A History of Dinoland U.S.A. and Restaurantosaurus – Part Two


Yesterday I discussed the humble beginnings of both Dinoland and Restaurantosaurus and how the discovery of dinosaur bones forever changed Diggs County. Today I’ll continue that story.

After a long day in the hot sun, the students needed a way to unwind in the evening. To that end, one section of the lodge was transformed into a recreation room to be called “The Hip Joint.”

The Hip Joint

The Hip Joint

The room abounds with games such as a badminton net, a carrom board, a basketball hoop, croquet set, a Frisbee, and an assortment of other sports equipment and board games.

Games and Sports Equipment

Games and Sports Equipment

This room is also home to a number of traditions that began in the early years. One of these asks each student to bring a rock from their home town. At the conclusion of their internship, they are to paint a message on the stone and it is displayed with honor.





There are also a number of tributes that are bestowed on the students. One of these is the Zip Award. This dubious honor is received by the individual who works the hardest all summer and finds nothing – zip – for the entire season.

Zip Award

Zip Award

On the other end of the scale, the Golden Trowel Award is given to the student that achieves the greatest number of discoveries during the year.

Golden Trowel Award

Golden Trowel Award

Golden Trowel Award

The Golden Boot Award is given to the student who has walked the most miles in search of dinosaur bones. Of course, this tired soul must give up one of their boots in order to be immortalized.

Golden Boot Award

Golden Boot Award

An Airstream trailer used by one of the early paleontologist has been incorporated into The Hip Joint. In it are two booths and a jukebox. When visiting, be sure to read some of the musical selections the students have to choose from. Here are just a few:

End of the World by Skeeter Davis
Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis
All Dug Up by Elvis Presley
I am a Rock by Simon & Garfunkel
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2
All Those Years Ago by George Harrison



Airstream Booth

Airstream Juke Box

On the outside of the Airstream, one prankish student has left his mark.

Airstream Hijinx

The professors and students also have a large selection of reading material to choose from for research and pleasure. Shelves in almost every room are crammed full of books and National Geographic magazines. Here are a few of the titles:

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King
Touch the Earth by David Luban
Stone Deep by Davie Wiltse
The Last One Left by John MacDonald


National Geographic

Of course, the student’s entertainment isn’t confined to The Hip Joint. Fun can also be had outdoors with a little imagination.

On the backside of the water tower is a crudely painted target.

Water Tower

Water Tower

Across the way, on the porch roof, we find two lawn chairs, a cooler, and other paraphernalia. Attached to the wall is a rack full of plunger-type arrows and a couple of bows. Also, connected to the eves is a pulley and rope.

Arrow Game

Arrow Game

If you follow the rope, it stretches all the way to the water tower and has a bucket full of arrows attached to it.

Arrow Game

It appears our ingenious students have devised a unique game to play in their off hours and have come up with an interesting way to retrieve their arrows.

Also seen in a porch window sill is a bucket of golf balls and a club. I feel sorry for the people driving by on U.S. Highway 498.

Golf Balls

Nearby on Pterodactyl Pterrace, a basketball hoop has been set up for a little one-on-one play.

Pterodactyl Pterrace

Pterodactyl Pterrace

Back inside the lodge, more touches of the student’s sense of humor can be found. For example, this French poster for the Japanese movie Godzilla is displayed proudly. Although not a real dinosaur, Godzilla does have the characteristics of several prehistoric creatures. He has the head and lower body of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the neck and forearms of Iguanodon, a triple row of dorsal plates reminiscent of a Stegosaurus, and the tail and skin texture of an alligator. Godzilla’s monstrous size and destructive powers were similar in scope to other films of the day that featured dinosaurs terrorizing the hero and his helpless heroine.

Godzilla Poster

How about this message that one dimwitted student left for Animal? Poor Jenny.

Surprise Birthday Party

We’ve all heard that if you dig a hole deep enough, you’ll end up in China. Well one student has marked a map with instructions. On a Post-it note placed over the Central United States he has written, “Start digging here.” On another Post-it note over China he states, “End up here.”

Start Digging Here

Here are few more signs found around the lodge.

