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Have You Seen Gertie at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

Jennifer Fickley-Baker

by , Editorial Content Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Have you ever spotted the towering dinosaur that stands on the side of Echo Lake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? It always catches my attention whenever I’m on that side of the park because I love “California-crazy” architecture. There’s just something that makes me smile when I drive past a building that’s topped with a 20-foot-tall donut or a fruit stand that’s shaped like a giant navel orange.

Gertie the Dinosaur at Disney's Hollywood Studios

However, this dino, which houses Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction, has often made me wonder…why a dinosaur? If Disney was going to build an over-sized animal in one of its theme parks, why not choose, I don’t know…a giant mouse?

It turns out that this monstrous dino is actually a tribute to Gertie the Trained Dinosaur, who was one of the first popular animated characters in the history of film. The character was not developed by Walt Disney, but by newspaper cartoonist Winsor McCay, who was later considered by many (including Walt) to be a pioneer in early animation.

'Gertie the Dinosaur' Animated Film

In 1913, McCay released a 12-minute short called “Gertie the Dinosaur,” starring the hand-drawn character. The film combined animation with a vaudeville-type performance that made the cartoon appear to be interactive, during which, McCay appeared onstage in front of the film’s projection screen and followed scripted lines “directing” the animated brontosaurus to do tricks, including raising her feet and rolling over. The grand finale of the performance involved McCay disappearing behind a screen and “reappearing” in animated form in the film and riding off on Gertie’s back.

Walt, who was only 12 years old when “Gertie the Dinosaur” was released, later had McCay’s performance recreated to include in a segment called “The Story of the Animated Drawing” to air on his “Disneyland” television series in 1955.

During the segment, Walt explained the significance of this character to the history of animated film, saying, “Winsor McCay’s Gertie and other animation novelties stimulated a great public interest and created a demand for this new medium. This, in turn, encouraged other pioneers to creative efforts that in time, led to the establishment of the animated cartoon as an industry.”

Construction on Gertie the Dinosaur at Disney's Hollywood Studios

In 1989, Walt Disney Imagineers honored Gertie and the role she played in the history of animated film by constructing this over-sized tribute to her at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a theme park that serves as the ultimate tribute to movie history.



  • Very interesting post. Glad I didn’t skip over it.

  • I am just catching up on my blog reader and saw this – I can’t express how happy it makes me! My first trip to Disney was when I was 5 years old, and Gertie was one of the things I remember most about the entire experience. Now, every time we go back, it doesn’t feel like a real Disney vacation until I get my picture taken in front of her. Thank you so much for this blog post!

  • I did not know this story. And am surprised by the photo at the top. I’ve been to Disney twice w/my kids and just ret’d from our most recent visit. I have taken a photo of my son (who loves dinosaurs)in front of Echo Lake w/the dinosaur in the background in 2008 and 2011, and never knew there was a backside that included an ice cream store…I feel so silly now not having checked it out!!

    • Next time you’ll have to take your son for ice cream at Gertie’s. :)

  • Keven and Jennifer – Could the sign have said “Ice Cream?” The letter L looks more like an unfinished E.

    • Yes!

  • Thanks everyone! I kept reading in my Imagineering Guide to Hollywood Studio and came across a tiny pic of the concept sketch. You’re right. The drawing shows that the words “Ice Cream” were to run across the top of Gertie. Since they are in the construction photo they must have been up there. Now I’m like Carrie from TX – i want to dig out my old photos and see what I can find. I was there in the first month of opening.
    Jennifer – I think question now is, when did the Ice Cream letters come down and was there a reason?
    (And again I get to say how much fun this is! Thanks Jennifer and everyone helping solve the mystery of “RLAM”. ) :-)

  • Thank you for the story, Jennifer.

  • #7 – D Scott
    Walt Disney World Speedway, adjacent to the Magic Kingdom guest parking lot, has a Mickey shaped pond in the infield when looking down on it from the air.

  • I love your posts…keep up the good work!

    • Thanks so much, Kelly!

  • @ Kevin. It looks like the end of icec”ream” in a weird font.

  • Gertie was first built with the word “ice cream” on her back. The tops of the E’s were short (maybe from melting?). I don’t know when the letters were removed, but they are not there today.

  • @ Kevin, I believe the letters on top of Gertie, are the words Ice Cream. The ‘L’ is the creation of the ‘R’. I might be wrong, but if I dig through 14 visits of pictures, I’m pretty sure I can find a picture with the word Ice Cream on top of Gertie!

    • Great. Loving ice cream as much as I do, you’d think this would’ve been my first guess.

  • I LOVE these kind of background to the Parks kind of stories. In fact, I just bought the set of The Imagineering Field Guide to…..books. And was just starting them. NOW after your story and photo – I have a question. The bottom photo is a construction photo for Gertie. I’m wondering what are the “R-L-A-M” letters on top of her back. I don’t recall ever seeing them. Any story of what they are?

    • Good eye, Kevin! Let me look into it.

  • Thanks for the origin of Gertie. I always thought she was there referencing California and the Tar Pits.

  • Thank you so much, this is exactly the kind of blogs I love, little snippets of information that can make me feel connected to the parks when so many miles away. Great one!

  • I remember that Echo Lake used to be part of Mickey’s ear when looking down on the park from the air….Is that still the case? I would love to know the story behind that as well…

  • I love blogs like this! Thank you for the great story about this (what I deemed) “randomnly placed” dinosaur!

    • Thanks so much! I’m happy there was a cool story behind her to share!

  • Thank you so much for this post. Gertie has always been a mystery to me and my family when we visit. I just love learnig about what influenced Walt!

    • Brian – what do you think about the animation frame we posted above? Can you believe animation once looked like that? Almost like a simple pen/paper drawing?

  • I have always wondered why there was a dinosaur in Echo Lake. Love this kind of wdw thrivia. Thank-you.

    • Good to hear. We hope to add more posts like these in the future.

  • I also like how there are dino footprints in the grounds directly around Gertie.

  • We always try to get some ice cream at Dinosaur Gertie’s!

  • Very cool! Of course, I’ve heard of Gertie, & I’ve seen the ice cream shop (which has never been open while I’ve been there), but I never made the connection. Thanks!

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