The difficulty is making a dinosaur dark ride that appeals to all ages.
We have to establish a tone that’s awesome, without being too scary. We’ll start by figuring out the setting.
I have a theory about the relationship between settings and dark rides, but I’ll discuss it in-depth in a later article. For now, let me over-simplify: dark rides can be (1) stylized, (2) set indoors, or (3) set outdoors, but during the night.
A stylized dinosaur dark ride.
Yeah, I have no clue how to do this without making it’s a small world (with big lizards).
Animal Kingdom is a park that thrives upon realism.
It doesn’t really embrace the fantastical.
A stylized dinosaur dark ride would feel out of place. Nevermind.
A dinosaur dark ride that’s set indoors.
It could be like DisneySea’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.
We ride a mine train into a cave. It’s pitch black, but soon we spot a tributary of magma. We follow it to its source--a big ol’ molten river.
The magma illuminates the other bank, revealing a subterranean preserve of dinosaurs! The river is the only thing that separates us from them.
That sounds pretty cool, but it’s more of a thrill ride than an all-ages dark ride. Let’s develop this later.
A dinosaur dark ride that’s set outdoors, at night.
Again, nothing comes to mind. It seems intrinsically scary, even if they’re herbivores.
It smelled us with its tongue.
It hunts in packs.
Makes you wonder where its friends are.
Maybe we can come back to it at a later date.
Sorry, Air Conditioning. You’re ideal, but theming is mandatory, and at the moment, you’re mutually exclusive.
Forget the dark ride. Let’s go outside.
When Dinoland was first designed, it included a safari. I dunno why they didn’t build it, but I assume it was due to budgetary restraints.
Since we’re building a utopia, our budget is infinite! Let’s design a safari with dinosaurs! For now, we’ll call it the Mesozoic Safari.
It would be a variation of Kilimanjaro Safaris.
We would ride outdoors in a jeep, and observe animatronic dinosaurs. They’d be life-size, and they’d look as realistic as possible.
We'd see dinosaurs in their natural habitats, and we wouldn’t worry about being attacked any more than we do in Kilimanjaro Safaris. It would be awesome, without being too scary.
And it would be especially easy for us to believe that the animatronics are living dinosaurs, because the park has another safari full of authentic living animals. It would feel like one in a series of safaris.
That said, the Mesozoic Safari can’t share Kilimanjaro Safaris’ tone, because it’s not all-ages. Half of Kilimanjaro is a PowerPoint presentation about animals, and the other half is a lecture about conservation. It’s a ride full of whimsy, but devoid of wit.
The same could be said for Animal Kingdom.
We need humor! A ride in the vein of the Jungle Cruise would not only serve as a park-wide icebreaker, it would also undermine our dino-induced terror.
Even the most terrible lizards will be diminished by a vaudevillian tour guide. Children might not understand the jokes, but they will understand that it’s meant to be silly.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t adopt Kilimanjaro Safaris’ passion for conservation. In fact, it could be the ride's underlying joke.
Hindsight is our friend, here. If we establish that we’ve traveled back in time to ride the Mesozoic Safari, then we know that every animal that we see is going to die in an extinction event.
So whenever a Tour Guide begs us to “help save these beautiful creatures,” we’ll laugh at the dramatic irony that they’re gonna be slaughtered by asteroids, regardless of our conservation efforts.
Of course, this is subversive. I know, it’s only been sixty-five million years. It’s too soon. Sorry.
We’ve got a lounge at our disposal!
If this was a straightforward safari, we’d deliberate over which species to include. We’d choose one specific period...let’s say we pick the Triassic. We’d only use species who lived during the Triassic, and exclude all species from the Jurassic and the Cretaceous.
Tyrannosaurs and stegosaurs didn't coexist.
But since this is a humorous ride, we’re prioritizing content over accuracy. If they’re dinosaurs, they’re welcome!
We’ll also have animatronic people, wearing the same uniforms as the Tour Guides. They’ll act as game wardens, veterinarians, prey...whatever.
This allows the real Tour Guides to improvise jokes about what it’s like to work for the Mesozoic Safari. If they include us in the Safari’s “inside jokes,” it builds a sense of community, and we’ll be even more immersed.
Our search for an all-ages dark ride in Animal Kingdom continues.
Still, it was a productive brainstorm. We thought up the mine coaster through a dinosaur-populated cave. And the Mesozoic Safari may swelter like a pater familias, but it’ll appeal to the whole familia.
I'm giddy about the amount of sight gags I'll be able to cram into the ride. But it dawns on me that, in addition to designing it, I should also write its script.
And I started this blog so that I wouldn’t have to write scripts.
Damn you, Kismet. Damn you.