More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

Vintage Walt Disney World: Digging up Adventure at Dino Institute

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

“Our tours are designed to take you to the early crustaceous period. And I can assure you that all Time Rovers have been securely locked on those coordinates.” Famous last words from Dr. Marsh, right?

Disney’s Animal Kingdom brought the age of the dinosaurs back to life in 1998 when the Dino Institute in Dinoland, U.S.A., opened. Here’s a look at the Institute still under construction in October 1997.

Originally called Countdown to Extinction, this attraction takes guests 65 million years back in time to rescue an iguanodon from extinction. The attraction changed its name on May 1, 2000 in honor of the Walt Disney Pictures film “Dinosaur.”

DINOSAUR is one of two attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to open before the movie it was based upon premiered in theaters. The other is “It’s Tough to be a Bug!” based on the Disney•Pixar film “A Bug’s Life“.

It doesn’t matter how many times I travel back in time on a Time Rover, I always believe Dr. Seeker as he screams, “You’re not gonna make it!” Luckily we do make it, and I’m still here to write about my adventures at the Dino Institute.


  • One of the more underrated rides at WDW, and the sleeper hit ride at AK. Excellent animatronics, special effects, detail. Just make sure you get ready to be jostled and rocked all over the place!

  • @Jennifer from NC. I don’t think the dinosaur out front ever changed. We visted AK in 1998 when it opened. I remember being surprised two years later, when the Dinosaur movie was released, to see that the dino on display was none other than the star of the movie, Alador, the Iguanodon. Now I want to see the “vintage” photo even more!

  • I’ll add to the list of comments re: this being the wrong photo. Not only was the ride not called Dinosaur but the dino out front was different. I’d LOVE to see the right photo here Nate! Please please share! 🙂

    • Hello, everyone. Yes, the other two pictures disappeared by accident. The post has been fixed. :),

  • I am also viewing a current photo. I’ll check back soon to see if this changes, since I love this ride:)

  • Love that ride. We make a point to go on it at least once each trip to WDW. The big meatasaurous still catches us off guard!

  • Did you post the wrong photo? The posted photo shows the completed attraction with its current name.

  • Is that photo the correct one? When this ride first opened it was Countdown to Extinction, not Dinosaur.

    Also, I would love to see what a Countdown to Extinction Fastpass looked like if you had a photo available.

  • You know this ride I love. The rare two times i been to WDW 2007 and 2008 I would make animal kingdom and this my first ride. I just wish it was a little longer because it is so much fun, Hmmmm rocking dino lol

  • Hands-down the scariest ride in any of the Disney parks. Truly amazing, the ride is so well designed. I prefer it to the Indiana Jones Ride (which is built on the same platform), because while Indiana Jones is exciting, the Dino ride will FREAK YOU OUT!

    Can’t wait to ride it again.

  • Cretaceous Era, not crustaceous era. Crustaceous era sounds like a time where you could have all the crab, lobster and stuffed crust pizza you want.

    • Thanks!

  • Loud, scary and awesome. We’ve ridden this many times, but my kids have yet to see it. Their eyes stay closed the whole time!

    • Same goes for my Mom. Never opens her eyes!

  • Got to visit DAK during the resort sneak preview in March of ’98. No question, Countdown to Extinction (as it was then called) was the best part of the day. We still laugh about the formulas on the pipes as you enter the ride; what a wonderful experience!

  • An excellent attraction, and I’m glad I don’t have the on-ride photo from my first experience here because I was legitimately frightened (don’t startle me like that, dinosaurs!). But Countdown to Extinction was the superior name if you ask me!

    • My on ride photo is never pretty either. 🙂

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