Show Hide
Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Have You Seen Gertie at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

posted on May 10th, 2011 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Editorial Content Manager

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.

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Disney History, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort



Shawn on May 10th, 2011 at 9:40 am

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!


Steve on May 10th, 2011 at 9:48 am

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


Jim on May 10th, 2011 at 9:52 am

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


Debra on May 10th, 2011 at 10:54 am

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


Jennifer Fickley-Baker on May 10th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

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


Brian on May 10th, 2011 at 11:11 am

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!


Jennifer Fickley-Baker on May 10th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

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?


Jaime on May 10th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

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


Jennifer Fickley-Baker on May 10th, 2011 at 1:16 pm

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


D Scott on May 10th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

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…


Carol on May 10th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

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!


Vicki from TN on May 10th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

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


kevin on May 10th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

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?


Jennifer Fickley-Baker on May 10th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Good eye, Kevin! Let me look into it.


Carrie from TX on May 10th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

@ 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!


Jennifer Fickley-Baker on May 10th, 2011 at 4:07 pm

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


Larry from FL on May 10th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

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.


Denny from FL on May 10th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

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


Kelly from FL on May 10th, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I love your posts…keep up the good work!


Jennifer Fickley-Baker on May 11th, 2011 at 11:46 am

Thanks so much, Kelly!


Skip from FL on May 10th, 2011 at 11:37 pm

#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.


Ricardo on May 11th, 2011 at 1:01 am

Thank you for the story, Jennifer.


kevin on May 11th, 2011 at 1:03 am

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”. ) :-)


Ricardo on May 11th, 2011 at 1:15 am

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


Jennifer Fickley-Baker on May 11th, 2011 at 11:45 am



Tricia on May 11th, 2011 at 9:06 am

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!!


Jennifer Fickley-Baker on May 11th, 2011 at 11:47 am

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


Theresa on May 15th, 2011 at 9:14 am

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!


Brian on May 16th, 2011 at 9:25 am

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


Tina from NY on June 4th, 2011 at 12:16 am