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Animal Kingdom

Dinoland Nears Extinction

We'll go counterclockwise in our tour, which is fitting because we will be going back in time to Dinoland U.S.A. As one of the 30,000 outlets in the world where one can chow down on McDonald's fries and Chicken McNuggets this one comes with a lofty cover charge at the front gate. Still, the quaint premise of grad students partying at an archeological dig site works as an adequate theme - and a jolly good excuse for Disney to play it cheap by resorting to carny-influenced games, attractions and gaudy colors to dot the landscape.

Crossing under the boneyard's bridge as music by the likes of The B-52s and R.E.M. play could have set up something special. But the boneyard is lifeless with an ordinary collection of net climbs, slides and even the actual digging area which accomplished little beyond placing gravel in your kid's shoes and socks. Further out you have the park's only dark ride - Dinosaur. It opened as Countdown to Extinction but you already know that names don't stick around too long at Animal Kingdom. Once Disney's computer-rendered dud Dinosaur hit the local multiplex the ride adopted the new moniker. Why? Yes, there is an iguanodon and you are dealing with a meteor shower bent on causing extinction. But anyone who expects talking dinos or monkeys of love or any semblance of plot points from the flick that the ride is named after will be sorely disappointed.

As it stands, Dinosaur is an attraction with animatronics so cheap and a ride layout so limited that the lighting is practically pitch black. Anyone who has been to Disneyland and experienced the Indiana Jones ride will tell you that the West Coast offering is far superior to Dinosaur. So why is Dinosaur as the second generation of the same EMV technology that made the original Disneyland ride such a lousy follow-up? That's a question for the bean counters who scrapped the budget and the imagineers who were forced to surrender any form of enhancement to the ride's iffy storyline for an attraction that could have been a rival to Kilimanjaro Safaris in drawing the morning crowd the other way.

But at least the air-conditioner is running while you're inside the Dinosaur building. Head out and Primeval Whirl and Triceratops Spin are baking uninvitingly under the Florida heat. Primeval Whirl is a spinning mouse coaster, much like the portable models you may have seen at your local fair. Triceratops Spin is Dumbo with a horn in his forehead. While a lot of purists are only offended by the carnival games that Walt often denounced, I don't see any difference between that and the video game arcade installed years earlier at the Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain and before that in Disneyland's Tomorrowland. Come to think of it, with the way Disney overcharges for its food concessions all over the parks, at least these kiosks give you a shot to actually receive something commensurate to the value of the money that you're doling out. If you're lucky.

The last Dinoland attraction was the Tarzan Rocks show that finally moved on in early 2006. Frumpy housewives who fantasize of unattainable chiseled men wearing nothing but a loincloth and kiddies who enjoy monkeys on wheels would flock to this musical stage show. The show wasn't bad until you study the park's map. What is Tarzan doing in Dinoland? Animal Kingdom brags about its massive 500-acre layout yet it couldn't wedge this show in Africa where it belongs? Please!

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