The World’s Crappiest Dinosaur Ride

I was about to write my review of the rest of Indominus Escape, but it looks like I’ll have to put that off, hopefully not for another month. Instead I’d like to show you an adventure I had on a unique bootleg of Universal’s Jurassic Park River Adventure ride, a journey that contained its own wonderful brand of unintentional insanity.

For those who are less interested and just want some Jurassic World 2 news, I have that for you too. From Jurassiraptor, this very interesting casting call:

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According to this, a young girl (and it seems to be very important that she’s young; boy, they’re aging actresses out of the business faster and faster these days) named Lucy will be playing a “significant role” in the next movie. By the way she’s described, it seems like she’ll likely be more than the obligatory kid, and she’ll be in a lot of the scenes. This is kind of a change– from the original trilogy at least, given how significant Zach and Gray were in Jurassic World– but if the producers find the capable actress they’re looking for, that shouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Lucy seems similar to Lex, at least from this description, and Lex was a great part of the first movie.

Being who I am, I can’t help but take every possible opportunity to talk about Ian Malcolm showing up in the next movie, but I think I actually have a solid case this time. Part of Lucy’s requirements is that she can have “tender moments with her father”. Given the movies’ history of having absent parents in them, especially absent fathers, I think it’s pretty likely that Lucy won’t exactly have grown up with a perfect family or father figure. And which fan favorite character is well-known for being an absent father, and thus would have two reasons to make a cameo in the film? None but Ian Malcolm. Lucy’s age requirement might have something to do with this as well. If she really is Ian’s kid, her age might need to line up exactly with an in-universe timeline. I have no idea why it would be so important that Ian had another kid exactly 9 years before the events of the movie (in 2009) but I’m sure Spielberg and Trevorrow have their reasons. Whether I’m right or not, and boy do I hope I am, this is an interesting bit of news and gives us a lot to speculate about. I’m very interested to see what else we can get a hold of from the movie’s casting calls.

And now, on to the titular world’s crappiest dinosaur ride! You may remember that I visited Pigeon Forge, Tennessee over this past summer, and that I refused to shut up about the Margaritaville there. This weekend I visited again, this time because it was my nineteenth birthday and all I wanted was to hang out in a flashy tourist town and be stared at from all angles by the leering visage of Dolly Parton. I was aware last time of an attraction called the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride, but I also knew that it was notoriously terrible and expensive. This time, however, I told the woman at the ticket counter that it was my birthday, and she gave me and my dad a huge discount. (If she or anyone from the attraction is reading this, you have an absolutely wonderful person in your midst and I’m forever grateful.) Thus we embarked on a hilariously terrible ride ripoff that I’ll remember and laugh at for a long, long time.

Before I show anything, you should know that it was very difficult to get any good pictures or videos inside the ride, and so most of the pictures that you’ll see will be from others at TripAdvisor. My dad was kind enough to take a video on his phone, although most of it is just us chatting and making cheesy jokes in absolute darkness. (The video quality is about the same quality as the actual ride, we joked.) If you’re interested, here it is (this version doesn’t have sound):

Before the actual ride began, we saw this display:

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See how the animatronics look like such a direct ripoff of Jurassic Park dinosaurs that you probably wouldn’t be surprised if they came right from Stan Winston Studios? That’s a continuing trend throughout the ride. Also note how they slapped a cloth frill on a TLW raptor and called it a dilophosaur.

When we boarded the ride and it began its slow, herky-jerky journey, the plain wooden gates opened and allowed us into the almost total darkness of the ride. Immediately we were surrounded by distant dinosaur noises and camouflage material tacked up onto the walls, intended to look like jungle foliage but painfully obviously bought from an army surplus store. I can’t begin to emphasize how dark this place was, by the way. In the pictures from TripAdvisor that you’re about to see, I’m astounded by how the photographers managed to get such good quality and clarity from a place lit like a county fair’s haunted house. Something else worth noting is the structure of the ride itself. In quality rides like the one this one rips off, riders feel like they’re in an immersive environment, and the dinosaurs happen to be a part of that environment; the animatronics are noticeable, but they blend in. That wasn’t the case here. More than anything, it felt like a Jurassic Jungle Museum, where we rode through empty space until we came to each dinosaur. I found myself mentally referring to the different scenes as “attractions.”

