The History of Dinosaur/ Countdown to Extinction in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney Parks History

Dinosaur is one of the best rides at Disney's Animal Kingdom, but it has a complicated history at the park, that involved a retheme, a rapidly changing land around it, and a less than hit Disney film. It has changed since it first opened as Countdown to Extinction, and already had quiet a history before it even opened.

From the earliest days of Disney's Animal Kingdom's development, there was a dinosaur themed land, though the concept of the attraction changed over the years, from a simple dinosaur-themed tour to a time travel adventure, with various versions having different intensity levels.

The development of this ride was massively impacted by two other seemingly unrelated projects, Indiana Jones Adventure, and the Disney film Dinosaur.

Indiana Jones Adventure was planned to use the same ride system as Countdown to Extinction, and to save costs on the development of both rides, these two rides would utilize the exact same track layout, leading to several similar moments on the ride.

The ride was also being developed at the same time as a Disney film based on dinosaurs. It has never been made clear what the exact impact each of these projects had on each other, but it is assumed that they both shifted a little to allow for synergy between them.

For example, the villain in the ride is likely a Carnotaurus because the villain of the movie was, and you are saving an Iguanadon, assumed to be Aladar, but the story remained largely original and unconnected to the film.

The ride opened as Countdown to Extinction alongside the park as the only main attraction of Dinoland USA. It was an intense dark ride experience that was slightly tied into a Disney film that hadn't been released yet.

The story was that you were entering the Dino Institute, a high-tech research facility that has developed time travel. You enter through a traditional dinosaur fossil museum with a purposely low-tech display by Bill Nye happening around you.

You then move into a preshow that introduces you to the Time Rover, and Dr. Seeker, who informs you of the unauthorized detour you are going to be taking to the moments before the asteroid hits that kills the dinosaurs to save an Iguanadon.

You then enter your rover and start your journey, floating backward in time to a dino-filled jungle.

You encounter tons of dinos along your journey, being chased by a massive Carnotaurus all the way. Eventually, you find the Iguanadon, but it is too late because the meteor is falling right in front of you as you fall into time travel at the last possible second, as the meteor falls above you.

This ride received a small overlay alongside the release of Dinosaur, although the story remained largely unchanged.

This mainly resulted in several smaller changes throughout the attraction.

The outside of the attraction was altered to feature a statue of Aladar from the film, and allusions to him were made more clear in the ride. The name was changed to match the name of the film as well, with an attraction entrance sign similar to the original with the new name being added to the attraction's facade.

The ride itself was made less intense, with some effects turned off, and others most notably the movements, being turned down in intensity to match with the new tie-in with a Disney animated film.

The most notable change though was the replacement of the final meteor with another Carnataurus figure.

The attraction remains the main ride of Dinoland USA, even inspiring a parody attraction of sorts in Primeval Whirl, which is purposely themed as a fair attraction that showed up alongside Dinosaur and mimicked its storyline. 

The ride was the only dark ride on opening day, and it remains a classic of the park that will hopefully remain a part of the park for years to come.