Dinosaur at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is no stranger to broken effects. On the surface, the ride feels much the same as when it opened back in 1998. Sure, the name has changed from Countdown to Extinction. And a planter out front has replaced the former fountain beloved by Imagineer Joe Rohde.
But it’s still the same basic thing, right? Go back in time, grab that dinosaur, and get back before the asteroid makes impact.
But careful comparison of the ride to its original form reveals quite a bit of change. Most of these are subtle. But they do add up to a substantially different experience.
The Laser Field
This appeared at the beginning of the ride right when you launch into the past. It was a grid of green lasers outlining a portal in space-time. Your Time Rover (air powered?) passed through the grid and immediately came face to face with a Styracosaurus.
Later, near the end of the ride, a green laser field would appear again right when you encountered the Iguanodon. This signified the return of your Time Rover to the present. Sometimes, this effect would manifest by literally drawing a laser grid on the Iguanodon himself.
At some point in the last several years, the laser fields have been turned off. Now instead of these broken effects, all you have is Dr. Grant Seeker shouting at you about what is happening.
The Swooping Pterodactyl
The “incoming” pterodactyl has appeared in the ride since the very beginning. Seeker announces his presence, right before the creature screeches at you and swoops over head.
Did I say swoop? I meant right after the creature statically hovers over your head.
The darn thing used to swoop. He’s still on a mechanical arm, hidden in blackness. But if you ride these days, you’ll just see him locked in place while a light flashes over him. Kind of like that Yeti over in Expedition Everest.
The Meteor Shower on the Horizon
This is a small one, but significant to us because it seems like everyone has forgotten about it. But we found video evidence of its existence during the ride’s first year of operation.
It occurs in the very first primeval scene. You pass by the Styracosaurus and then the Alioramus devouring a smaller crocodilian. This scene is one of the more open, well-lit parts of the ride. In the distance is the Hadrosaur, guarding her sleeping babies.
And far off in the horizon is a smoking volcano.
At least, that’s what’s on the horizon today. But if you had ridden the ride in 1998, you would have seen the meteor shower that Dr. Seeker and Dr. Marsh are so worried about, streaking through the atmosphere and about to set off an extinction event.
The effect is a primitive one. Just a projection on the flat of the back wall. But this broken effect has been gone for decades.
We have seen other videos showing a streaking projection that still goes by very fast in the background. But nothing with this kind of definition to it.
Jumping Dinosaur Broken Effects Were Replaced
These pesky little Compsognathus would leap over your vehicle shortly after the swooping pterodactyl. In reality, they were rubbery little puppets on wires, and half the time the wires wouldn’t work.
Gradually they became clusters of static Compys, with various lights blinking on to simulate the idea of movement.
In a recent refurbishment of the ride, the little guys were removed altogether in favor of a straight up projection screen showing digitally animated Compsognathus.
The Meteor Strikes Your Time Rover
Back in the 1990s, Imagineering made a big deal about an effect called the Vortex Generator. The basic idea was to generate puffs of smoke or mist and send them hurtling across a room while projection mapping or lighting gave them the appearance of a solid object.
At the end of Countdown to Extinction, the vortex generator was used to send the meteor straight into your Time Rover right near the end of the ride. Fortunately, Dr. Seeker would beam you back in time.
The Vortex Generator was a fickle beast, and this broken effect was eventually abandoned all together in favor of a lunging Carnotaurus head. Ironically, this was basically the same ending as Universal Studio’s Jurassic Park ride down the street.
But the Vortex Generator did live on at, of all things, the Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh over at the Magic Kingdom. It ran for many years as a smoke ring puffed at you by one of the Woozles in the nightmarish dream sequence. But sadly, even that effect has now ceased to function.