Various Signs

Various Signs

Various Signs

Various Signs

Various Signs

Apparently, Hawaiian Shirt Day is a big event at the lodge. You can even see a few shirts drying above the porch roof.

Hawaiian Shirts

I especially like this pterodactyl with a sign around his neck which reads, “I (heart) Flying.”

I (heart) Flying

The students are masters at pranks, but the professors try to pull a few tricks of their own – enough so that a scoreboard was created to keep track of who was getting the better of whom. Here are the latest standings.

Prank Score Board

Pay phones were a fact of life in the early days of the Institute. When a call was received and the recipient was absent, a message was taken and thumbtacked to the wall. When The Hip Joint was created years later, a second, more modern pay phone was installed in this room.

Old Pay Phone

New Pay Phone

Dr. Bernard Dunn is the Chairman of the Dino Institute Internship Program and oversees the selection process of new candidates. He is also the senior paleontologist and his name can be found on several bulletin boards in and out of the lodge. His caricature can also be seen in The Hip Joint in a drawing titled “Over Dunn.”

Over Dunn

In the early years, the commissary supply room was continually being broken into by hungry students. Try as they might to secure the doors to this storage facility, the locks were repeatedly damaged. Finally, management gave up and made snacks and soft drinks available throughout the day in a cooler to be located on the porch. The mangled padlocks can be seen hanging against the signs and the broken latches can be seen lining the supply room door jam.

Commissary Sign and Locks

Commissary Sign and Locks

Commissary Sign and Locks

By the way, if you go looking for the cooler, it can be found on the porch roof with the plunger/arrow players.


For a number of years, McDonalds was a major sponsor of the Dino Institute and helped run the cafeteria. But like so many other philanthropic organizations, they pulled their funding in search of other charitable causes. While present here, a McDonald’s French fries carton could be seen in one of the dinosaur’s mouth.


During the McDonalds years, two interesting signs could be seen around Dinoland. The first was located along the exit route from the attraction “Countdown to Extinction,” later “Dinosaur.” Playing with their slogan of the time, “Have you had your break today?” a sign was erected that said, “Have you had a Crocodilian today?”

Have you had a Crocodilian today?

Another sign was mocked up to look like a monster-movie poster with a number of clever catch phrases that captured the horror of a beast attacking with the catchphrases of McDonalds.

Movie Poster

Tourists visiting Restaurantosaurus today no longer select food from a cafeteria line but rather an overhead menu. Selections include hamburgers, hotdogs, fries, nuggets, a salad, and a few other offerings.

Ordering Area

Ordering Area

Dining rooms are located on both sides of the ordering area. Condiment and fill-your-own drink stations are found in both areas. In addition, fixin’s stations allow guests to complete their burgers with a variety of toppings.

Condiment Bar

Condiment Bar

Topping Station

The seating at Restaurantosaurus is spread out among seven rooms. This helps alleviate the noise level somewhat and provides a slightly more intimate atmosphere. Note, some of the dining rooms are dark. Take this into account when selecting a place to eat. Also available are outside tables. These can be found on the porch out front and beyond the tent rooms.

Restaurant Seating

Restaurant Seating

Restaurant Seating

Restaurant Seating

Restaurant Seating

Restaurantosaurus is a busy establishment as it is the only counter service location in the Animal Kingdom that sells hamburgers. The restaurant opens daily at 11am and lines begin to form before this time. Closing time is determined by park closing. To see the complete menu, click here.

Here is a picture of a hamburger, chicken nuggets, a chocolate mousse, and cheese cake a friend and I enjoyed while researching this article.

Chicken Nuggets



To be honest, I don’t eat here often. The main reason, I prefer the selections at Flame Tree BBQ and Pizzafari. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like Restaurantosaurus. The food they offer is good if you’re in the mood for “standard” theme park fare.

I also love the theming at Restaurantosaurus. A person could spend hours examining all the details and reading the materials posted on the walls. The Imagineers outdid themselves when designing this establishment. I’ve only offered you a small smattering of the stories available here. I highly recommend giving this place a try if for no other reason, it will give you an excuse to be immersed in a fantastic world.

Now I’d like to break the fourth wall and provide you with an interesting detail about Dinoland U.S.A. But before I do, I must travel back in time to Disneyland, 1955. (I’ll borrow a Time Rover from the Dino Institute for the trip.)

