How we feel about Disney attractions exists on a sort of sliding scale. On the one end, you have rides such as Space Mountain, an indelible classic beloved by nearly all who experience it, but on the other end you have rides such as Stitch’s Great Escape, which is the theme park equivalent of stepping in dog poo. With bare feet.
One such ride that I could do without is Dinosaur, which is why a rumored Indiana Jones retheming of Animal Kingdom’s Dinosaur ride, possibly happening before Walt Disney World’s fiftieth anniversary in 2021, is so appealing to me. Unlike the shock and sadness surrounding the closure of The Great Movie ride, closing Dinosaur seems like a logical move. The ride is dated and capable of shattering your sternum, especially if you’re tall and sitting in the outside seat, not that I’m biased or anything. Though the storyline is loosely tied to the 2000 film, it never had the emotional and nostalgic appeal of something like the dearly departed The Great Movie Ride. At this point in time, the animatronics are middling at best and the special effects amount to little more than shining lights on various rubber dinosaurs in sequence or blasting guests with sounds so loud you don’t so much hear them as absorb them into your consciousness and then afterwards weep quietly into your double frappe latte grande mocha.
As long as George Lucas stays away from the story (remember Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was worse than getting diphtheria on The Oregon Trail?), an Indiana Jones ride has the potential to revitalize that side of the Animal Kingdom park with what once again might be considered an E-ticket attraction. And let’s not kid ourselves: that side of Animal Kingdom desperately needs it. There’s a playground, a carnival midway, and Finding Nemo: The Musical, which lacks the charm of pretty much every other musical stage show in Walt Disney World. Not to mention that when compared to the beauty and grandeur of Pandora, Africa, and Asia, the Dinoland USA section of Animal Kingdom looks like something your seven-year-old nephew might have drawn on the tablecloth after he crushed up his Smarties and snorted them through his Pixy Stix.
So of course the natural question would be, “How would Indiana Jones fit into the overall theme of Animal Kingdom?” My response centers on Avatar. When it was first announced that James Cameron’s blue alien people would be joining Animal
Kingdom, I was extremely skeptical. I’m not a huge fan of the film (go watch the cartoon Ferngully: The Last Rainforest from 1992 and you’ll see why), and it seemed at the time to be a nonsensical cross promotion. However, what Disney has accomplished with the land of Pandora is breathtaking, and the new IP has also led to the creation of one of the most innovative and exciting new rides in any Disney park worldwide: Flight of Passage. If the new Indiana Jones ride enhances the atmosphere and excitement of Animal Kingdom with a story that somewhat intersects the park’s conservation aim, I’m all for it. Keep in mind that the entirety of Dinoland USA doesn’t really jive with Animal Kingdom’s mission statement any better than Indiana Jones. The premise of the Dinosaur attraction is that you’re helping someone illegally transport an extinct animal into modern times, which makes you the Pablo Escobar of the late Cretaceous. That not only sounds like a crime but also a sin against nature. Thus, we can conclude that Dinosaur teaches children to thwart authority thanks to the scientist guy from CSI (which seems like an odd crossover, unless they originally planned to begin the ride with a song by The Who) all while tampering with time traveling tourism equipment and putting guests’ lives in danger. Haven’t we seen enough Jurassic Park movies to know this never ends well? At best you get a sexy Jeff Goldblum meme, which is its own sort of reward, I guess…
While Dinosaur might not fall quite on the Stitch’s Great Escape end of my Disney attraction sliding scale, I think, for most people, it’s definitely on the lower end. Though change at Disney isn’t always perfect, the Imagineers certainly have far more hits than misses, and every new project is another opportunity to create the next Flight of Passage or even just the next Frozen Ever After. (Be honest with yourself: we all miss Maelstrom, but Frozen Ever After is a decent retheming that brought massive crowds into neglected areas of Epcot.) As Disney ramps up for Walt Disney World’s fiftieth anniversary, one of the biggest celebrations in the company’s history, adding an exciting new ride to Animal Kingdom to compliment the massive investments in Hollywood Studios and Epcot seems like a logical move. I, for one, hope that it happens, and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t just stop with the Dinosaur ride, that it slowly absorbs most of Dinoland USA, and that it elevates the Animal Kingdom experience in new and exciting ways.
What do you think? Would you be sad to see Dinosaur go extinct? Or are you excited about the rumor of an Indiana Jones adventure ride coming to Walt Disney World?
“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” in the comments down below!
Photos provided by @mickeys_photographer and @magicalshannonmarie. Oh, and thanks to Disney for sexy Jeff Goldblum and Indiana Jones.