We came to a stop, and above us appeared the first dinosaur:

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As well as being one of the more well-constructed dinosaurs (another Stan Winston copy) this one moved the most convincingly. The way it leaned down towards us wasn’t perfect or too convincing, but it was better than the unstable jerking of the other animatronics. It also allowed me to get this terrifying series of pictures:

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By the way, it doesn’t look green because I was using a night-vision camera or anything. For that dinosaur and several others, the lighting choice just happened to be the exact same shade of eerie green used by night vision cameras. I’m not sure whether that was intentional or not.

Next was a giant spider (about as scary as the one used in the Halloween display at your local Party City) and this fellow:

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It moved slightly up and down, and even in pitch darkness I could tell how fake it was. Where are its eyes?

Next was a cave, with a video screen showing a pair of CGI eyes and this adorable little girl:

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If whoever put this ride together had stuck with just ripping off or stealing Jurassic Park animatronics, it would’ve been a shorter but better experience, because the animatronics only seemed to go wrong when the creators tried to make their own designs. Claire here was one of the better dinosaurs, and I love her with all of my heart.

Later on in the cave, in a clear imitation of Hollywood’s version of the River Adventure, this very obviously plastic raptor fell (it was intended to be jumping down terrifyingly, but it failed) from the ceiling:

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Aaah, how scary.

Next, and I can’t find a good picture anywhere of this, was a terrifying pterodactyl that looked far more like a human who’d undergone terrifying medical experiments and been genetically fused with a pterodactyl. You’ll see another of these creatures later on. While we regarded this genetic mistake with horror and a bit of sympathy, one of its counterparts swooped over our heads, carrying a child in its talons. Normally I’d envy the chance to be taken to a pterodactyl’s nest and become part of its family, but this time I let the kid take one for the team. I did find a picture of that.

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Prehistoric Harambe?

Next came my favorite part of the ride. Can you take a guess why? Yes, because it involved two baby dinosaurs. A baby T. rex and a baby triceratops were hanging out together, supervised by a mother of far worse quality than both of them. For all intents and purposes, it was a little interspecies play date, a Jurassic version of Land Before Time. I have absolutely no complaints about it, so just admire the pictures.

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Past that was this T. rex head, which jolted around in a really unnatural way. I thought it was creepy and there would be no animatronics that would freak me out more than this one. I was wrong. Oh, so very, woefully wrong.

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Then, after some thoroughly unimpressive octupus tentacles poking up from the water (that’s the point in the video where you hear my dad yelling “It’s an octopus!”) came this badly-postured fellow. He didn’t even bother trying to move, just stood there and roared. I’m pretty sure he didn’t even see us from that angle.

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On his right was a little ankylosaurus who didn’t look too good but who I’m sure was trying his best. I got a picture that captured the untold misery and torment on his face:

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Feels bad, man.

Right after that was the first of two moments on the ride when I was legitimately scared. Remember that horrifying pterodactyl-man abomination? There was another one, but this one was more detailed, better-lit and its head was the size of my entire body. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I have sort of a fear of big animatronics, so I was lucky that this one only moved its head, because I’d have jumped out of the boat and swam away if it had started moving towards me. Just look at this thing’s eyes and tell me it isn’t the product of some torturous genetic fusion procedure that had to be sequestered in this ride to protect it from humanity. Just try to tell me its existence isn’t a war crime.

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Go to 4:15 in this video to hear the tortured screech it emitted, if your soul is dark enough to keep you from feeling sympathy.

The terror of that encounter could never be forgotten, but the dilophosaur (it was an actual, Jurassic-park-style dilophosaur this time) that came next was pretty cool. It may have once been able to spit, but those days are over.

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There were a surprising number of EXIT signs 193 million years ago.

Next, standing in front of a pretty cool fake volcano, was a raptor, the ride’s only non-animatronic. It looked pretty well-made but sadly it was doomed to stay in one position forever, although that could’ve been a good thing since it wouldn’t become terrifyingly broken that way. Its quality, as well as the way it stood out from the rest of the ride’s inhabitants, led me to wonder whether it was in fact stolen or bought from a real Universal park, or similar attraction, instead of just copied. It was yet another hilarious reminder of exactly how hokey and thrown-together the ride really was– besides, of course, the broken animatronics, lazy scenery and giant pterodactyls with bodies that seemed to be made of plastic bags.