As we all know, the financing for Disneyland was an uphill battle. Because of this, Walt and his team were constantly looking for ways to cut costs. One decision to save money dictated the use of less expensive asphalt instead of concrete for many of the streets and thoroughfares. This would generate a significant savings. Unfortunately, asphalt becomes soft on hot days. When Disneyland opened, Southern California was undergoing a heat wave. Many women’s high heeled shoes sank into the soft surfaces and they literally walked out of their shoes.

In order to be as authentic as possible, the Imagineers wanted Dinoland U.S.A. to be covered in asphalt. After all, this was how the roadways of the 1940’s were manufactured. However, they didn’t want to make the same mistake as their predecessors at Disneyland. So they used concrete and artistically made it appear as asphalt. This was achieved by pouring a carefully prepared mixture of colored concrete over chicken wire. Then, at just the right moment, the chicken wire was removed, leaving a rough surface that resembled an old highway. Additional cracks and potholes where then carved into the surface.

Concrete - Asphalt

Three years ago, I wrote an article about Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama. Although some of the information is a repeat of what you’ve read here, there is additional material about the mini-amusement park they created. To read this blog, click here.

When planning a land or attraction, the Imagineers come up with a complete backstory first. Then they design the attraction using this backstory and staying within its given parameters. When the attraction (or land) is debuted, this story is usually reported in press releases. After that, it’s rarely mentioned again. But the backstory is there if you take the time to look for it. The Imagineers aren’t trying to hide it from you. In fact, if the story were too obvious, the ambiance would seem fake. If you want to know the backstory of almost any attraction, it is there if you take the time to look. I gathered the vast majority of the information I provided you with today by taking the time to explore this facility and being observant.

In real life, no one tells you the backstory when visiting an area unless you’re touring a historical monument. When you stop at a mom and pop roadside stand in Florida to buy a bag of oranges, no one tells you the history of the citrus crops or how these people came to operate this humble stand. If you’re really curious, you need to investigate and ask questions.

Well that’s it for Dinoland and Restaurantosaurus. I hope you’ve enjoy this journey through time and I’ve inspired you to check out this eatery on some future visit. Now that I’ve forced you to slow down and smell the roses and provided you with the backstory, I hope you’ll find this restaurant as intriguing as I do.

I’d like to end this article with a small clipping I found on one of the Restaurantosaurus bulletin boards.

Everything I Know

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17 Replies to “A History of Dinoland U.S.A. and Restaurantosaurus – Part Two”

  1. Hi Jack. I have a question about the Airstream. Do you know if the red numbers on the back are original? We had an Airstream years ago and the numbers are serial numbers for The Wally Byam Club. It’s a group for Airsteam owners. They have all kinds of rallies and things like that. It would be interesting to see where the Dinoland Airstream has been. Thanks so much for your blog. Keeps me in Disney mode til the next trip!! Wendy

    Jack’s Answer:

    I have no idea if the red lettering is original or if the Imagineers added them after the fact because they have some special meaning known only to a select few. Sorry.

  2. Jack,
    Thanks again for a great article. My family and I are “blitzers” as they say, but I usually take a break in the early morning after riding Dinosaur while they run to get fastpasses for Kilimanjaro Safari’s. During that time I always walk through Restarantosaurus. I discovered the original dinosaur artwork from Fantasia on the walls and have been hooked ever since at seeing whatever else they have. Thanks for giving me tips on more things to spot!

  3. Another great article. Thanks Jack! I usually favor the other restaurants in the Animal Kingdom, but your article has convinced me to give Restaurantosaurus a try, if only to immerse myself on the theming.

  4. I remember eating at Restaurantosaurus when they had the character breakfast. It’s a shame they replaced it with “common amusement park fare”, but I suppose you need something like that for the kids. On the other hand, the character breakfast now featured at Tusker House is one of my favorites in ALL of WDW, and I’m a big fan of Flame Tree BBQ after my last visit. Depending on what they do in the new Avatarland (or whatever they call it), food may actually become a plus in Animal Kingdom.

  5. Really great article! I always wondered about all the “stuff” around in Dinoland but had no idea about the backstory. Thanks for explaining it to me! Will definitely pay some closer attention next time i’m there.

