure. But I mean where is this war going? What's the plan? Do we let Anheiser Bush take over and self govern Disney? Do we form a Universal democratic government?

You'll see...now that the Dems are in majority the parks will be cleaner, the Little Mermaid ride will be resurrected, and there will be a table right next to bag check where you can get subsidies for park tickets. No tourist left behind!

Thanks for clearing everything up parisinjune!

I will now take toungue out of cheek...

Anonymous said...

1. Please lay off the MBAs. Sometimes business decisions are exactly that... a "business" decision that must be made to sustain a specific entity. i.e., if your family is starving, many people will do what it takes to feed their family even if they're not proud of it.

2. Have faith in the long-term planning of the park. =) It will be amazing.

Mr Banks said...

To above anonymous:

I would venture to say that the problem with the Strategic Planning MBA's mentioned in the blog (now mercifully disbanded by Bob Iger) was that they knew the family was starving and yet did nothing about it. Their pride was elsewhere.

As for the long term planning of the park, I do have faith. It may take a little while, but there are just too many of us around who care deeply.

captain schnemo said...

The obvious problem with this area (as well as much of the DCA park) is that Disneyland was created in large part as a direct response to this garbage. I guess we have this kind of thing to thank for being so awful that Walt wanted to do so something about it, but it is the ultimate irony that 50 years later, Disney is so bankrupt of ideas that they have decided to incorporate this into their own parks.

It's a wonder Disney and anti-Disney didn't destroy each other when they collided.

Another good point is that there is very little room for irony in a Disney park. Irony, when used poorly (which is almost always), is just a cowardly way to ask people to not take you seriously.

"Ha ha! Check it out! It's crap! Get it??"

Yeah, we get it.

Anonymous said...

Whoa- that Dinoland looks like it belongs on the Las Vegas strip or Coney Island. It makes a miniature golf course look like a zen garden. What were they THINKING?

Spot said...

In Six Flags: Great American, there is carosel. The Columbia Carosel. It is a two decked carosel that is a glorious reminder of how neautiful a simple ride can be. It doesn't really thrill, there is no story and to be honest I suspect it's gotten a little more than just creaky over the years. But every singge person who enters the park will take one moment to pause and just look at it. And because of it, they stay that much longer and carry with them perhaps a little bit more joy.

As far as Dinoland USA is concerned, if I were ever asked by an executive I would say "Take out the noise, the lights, the shimmer and glitter and build me a carosel." Make it a triple decker, and fill it with dinosaurs. Call it the Carosel of the Lizard Kings and make it truely royal! Make the top ones gallop to let the young ones have a trill and a view, make the low ones comforatble and simply ride the circuit so those who want can feel the breeze and hear the shouts of delight so that they may remember. Fill it with the details that is the trademark of Disney. A story? The only story you need "Dinosaurs are Amazming, don't you think so too?" It is a begining a middle and an end.. and that is enough.

(As for music, I'd be partial to "One Moment in Time", but would they ever get the rights?)

Sorry for the rant. My family got together for the first time in a while (both us kids are grown) and took a trip to the park. It was all that we had hoped for and more! But that cheesy midway just repelled us.

Mark Adams said...

I agree with others that you're missing the point about Dinoland. See anonymous's post that begins, "Well lets get a few facts out of the way" for a much more comprehensive defense of the theme.

I was put off by this area as well, until it was pointed out to me that this section of the park is all about the unfortunate tendency of mankind toward exploitation. And if you go to the other side of the park and check out the contents of "Restaurant"-asaurus, you can see the flip side of this whole issue.

I now see Dinoland as emblematic of what's wrong with the Disney organization. The theme in Dinoland is about Chester and Hester shamelessly exploiting natural wonders found on their property. The result is the extraordinarily tacky mess that is Dinoland. Look at the way dinosaurs (and mummys, if you've got the time) have been exploited by us through history. It says a lot about us.

The suits at Disney should head the warning. I am not a big fan of "Din-O-Rama", but I must say I relish the irony.

Lou said...

"Stumbling upon this loud kiddy playground after a peaceful stroll around the wondrous Tree of Life is like tripping into a pool of vomit after leaving St. Peter’s Basilica."

Heh heh now THAT was a big laugh!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"No don't even get me going on why the heck a talking fish show is in the park and worse yet, in Dinoland... but one step at a time."

Nevermind that the park is called ANIMAL Kingdom. (Are fish still animals?) And while we're addressing this non-issue, the Theater in the Wild is really only in the Dinoland area on maps rather than physically.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Dino-rama is ugly and out of place, but I highly enjoy the Primeval Whirl (is that what it's called?).