SATURDAY SIX Presents: Plastic in the Parks – When (Toy) Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX is the return of our Plastic in the Parks series! The theme park summer season officially kicked off with the grand opening of the VelociCoaster back in early June, and for us it ends next week with the closing of the Jurassic World Tribute Store on August 9th as the theme parks prepare for the spooky season. To celebrate this Dino-mite summer we reached out to photographer Michael Carelli and demanded politely asked that he get some more LEGO and head into the Universal Orlando Resort for some dinosaur related frivolity. Care to tag along? Let’s go!

# 6 – Camp Jurassic

Lexi and Tim – from the original Jurassic Park film – visit Camp Jurassic. (photo by Michael Carelli)

There’s no two ways about it, Camp Jurassic is the #1 most underrated attraction in Orlando. Because there are no rides for adults, many guests completely skip this area, but I implore you to check it out on your next trip to Universal. This is the most immersive play area I have seen in my entire life, with two completely different components. Think of it as a dinosaur themed Tom Sawyer Island, except with a lot more stuff to interact with. Slides, rope bridges, water cannons, and more are mixed in an insanely elaborate rainforest theme.

Camp Jurassic water canons. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Camp Jurassic. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Greatness, as far as the eye can see… (photo by Michael Carelli)

But the real draw to Camp Jurassic is the amber mines. Forget kids, I have gotten lost in this area several times… it’s incredible. In fact it is almost impossible to believe these actually exist in a theme park, let alone a kid’s play area. The caves are so detailed and immersive it is as if you stepped into another world. Highest possible recommendation.

The amber mines of Camp Jurassic. (photo by @HateToFly)

 

# 5 – Pteranodon Flyers

A Pteranodon flies by his namesake attraction. (photo by Michael Carelli)

I am going to take some heat for this one, especially from hardcore Universal fans. But that’s okay, as this is a theme park hill I’m prepared to die onPteranodon Flyers makes the “worst” list for many guests, mostly because of its horrendous loading time. I’m not here to defend that, but I think that it is awesome that a theme park has an attraction which caters directly to small guests, especially Islands of Adventure. One of the knocks against Universal, and one they have made great strides in overcoming, is a perception that the parks are not kid friendly.  At IOA, there is one ride after another that they are told “No” to, but not only is Pteranodon Flyers a “Yes,” it is the one ride at either park where you have to be with a small child to ride. I think it is fantastic that there is an opportunity to make these smaller riders feel special, that they can go on a cool ride that their older brothers and sisters can’t, because it’s almost always the opposite. Pteranodon Flyers is also cool, having that Magic Kingdom Skyway-feel that many of us miss. Thankfully the attraction has gone to a “virtual queue” experience, which is a huge positive, and the queue itself is gorgeous to walk through.

Pteranodon Flyers. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Yes, the queue for Pteranodon Flyers has more water features than Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Riders ascend on Pteranodon Flyers. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Pteranodon Flyers. (photo by @ViewsAndQueues)
Aerial photo of the Pteranodon Flyers track. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 4 – Jurassic Park Discovery Center

Jurassic Park Discovery Center. (photo by Michael Carelli)

While Hogwarts Castle in the Wizarding World has replaced it, there was once a time when the Jurassic Park Discovery Center was the “weenie” of Islands of Adventure. It is what your eyes are immediately drawn to as you exit Port of Entry and they did an incredible job of replicating the feel of the visitor center from the original Jurassic Park film.

Jurassic Park Discovery Center as it was seen from the opening of Islands of Adventure in 1999 until the debut of the Wizarding World in 2010. (photo by Michael Carelli)
When The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village, all eyes were immediately drawn to Hogwarts Caste. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
With the VelociCoaster now open, the Jurassic Park Discovery Center is framed by dynamic energy. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Because there are no rides at the Discovery Center, many guests now pass it by on their way to Potter or Kong, but it is worth checking out to experience all the interactive elements inside. With tributes to Mr. DNA and Dennis Nedry’s Barbasol can, this area is a must for any hardcore Jurassic Park fan, Also underrated is going out the back entrance of the Discovery Center (the side you see from Port of Entry) and just taking in the gorgeous view you have of IOA. Also located in the Discovery Center is the Burger Digs restaurant and one of the more unique gift shops in the entire park (selling everything from silly dinosaur plush to high end amber jewelry).

Henry Wu in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Team Members interacting with guests in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. (photo by Michael Carelli)

# 3 – Sierra

Owen Grady holds up a turkey leg to find some young raptors. Let’s hope Owen doesn’t also take one of those turkey legs home to freeze for three months before eating…(photo by Michael Carelli)

 

We have already gone on the record that the Velociraptor Encounter in Jurassic Park is the best meet and greet in Orlando, and this year Universal made the area even better with the introduction of the baby raptor Sierra. A handler allows Sierra to meet guests in a low-tech meet and greet that provides a lot of awe to kids.

