Welcome to Disney Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole, and I’ll be your exploration leader on today’s journey back to the earliest days of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
This past week, Disney’s adaptation of The Jungle Cruise to a major film wrapped production. While not much is known about the film thus far, I am sure that the film will at least feel like the attraction in that it will be a ton of fun to ride, while also featuring animals in some puntactular situations.
While it remains to be seen, I’d bet that many of the animals in the film will be computer-generated. If they are, it would really bring the story of the Jungle Cruise full circle because when Walt was originally creating the attraction, he wanted to utilize real animals throughout but then decided that he could get more consistent “performances” if all of the animals were actually mechanical. So if the producers of Jungle Cruise decided to utilize CG to create their animals for similar reasons, it would be a perfect addition to the attraction’s story.
However, Walt’s dream still had a chance to come to fruition, albeit many years after he had passed away. On April 22nd, 1998, Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened, and it was populated with animals from every walk of life (with “walk” being the optimal word here, as there is not a lot of aquatic or aviary life in the park).
When you walk into the park, it’s hard not to miss its icon, The Tree of Life. With its carvings of over one hundred different animals, it is the perfect weenie for the Animal Kingdom. However, when the park was first being designed, there was another idea for the Tree.
The Tree of Life Carousel was the original idea for the Tree of Life. The attraction would have featured three different levels, all of which would represent a different type of animal: air, land and sea. On top of the carousel, there was going to be a Dumbo-style aerial carousel where guests could ride in different types of flying birds and insects. The next level down would feature a relatively normal carousel, but instead of simply horses, all types of land animals would be included. Finally, the bottom level would focus primarily on sea animals, but the carousel would move around on water, an interesting idea that I haven’t really seen done before.
Overall, the Tree of Life Carousel sounded really cool and innovative. A triple-decker carousel would have been so amazing to see. However, I don’t think that it would have been as effective a weenie as the Tree of Life currently is, so I do think the Imagineers made the right choice with their creation. But the Tree of Life Carousel isn’t the only planned opening day attraction to have never found the light of day.
Our next stop takes us to Dinoland U.S.A, probably the park’s least-inhabited land. Many people don’t know the story of Dinoland, though, and what a story it is.
Originally, Dinoland was home to a sand and gravel company, with Chester and Hester’s being the local gas station in the area. While working one day, the company discovered some dinosaur fossils, and a wealthy donor from a college decided to buy all of the land so that paleontology students could use the area to study on summer internships.
As you can see on the roof of Restaurantosaurus, the students forgot to clean up their entire mess, leaving some coolers and beer cans lying around. While working there, the students got tired of having to carry the fossils around all of the time, so they reactivated some of the sand and gravel company’s equipment to help carry it up. However, the carts they used became quite rickety and unsafe, but the students didn’t dismantle them when they left, instead just leaving the carts lying around for anyone to use.
Luckily for guests of Dinoland, the transportation system, cleverly named The Excavator, became open for business, but guests had to be careful because there was a pretty decent chance that the attraction broke down on you. After all, the students could barely cobble the thing back together.
As guests tore around the tracks, they had to be careful because Hester and Chester had created a few mechanical dinosaurs to get in on the paleontology craze in the area.
Before guests reached the conclusion of the ride, they could also catch a reference to Big Thunder Mountain as their train hurdled through the skeleton of a dinosaur.
If you’ve ever been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll undoubtedly realize that The Excavator never quite made its way into the park. Instead, the space was used to create Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama for a few reasons. First, the price of Animal Kingdom continued to grow during construction as Disney had to deal with unforeseen issues like the behind the scenes set up for the zoo atmospheres of the park. The park was also in need of more truly child-friendly attractions, so the area where The Excavator was going to built became the home of the more cost-effective Dino-Rama.
Walt Disney World still managed to get another mine train attraction, but over in the Magic Kingdom with the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It’s obviously a bit different than The Excavator, but it is still an awesome addition.
The Excavator made one more last-ditch effort to stay alive over in Hong Kong Disneyland, but plussed even further. The mine train was going travel through a prehistoric jungle that would have also featured Audio-Animatronic dinosaurs. Basically, it would have combined Dinosaur and The Excavator, which would have been one of the coolest attractions to ever exist in my opinion. Unfortunately, money also became an issue in Hong Kong, so we never got to witness The Excavator in action. But at least we can remember it here today before moving on to some new attractions next week.
- Two of the parades for next week were created for an anniversary.
- One of these parades was a nighttime parade in two international parks.
- Four different parks were represented in these three parades.
Thanks for reading and have a magical day!
Cole Geryak is a college Disney fan making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.