Dinoland USA. You either love it or you hate it. There isn’t much middle ground. Many see it as unoriginal, cheap and tacky. I admit I did too until I discovered the backstory behind this area. Disney Addict that I am, I should have had more faith in the imagination and storytelling prowess of Disney’s Imagineers. The complex storyline weaves its way throughout the area and once you know what to look for, you’ll see that Imagineers actually delivered a fun story with painstaking detail! These days I truly enjoy Dinoland and the immersive experience it provides. Read on to discover the rich story behind this surprising detailed land:
It’s 1947, somewhere in the Midwestern United States. A small fishing lodge stands alone beside a highway (Highway 498 to be exact). The area doesn’t get many visitors but, just in case, there is a gas station, ran by an elderly couple Chester and Hester, not far from the lodge selling odds and ends to supply travelers on what is sure to be a “just passing through” pitstop. The sleepy little spot was too small to find itself on any maps.
One day, simply by coincidence, an amateur fossil hunter found a few old bones nearby. Excited for what he hoped was his “big find” he took the bones to some friends who were paleontologists. They ran the bones through rigorous tests and verified their authenticity. The amateur archeologist had found not only authentic dinosaur bones but pretty rare ones! Excited to complete the important skeleton, the professionals and their amateur buddy formed a team and purchased the ramshackle old lodge and the area around it to search for any remaining bones. Any bones would be nice, but the team hopes to find a completed skeleton of the rare dino and earn a place in archeological history. Much to their jubilation, they found another bone…and then another… and another. Before long a skeleton was indeed beginning to take shape!
The area was indeed rich with fossilized bones that were of great importance.
It didn’t take long for word of the significance of the area to get around and soon experts and bright-eyed paleontology students began migrating to the area to study and discover. New dig sites were created, the original being depleted but they found the area was brimming with bones and thus the Dino Institute was born.
They created a Dormitory and a cafeteria but struggled for funds. The popularity of the area was picking up though so the once desolate area was seeing an influx of day trippers intrigued by the areas flurry of activity.
The team seized the opportunity and opened the original dig site up to tourists to come around it. You know it today as the boneyard. They also decided to earn a bit of money, they open their cafeteria to the public. Being science-minded and not at all the creative type, they didn’t put much effort into naming the eatery, simply choosing to call it “Restaurant”.
The area grew and so did the Dino Institute. From humble beginnings, the institute became renowned and esteemed. The prestige afforded the opportunity to expand its student base and soon a vibrant student community had sprung up. College kids being college kids, hijinx of all sorts abounded but none more so than the “osaurus” gag. became a running joke became to write “osaurus” behind everything: Textbooks, road signs, you name it.
Finally, one night a group of students decided to pull the ultimate prank and erected a gigantic wooden sign with “osaurus” hastily written in large letters. One night, under cover of darkness they climbed to the roof of the restaurant and affixed it to the sign. The next morning everyone woke to see their cafeteria was now named “Resturantosaurus”. It was a hit and the sign was never taken down. (If you look carefully, you’ll notice “osaurus” scrawled throughout the area, never having been removed as a testament to the humor of the Institutes beginning).
The restaurant did well, as did the other small roadside stands the students built to earn a few bucks. They gave them funny names like “Trilobites” reveling in the science joke that probably would go unnoticed by passersby.
With the influx of cash, the Institute was able to build a shiny new building with the latest technology. Occasionally an open house is held for the tourists to experience the Institutes research first hand.
Meanwhile, that elderly couple Chester and Hester? Never being ones to miss out on a money making scheme, they opened a roadside carnival in a nearby parking lot to take money from err… entertain the day trippers. It wasn’t much, just a little amusement area, much like you find traveling around the country at the time but Chester and Hester ran it with pride until they passed away in the mid-1960’s.
Grateful to the Dino Institute for their success, the carnival was left to the Institue to do with as they saw fit. Without much thought at all, they decided to keep it just as it was as a tribute to the couple (and a way to add even more revenue to fund their research).
And so a tourist trap and a prestigious Science research center grew alongside each other and found success against all odds and became the area we know today as Dinoland USA.
So there you have it. After discovering that story, I absolutely fell in love with the land. One of my favorite things to do in the area now is to seek out all of the little details all over that tell this story. They are everywhere if you know what you’re looking for! Did the backstory change your mind about the land? I’d love to hear what you think of Dinoland USA!
If you’re as excited as I am to discover all of the intricate details if Dinoland USA, contact me to today by filling out the form below or by sending me an email at Jill@pixiedusteddream.com! I am a Travel Agent with Pixie Dusted Travel and Events- the official travel agency of Chip and Co and Disney Addicts and I’d love to help you plan the perfect Disney adventure for you and your family! Let’s turn your Disney dreams into Disney plans!
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