Sierra. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Kids meeting Sierra. (photo by Banks Lee)
Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?! (photo by Banks Lee)
Sierra meets SATURDAY SIX’s own Megan Stump and friend.

# 2 – VelociCoaster

Charlie, Blue, Delta and Echo in front of the VelociCoaster. (photo by Michael Carelli)

What else can be said about the biggest theme park hit of 2021? The VelociCoaster is already a finely tuned machine that pumps out guests like nobody’s business. The queue is wonderful and the ride was an immediate hit. I love comic book superheroes and the Wizarding World as much as anyone, but dinosaurs are timeless and will always be cool. ALWAYS.

Owen and the pack outside VelociCoaster.(photo by Michael Carelli)
VelociCoaster in action. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Statue in the VelociCoaster queue. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

Because guests are gonna guest, after VelociCoaster opened Universal had to build a barrier to make sure people didn’t throw things at the coaster trains flying by above them. Universal didn’t mail this one in though. Nay Nay. The structure they built included an iconic Jurassic Park archway. This is one of those situations that they didn’t have to go that hard, but thankfully for all of us they did.

John Hammond in front of a new archway at VelociCoaster. (photo by Michael Carelli)

# 1 – Jurassic World Tribute Store

A T-Rex and Indominus Rex battle it out for dinosaur merchandise at the Tribute Store. Let’s hope maybe they can eat an eBay pirate or two during the battle… (photo by Michael Carelli)

Universal has been killing it when it comes to Tribute Stores and the Jurassic World store in support of the VelociCoaster opening may have been the best one yet. Filled with great merchandise and tasty treats, the store itself is also elaborately themed to the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films, including screen used props from the actual movies! It’s fan service to the nth degree and the complete opposite of what Universal’s competition down I-4 is doing.

Zach & Gray Mitchell – from Jurassic World – in the Tribute Store. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Simon Masrani, owner of Jurassic World. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Claire Dearing in the Tribute Store. (photo by Michael Carelli)
It’s a battle for the ages! (photo by Michael Carelli)

Let’s take a look at some of the things inside this INCREDIBLE store…

Universal made these attraction posters available as prints for guests to purchase and they are straight up E-Ticket. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Indescribably beautiful. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

What’s the only thing better than a wax mold machine at a theme park? TWO WAX MOLD MACHINES.

Love it. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Mr. DNA and dinosaur wax molds, the best combo since peanut butter met chocolate. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Believe it or not this Triceratops was used by Universal during the one year that Halloween Horror Nights took place in both USF and Islands of Adventure. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
One of the screens in the Tribute Store had a five star tribute to a moment from the original Jurassic Park movie when Dennis Nedry locked everyone out of the computers. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Instead of working hand in hand with fancy pyramid schemes like some theme parks in Florida – cough cough – Universal parterned up with a local candle company for products. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Raptors! (photo by Michael Carelli)
Sell me a Jurassic Park park map and I’ll be a happy guy. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Hat worn by Alan Grant in Jurassic Park III, a film which never gets the love I think it deserves. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Themed snacks! (photo by Michael Carelli)
VelociCoaster candy apple. You know they’d be selling this in the real Jurassic World theme park. (photo by Michael Carelli)

For those who enjoy the edible piñata gimmicks that you’ll find at The Ganachery in Disney Springs, the Tribute Store features one involving dinosaurs.

Chocolate Egg. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Chocolate egg. (photo by Scott Sanders)
This “amber” snack is brilliant on several levels and the John Hammond statue it’s pictured in front of is directly from the film on loan to the store. (photo by Michael Carelli)

 

HONORABLE MENTION – The Iconic Jurassic Park Arch

Everyone loves taking a picture of the iconic Jurassic Park arch at Islands of Adventure and our LEGO do too.

T-Rex! (photo by Michael Carelli)
Owen and the pack. (photo by Michael Carelli)
John Hammond. (photo by Michael Carelli)

So there you have it: SATURDAY SIX Presents: Plastic in the Parks – When LEGO Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

The SATURDAY SIX Presents: PLASTIC IN THE PARKS at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The SATURDAY SIX Presents: PLASTIC IN THE PARKS at Disney Springs

The SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Debut of PLASTIC IN THE PARKS

DAVID & DEREK: The Do’s and Don’ts of COVID-19 Safety Protocols at the Theme Parks

6 Pieces of Disney Merchandise That Don’t Exist (but Totally Should)

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Signage Hall of Shame

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

See you soon everyone in our next installment of PLASTIC IN THE PARKS! (photo by Michael Carelli)

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2 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX Presents: Plastic in the Parks – When (Toy) Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth

  • August 7, 2021 at 10:59 am
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    They do need to cut back a bit of the foliage around the arch. It blocks the torches and makes the thing seem smaller in photos. In pictures shot from a low angle, it can look as big as the one in the films.

    Reply

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