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In what proved to be a continuing trend, up came another scary T. rex– not scary because of the threat that it’d eat or even come near us, but scary in that it looked and moved in a way that no living creature was ever meant to. This was a downgrade from the last one in that its jaw hung open at an unnatural angle, as if it’d been unhinged like a snake’s. But this was far from the creepiest rex on the tour. Oh no. It got far, far worse.

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God never intended this.

This rex was part of a family, where the mother looked pretty dilapidated and terrible but like less of an unholy monstrosity, and the baby was another Jurassic Park copy but sadly was concealed in near-total darkness.

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On their right were a few weird-looking plants with mouths that opened and closed. (This is the point in the video where you can hear me cracking stupid “Feed me, Seymour!” jokes.) They were still less unnatural-looking than the broken-down daddy rex. They also looked exactly like the kind of thing that my dad would make from papier mache to decorate his elementary-school library.

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We passed through a cave with an admittedly cool animatronic on one side: part of a giant snake, which looked like it was slithering through a hole in a rock and only its midsection was visible. Another dilophosaur paid us a visit, but this one seemed to be in the same predicament as the one in the entrance. Somebody had tacked another fake frill onto a raptor, and it looked absolutely pissed and unwilling to play dress-up. At least it was a halfway decent fake frill this time.

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“C’mon, guys, Halloween’s over. It’s not funny anymore, guys.”

Finally we came to the last room of the ride; daylight was visible under the door ahead of us. Before we’d boarded, we had heard previous riders screaming at something right before the gates opened for them to disembark, although we couldn’t hear any noises to figure out exactly what the jump scare was. Above our heads in near-total darkness, we saw the head of the snake that we’d seen slithering past us earlier, gnashing its teeth and making slurping sounds. (It took about 30 or 40 seconds for it to actually start moving, during which the 4-year-old girl in the seat behind us declared, “It’s dead, apparently.” I just about died laughing.)

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This continued for about 10 or 20 seconds, and everyone in the boat murmured that it wasn’t really scary and that we didn’t know what the people in the last boat were screaming about. But then a door under the snake opened, and out came the real jump scare.

As I mentioned earlier in this post and as I’ve probably said a million times on this blog, I have a fear of big and/or run-down animatronics. I’ve pretty much gotten it under control, which is how I had fun on the rest of the ride instead of freaking out every time the lights went up and another giant dinosaur robot was revealed. But this was a different case entirely. The T. rex that popped out was so beaten-up and so wild-eyed that I’ve restrained myself from making Five Nights at Freddy’s comparisons throughout the rest of this post, just so that the one I make here will have more impact. This thing looked like something straight out of the various games, except it was too freaky- and dangerous-looking to make plushies or T-shirts of. I’m showing several pictures of it in the hope that I can re-create for my readers at least a tiny fraction of the sheer unmitigated terror that became one with me when this thing rammed out of the wall 2 feet from my face.

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The disembodied head took its sweet time retracting back into the wall, and then the doors mercifully opened and the ride was over, freeing us from Springtrap Rex’s grasp. Overall, I would say that the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride really wasn’t a bad ride. Obviously it was a bad ride, in execution and with almost all of its components, but in the so-bad-it’s-good way that made people love Sharknado. Anyone who enjoys cheesiness would have a good time mocking it, and anyone who wants to see something pretty close to real-life baby dinosaurs might like the good-quality animatronics. If you live anywhere near Pigeon Forge or are planning to vacation there anytime soon, I would sincerely recommend paying a visit. The $13 adult admission is a small price to pay for 7 minutes of hilarity.

Something else that’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area is the Flea Trader’s Paradise flea market in the nearby town of Sevierville. I’ve probably recommended the place before on my blog, but I’m glad to do it again. There are 4 big stalls there which deal exclusively in vintage toys, including Jurassic Park. I had far more to spend than I did last time, so I got a much bigger and better haul:

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The sellers were nice enough to give me discounts because it was my birthday and because I bought so much; they’re wonderful people. (It’s the stall near the back left if you visit.) In case you couldn’t tell, I had a very happy birthday!

I have a lot of work to do in college, so my Indominus Escape review might take a while, especially if I keep procrastinating because I’m tired. Feel free to bug me on Twitter  and remind me to do it.

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