DINOSAUR is a four-minute dark ride: travel on a Time Rover back to the Cretaceous Period to bring back a live dinosaur – just before an asteroid slams into the earth! To learn more about this remarkable mission, keep reading; but if you’d rather thunder on down to the nuts and bolts, here’s your shortcut.
1. You get in line to go back in time.
Your adventure begins by entering the Dino Institute, a paleontological research facility. The first portion of the interior queue area has several different exhibits displaying small fossils, animals of today whose lineage can be traced back to the time of the dinosaurs, and a wall highlighting several different theories for the mass extinction of dinosaurs.
The next part of the queue takes place in an octagonal room. The star of this room is the huge Carnotaurus fossil skeleton it the center. It dominates the room so completely that you may overlook the other interesting things all around you. (FYI: I’ve read that it’s really a replica T. rex skeleton with a Carnotaurus skull; the actual Carnotaurus wasn’t this large.)
Easy to miss is the globe suspended from the ceiling with a rod intersecting it. Keen-eyed observers will pause to note that the globe shows Pangaea, the supercontinent before it broke into the Americas, Africa, and Europe. The “rod” shows the “path” of the asteroid that smacked into Earth, marking how far it traveled before it wiped out the dinosaurs. Each of the eight walls comprising the room has an upper and lower portion, making sixteen displays worth a glance as you pass through on your way to the preshow film.
2. The mission you take isn’t the one that’s supposed to happen.
The pre-show film is hosted by Dr. Marsh (Phylicia Rashad). She outlines your adventure: a peaceful trip back to the time of the early Cretaceous Period. Dr. Seeker (Wallace Langham) interrupts to let you know that he’s changed your time destination to the late Cretaceous Period so you can bring back an Iguanodon named Aladar, whom he previously tagged on an “unauthorized field trip.” (Aladar is also the name of the dinosaur in the Disney film Dinosaur, by the way.)
The problem with this time destination is that you’ll be arriving literally moments before the giant dinosaur-killing asteroid smacks into Earth! But no worries, Dr. Seeker is sure you’ll have plenty of time. Dr. Marsh overhears his plan, and assures you this will not be the case. She leaves, but not before confirming that the coordinates for your Time Rover have been locked into the early Cretaceous Period. But this is a Disney ride after all, so you can kind of see what’s coming. Seeker hacks into the system to send your Time Rover to the late Cretaceous where the asteroid threatens the Earth.
3. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
In addition to moving along a track, the Time Rover bucks and pitches in sync with the visuals and special effects (which are really quite spectacular). This means that the ride experience of DINOSAUR can be extremely rough, jerky, and even jarring. To add to the tension, the clock is ticking: you’ve got just under four minutes to accomplish your mission and bring back Aladar. And boy, do things go wrong!
You run into a variety of dinosaurs as you look for your Iguanodon, including the ferocious Carnotaurus (remember the skeleton in the queue?). As the asteroid draws closer and closer, the Carnotaurus chases you; there’s darkness, flashes of light, and near misses all of which combine for a rough, jarring ride. Will you make it out in time? (Spoiler alert: yes.)
4. The Cretaceous period was carefully created.
DINOSAUR opened with Animal Kingdom on April 22, 1998. Its original name was Countdown to Extinction. When Disney released the movie DINOSAUR in 2000, the was changed. Keen eyes will find a notice on the wall in the loading area that reads, “SECTOR CTX_WDW_AK98” – the CTX is a nod to the Countdown to Extinction name and AK98 is the year Animal Kingdom opened at Walt Disney World.
A few other changes were made to the ride at that time, allowing Disney to relax the original height requirement from 46” down to 40”. The audio-animatronics built for the ride were among the largest ever created by the Imagineering team. Instead of designing a whole new layout and ride system from scratch (and as a cost-saving measure) Disney utilized the layout and ride system already in place at the Disneyland attraction, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye.
It’s fun to know that McDonald’s sponsored the ride at first and there are still red, yellow, and white pipes in the boarding station, which were meant to remind you of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. Most recently, at the Destination D23 Expo in September 2023, it was announced that an Indiana Jones attraction may at some point replace DINOSAUR. But no closure date or any specifics have been announced at this writing.
5. The Nuts and Bolts.
DINOSAUR is located in DinoLand U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Because Disney has placed Dinosaur in such a remote corner of the park, you really have to seek it out. Hint: it’s just off the beaten path between Restaurantosaurus and Chester & Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures and behind the Cretaceous Trail. The ride and most of its queue are indoors and area not affected by weather.
The Time Rovers for DINOSAUR look like large jeeps. Each accommodates 12 guests, 4 guests per row, in lightly padded seats with individual fabric belts. There’s a grab bar for guests to hold onto for additional stability when things get bumpy. To get into the Time Rover, you need to take a small step up.
Guests need to transfer from a Wheelchair/ECV to the ride vehicle. Riders must be at least 40 inches tall, and like all attractions with a height requirement, DINOSAUR offers Rider Switch. For safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure. Expectant mothers should not ride. Video Captioning and Assistive Listening are both available. Note that service animals are not permitted on DINOSAUR.
Most attractions have a short wait first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. But the location of DINOSAUR – along with the popularity of other headliners in Animal Kingdom – means that this is one the easiest big attractions at Walt Disney World to get on. So, you could and maybe should use those early and late hours of the day elsewhere. We think that lines should be relatively light through mid-morning. Alternatively, you can secure Lightning Lane entry via Genie+. Dinosaur is open for Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Theme Park Hours.
The Bottom Line.
We rate DINOSAUR as not to be missed. It offers nonstop action from start to finish, with terrific visual effects. Even by Disney standards, it’s an elaborate attraction – and the tense, frenetic ride is augmented by the whole lot of high-tech gimmickry only the Imagineers can deliver.
Have you been on DINOSAUR? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.