-Stage 4.7-

Dinos of Disney

Dinos of Disney

The Disney parks have fantastic dinosaurs, as well as other geological and paleontological features, throughout their many properties. Here, I go into these various dinosaurs, and other geological features, as well as the attractions that they can be found in, from the parks that I have visited.

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Disneyland

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Disneyland Railroad (AKA Primeval World)

 

California Adventure

The Millennium Tree

Radiator Springs Racers

 

Animal Kingdom

Main Entrance Gate

 

Hollywood Studios

None at this time

 

Epcot

None at this time

 

Magic Kingdom

None at this time


Disneyland

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

This is from a trip I took back in December of 2017, during a spontaneous Christmastime trip. Big Thunder Mountain is one of the main roller coasters of Disneyland that has been replicated 3 other times in parks around the world (two of which also have the dinosaur). The theme of the ride is based on Monument Valley, a Navajo Tribal Park that straddles the border between Arizona and Utah. Here is the setup for the ride from Disney:

"Legend has it that after gold was discovered in the 1850s, eerie incidents took place in the mine. Trains would take off and race through tunnels… by themselves.

As you enter the cursed cavern, your train speeds up along the rickety track. Shoot under a booming waterfall and dodge a falling boulder from an unexpected landslide as you swoop around sharp turns and drop into desolate canyons.

On this rip-roaring adventure, you may learn that some legends turn out to be true..."

As you whip around the track, you eventually end up face-to-face with a dinosaur skeleton.

 

Big Thunder Mountain

My view of the dinosaur skeleton while riding the ride at night.

 

 The skeleton is interesting because from my view at night, it is really hard to determine what kind of dinosaur it is. Getting some better shots from Disney we can definitely get a clearer view of the dinosaur.

 

Big Thunder Mountain

Here is a full shot of the skeleton from the official Disneyland ride website.

 

Big Thunder Mountain

The Walt Disney World version of the skull, apparently taken in 1981.

 

And looking closely at the skull you can tell that it is probably meant to resemble a Tyrannosaurus rex skull, but it's ... off. Let's compare it to arguable the most famous T. rex, the Field Museum's SUE.

 

Sue

SUE the T. rex from the Field Museum in Chicago

 

SUE

SUE the T. rex from the Field Museum in Chicago

 

And I think, after comparing the Big Thunder Mountain T. rex to SUE, the biggest problem with the skull is the teeth. It's as if the designers tried to cram as many teeth as they could into the mouth, and all of the teeth are the same size, whereas in the real skull the teeth are constantly coming to replace lost or worn teeth, so the size and spacing of the teeth differ widely within the actual T. rex's mouth. The overall dimensions of the fenestra (holes) are also smaller in the Disney skull than in the real animal, however I could attribute that to making the skull more durable with more surface area.

 

What I really wondered was where did the idea of this dinosaur come from. Was it meant to be a T. rex or something else. I find it really telling that the D23 post called "The Ultimate Dino-Tour of Disney Parks all Over the World" that goes over many of the dinosaurs in the Disney Parks just calls this "the bones of a dinosaur". No attempt was made at even naming the species, whereas they name the species of many of the other dinosaurs in the post.

 

Tony Baxter himself, designer of Big Thunder Mountain, stated that the dinosaur bones were meant as a tribute to the previous incarnation of the ride. Parts of the ride and theme were actually taken from the previous renditions of the ride called Rainbow Caverns Mine Train, which was then converted into the Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland. However, I haven't been able to find any pictures of any dinosaurs from those versions. The closest thing I could find, was that the second version mentioned dinosaurs during the ride, but that was about it.

 

So although many Disney fans seem to have unanimously determined that this is a T. rex skeleton, Disney itself has shied away from denoting it as anything other than a "dinosaur".    

 


Disneyland Railroad (AKA Primeval World)

Normally, when we rode on the Disneyland Railroad, we would take the Main Street, U.S.A. Station around to the various parts of the park we wanted to visit. The last stop we would get off would be at the Tomorrowland Station, because afterwards it just circles back to the beginning. So, we never felt the urge to ride from Tomorrowland to the Main Street, U.S.A. Station, however, this is where the dinosaur fun begins.   

 

Disneyland Railroad

Before even hopping on the train, they have these rotating billboards that have "advertisements" for each part of the park that the train stops at. They even have one for the dinosaur exhibit stating "Primeval World. Enter the World of the Dinosaur. Temporal Zone 200,000,000 BC".

