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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Dinosaur Jubilee

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

DinoLand U.S.A. was supposed to feature a roller coaster similar to Big Thunder Mountain called The Excavator, referencing a left over piece of equipment in a sand and gravel pit.

The Excavator was meant to look like a series of ore cars used to haul up the sand and gravel from the bottom of the pit to dump trucks. The paleontology students who were working in the area had reconfigured the unsafe device that had fallen into disrepair to transport the dinosaur fossils they were finding.

The marketing publicity described it as “a rollicking coaster ride through a section of the dig supposedly too dangerous to enter”. At one point, the ride would have zoomed through the inside of a dinosaur skeleton.

It appeared clearly on the original concept painting of the area. However, it was felt that the Countdown to Extinction (now DINOSAUR) attraction since it re-used existing technology would be easier and less expensive to build, yet still attract guests wanting a thrill ride. So no Excavator.

Added was Dinosaur Jubilee, a quickly produced and relatively inexpensive addition to provide an additional experience for guests. It looked temporary and sparse but it was also one of the few attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that had air conditioning. It disappeared in early spring 2001 to be replaced by Chester and Hester’s Dino-rama.

On Dinosaur Jubilee, the guide map stated, “Meander through dino artifacts – see casts of spectacular real dinosaur skeletons!”

It was located in a large white plastic tent around the corner from the Cretaceous Trail, opposite of Chester and Hester’s shop. It was a museum-like exhibit of fossils and skeleton casts that supposedly represented some of the fictitious Dino Institute’s findings in the area.

In addition, comical guided tours of the displays four times a day by some of the Institute’s grad student interns were offered for about the first year.

The displays, featuring casts supplied by the Black Hills Institute and Triebold Paleontolgoy, included among other prehistoric animals one of the most complete Tyrannosaurs Rex skeletons in existence at the time, two triceratops, a Edmontosaurus, a Pachycephalosaurus, two Tylosaurus with a Pterandon in one of its jaws, and an Archelon.

There was even an elaborate area devoted to the Ice Age. The full skeletons were positioned in poses similiar to what might be found at a Natural History museum, and there were ferns and other plants from the era mixed in with the models.

In 2000, the name of the attraction changed to Dinosaur Jubilee 2000 in honor of the milleunium.  The exhibit added some interactive versions of an audio-animatronics mammoth and a sabre tooth tiger. These creatures were not skeletons, but covered with fur.

As a precursor to the forthcoming Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama, a series of simple carnival style games were setup outside of the Dinosaur Jubilee area.

A giant, rather tacky looking, purple inflatable T-Rex as well a banner at the entrance to Dinoland were put in place to direct more guests to the Jubilee.  The background story to explain these new additions was that the Dino Institute grad students were putting on a carnival in order to raise money.

In December 2000, the exhibit was themed to Christmas with a huge Santa hat on the T-rex skeleton and large candy canes in the Ice Age section.

Dinosaur Jubilee and the Fossil Preparation Lab that also disappeared are still featured on a hand-drawn map of DinoLand featured on one of the bulletin boards in the area. The Triceratops head from the exhibit ended up at the Wilderness Explorers.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.


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