  6. I was on the WDW College program in ’99 and spent my internship working at Restaurantosaurus (back when there was still a character breakfast). Reading your posts has been fantastic!! Thanks for the wonderful trip down memory lane!! 🙂

  7. This is awesome. I have been there 5 times, but never know this exist. We will go again this Dec for my 40th birthday. I will explore this area. Thank you so much. Always enjoy your blog. Please keep up the good work.

  8. Thanks for another great blog Jack. After reading this and your previous blog, I have a better appreciation for Dino Land overall. It will never be my favorite section, but it is really nice to have more of the back story to it. I think I will enjoy it more next time we go through the area.

  9. Jack,

    Another brilliant article. Like you, I don’t favor the food at Restaurantosaurus (we are Flame Tree fans), but I frequently will eat there regardless, as I adore the extensive theming in the resturant.

    On occassion, there have been CMs in the dining area that hand out scavenger hunt type cards or flat-out lead kids on a scavenger hunt for various decorative items. My kids love it and look forward it. And it really makes you focus on all the detail and whimsy that went into the area.

    Do you know of any other dining options at WDW that have that kind of scanvenger hunt available?

    And espeically thanks for the info on the asphalt. I had noticed the cracks and patches — and the fact that it wasn’t really asphalt — but had no idea how they pulled it off. I know many folks don’t think the Chester and Hester area to be worthy of WDW. But, having been a frequent vistor to Dinosaur country spots like Vernal, Utah and the Four Corners area as a kid, I’ve always loved the detail.

    Jack’s Answer:

    When researching this article, I spoke with one of the CMs who told me that he often conducts scavenger hunts in the restaurant. I think this is a fantastic idea. I’m not aware of other facilities doing this, but then, I didn’t even know Restaurantosaurus did this until I started investigating this piece.

  10. Hi Jack!
    We just want to tell you how much we love your articles, blogs and pictures! you do such a great job! We look forward to them always.
    Please keep on writing and loving Disney! (as we do)
    Thanks again for always putting a smile on our faces!
    Lynn and Deb

  11. Hey Jack,
    Awesome blog. Restaurantasuarus has always been one of my all time favorites. Not especially because of the food but the themeing is out of this world! One of my favorite sections is the garage and auxiliary storage areas. I’m always hoping to find a Dharma Initiative labeled peanut butter jar or like item from the “Lost” franchise among all the cans and jars. Seems like a fitting place for something like that and would make for a cool tie in. Just an idea but would love to see that! Thanks!!

  12. I know that a lot of people aren’t thrilled with Chester and Hester’s, but I love this whole area and think the theme and back story are so much fun. We ate at Flame Tree BBQ on our last trip to AK, but I’m going to take some time exploring Restaurantosaurus next time for sure! Thanks for the great research!

  13. Jack awesome article as usual. I have to admit I am embarassed to say I have never in all my years at Disney World stopped at this restaurant. I am making it a must do for our next trip to AK.

  14. Jack,

    Great job as always. I especially enjoyed your final thoughts about each attraction having a backstory. I’ve often heard people talk about that with certain attractions and often wondered how I could find the stories behind the attractions (especially my personal favorite, Haunted Mansion). I guess the first place to start is a continued reading of your blog. 😀

    Thanks again.

  15. One of the books on the shelf is “Time After Time” — the novel version of the movie of the same title, which featured a time-travelling H.G. Wells pursuing Jack the Ripper into modern San Francisco. Perhaps a preview of the Dinosaur ride’s theme? Or was that section decorated around the same time?

    Jack’s Answer:

    Restaurantosaurus and Countdown to Extinction (Dinosaur) were designed and built at the same time. The book “titles” were selected because they made references to time travel and dinosaurs and other related topics.

    The original idea for the Animal Kingdom was to showcase animals of the past, present, and mythical. The only way to visit dinosaurs is to go back in time. I certain that was the inspiration for the attraction.

  16. hey Jack
    Wow! I never realized how many little details there were in Restaurantosaurus as well as the rest of Dinoland. It’s like you always say keep your eye out for the little deatils as well as the big and I will certainly make sure I do that my next trip. can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.