 

Disneyland Railroad

The ride to the Primeval World begins with a trip along the Grand Canyon, specifically this Grand Canyon Diorama that was added to the railroad in 1958. The diorama is 306 feet in length and provides an exquisite view of the south rim of the Grand Canyon, which also includes some animals and trees along the way. After this you are then transported back into the Primeval World. 

 

"That was the Grand Canyon as we know it today, but it wasn't always that way. Quiet now, as we travel back in time, back to the fantastic Primeval World, land of the dinosaurs!"

 

The Primeval World was a series of Audio-Animatronics dinosaurs originally created for the Ford Magic Skyway at the 1964 New York World's Fair. The original ride was created as a time travel experience where people sat in Ford cars during the ride with the scenes narrated by Walt Disney himself. The scenes from the ride were taken from the Rite of Spring segment of 1940's Fantasia, which in and of itself had some paleontologically problematic scenes, as we will see below. Not all of that Magic Skyway experience had been transferred here, just the dinosaurs. 

 

Disneyland Railroad

The first animal we encounter is an Edaphosaurus, which unfortunately I did not get a good picture of. Edaphosaurus is a relative of the more common Dimetrodon, a synapsid from the Late Carboniferous and Early Permian time periods. Generally, this means that Edaphosaurus was not a dinosaur but closer related to mammals, and actually was completely extinct by the time any of the dinosaurs started to appear. 

 

Disneyland Railroad

The next series of animals we encounter is the group of Brontosaurus seen above. The posture of the body in these animatronics gives a sort of "loch ness" vibe to them with the curve of the neck, whereas in the real would stick out more and the tail would also be raised above the ground. The comment that their postures are incorrect is actually a general comment for all of the animals in this exhibit, as that it has been scientifically determined since these animals were created that they were able to keep their tails elevated off of the ground with their spines more or less straight. Side note: the three baby Brontosaurus were called Huey, Dewey, and Louie by Walt

 

Disneyland Railroad

The next animals on our prehistoric journey is the Pteranodon, pictured here with a group towards the back. Generally, it has been noted that their posture is not the best, especially if they are resting or walking. It has been shown that they do use all four limbs when walking, causing their wings to fold back behind them, instead of open like this. 

 

Disneyland Railroad

A up-close view of one of the Pteranodons, unfortunately the window lines tended to get in the middle of my pictures. 

 

Disneyland Railroad

The next up is a family of Triceratops watching their babies hatch. From what I can tell, scientifically, these are pretty good and the detail on them is quite amazing given when they were created. 

 

Disneyland Railroad

The next scene is a group of Struthiomimuses. The only dated aspect of these is that they likely had feathers. There are also several skeletons lying around on the ground. These skeletons are a bit difficult to view here but they include a Megalosaurus (seen here on the left) and a Plateosaurus, which is directly behind the Megalosaurus up on the hill a little bit. 

 

Disneyland Railroad

And we make it to the final shot of the train ride, which is also one of the climax shots of the Right of Spring. The most obvious complaint that we have here is that Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex lived in completely different time periods, so the possibility of this battle ever happening outside of a Jurassic Park cloning experiment is absurd. Stegosaurus lived during the Jurassic period (~150 million years ago), while the Tyrannosaurus live during the Late Cretaceous (~70 million years ago). That is more of a time difference than is between the T. rex and us now. 

 

Disneyland Railroad

Looking at the reconstructions of the dinosaurs, the T. rex could be considered to the the typical 1940's(ish) T. rex, complete with upright stance and a rather small head for the rest of its body. The shape of the skull is also completely off. They did fix the skull shape somewhat for the other T. rex in Disneyland on Big Thunder Mountain, although that one isn't perfect either. It also have 3 fingers, which most grade school kids would be able to tell you that the T. rex only has 2 fingers, while other large predators like Allosaurus typically have 3. The end of the Stegosaurus tail is also colored as if it is a spike as well, instead of just the end of its tail. This seems to indicate the creators of it gave it 5 spikes instead of the actual 4 it should have. 


California Adventure

The Millennium Tree

The Millennium Tree is the cross section of a real redwood trunk that records over 1,000 years from the time it sprouted up through the 1930's. Paleontologists actually use tree rings and cross sections like this to do many things, not the least of which is discovering what our planet's climate was like over the past several thousand years. This is a study known as dendrochronology, where each ring on the tree represents one year of growth and that individual ring can tell us a lot about the climate and atmosphere at the time the tree formed. By comparing the thickness of the individual rings, scientists can tell us if the climate was warmer or cooler, or wetter vs dryer, that year compared to other years. 

The Millennium Tree

The rings also preserve the prehistoric atmosphere in the form of isotope data. Isotopes are different weights of various elements based on the number of neutrons that each element has. Many isotopes are unstable (radioactive), but there are many isotopes that are stable. Carbon for instance has two stable isotopes, Carbon-12 and Carbon-13. It also has several unstable isotopes, with the most prevalent one being Carbon-14. But the percentage of the different carbon isotopes is affected by the climate and this difference is then preserved in the tree as the tree builds up the woody plant matter in its trunk as it grows. 

 

By comparing all that data for this tree to countless other trees across the globe, scientists are able to get a global view of the climate over time. They can also use the comparative thicknesses and isotope data in modern trees to line up older, already fallen trees, that they don't know when they were chopped down, such as in log cabins and other human settlements. The relative thicknesses of the rings forms a type of fingerprint that can be lined up with these older trees forming a continuous history of our climate that goes back much further in time than any tree living today is capable of. By understanding the isotopes and climate today, we can use that information to infer what the climate was in the past by the data preserved in these tree rings.

 

The Millennium Tree

The text for the tree:

 

The Millennium Tree

"Redwoods are ... ambassadors from another time"

 - John Steinbeck

Travels with Charley (c. John Steinbeck 1962)

 

Every tree has a tale to tell, and the tree's rings tell us its story. A California redwood grows by adding a new layer, or ring, of wood to its surface each year, so counting the rings reveals the tree's age. Written in the rings of this fallen tree are over 1,000 years of California history from 818 A.D., then it sprouted, to 1937 when it fell.

 

Below are some close up shots of the tree to better read what each of the labels said from the main image.

The Millennium Tree

 

The Millennium Tree

 

The Millennium Tree

 

The Millennium Tree

 

The Millennium Tree

 


Radiator Springs Racers

One part of Disney's California Adventure that really screams "Geological Wonder" is the Radiator Springs Racers ride towards the back of the park in what is known as "Cars Land". The backdrop of the ride is an awesome looking faux rock built panorama, evoking a southern Utah feel to it. They even provide a National Park Service type brochure explaining all of the features.

 

Radiator Springs Racer

The region is even known as "Ornament Valley", an obvious play of the real life Monument Valley, a Navajo Tribal Park that straddles the border between Utah and Arizona. 

 

Monument Valley

Here is a photo of Monument Valley. This also happens to be the "Forest Gump Hill", where we, of course, stopped for photo ops. 

 

Radiator Springs Racer

The "National Park Brochure" for Ornament Valley is pictured above and below. (I tried to do a panorama shot on it but it is really hard to do that on an iPhone for a static picture so I also took an overall picture.) They have fantastic references to actual geologic features like "Pipe's Peak", "Mount Ever Rust", "Lincoln Continental Divide", and "Mount Hood".

 

Radiator Springs Racer

As you can tell, several of the name are reminiscent of other features across the country (i.e. Mount Hood, referencing the volcano Mount Hood in Oregon, and Pipe's Peak referencing Pike's Peak another mountain in Colorado). The actual "geological" formations that they are showing are also reminiscent of features in Utah.

 

Window Arch

The Lost Wheel Arch on the right of the brochure, and under which the path goes in the photo above, bears a striking resemblance to the Window Arch at Arches National Park.

 

Balanced Rock

The balancing rock just to the left of the arch, called Willy's Butte, also bears a strong resemblance to Balanced Rock, also at Arches National Park. 

 

Even the background landscape for the entire ride looks so much like the sandstone at Arches that I would say this was just an Arches homage. The sandstone in Arches is known as the Entrada Sandstone, a Jurassic age (~150 million years old) sandstone, formed from a coastal dune environment. The features that are present in Arches are due to the low amount of precipitation that the area receives each year. This sandstone is cemented with calcite, a mineral the dissolves in rain water fairly easily. So when rain water absorbed into the porous sandstone, a little bit of the cement is dissolved and eventually the sand is washed away. Some layers erode easier than others, which is what produces these phenomenal geological features in the landscape. 

 

Radiator Springs Racers

And for my last photo, I had to take a photo here while I was actively running the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon in Disneyland, way back in 2015. 


Animal Kingdom

Main Entrance Gate

 


Hollywood Studios

None at this time

 


Epcot

None at this time

 


Magic Kingdom

None at this time