In no direct sense related to The Lost World, the Primeval World attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is perhaps one of the finest examples of animatronic dinosaur attractions anywhere short of the Dinosaur! ride at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom park in Florida.
The quality of this attraction, utilizing the leftover animatronic dioramas (or dinoramas) from the Disney-designed Ford Magic Skyway pavillion at the 1964/65 World's Fair in New York, is phenomenal. It does demonstrate its age and a less than overwhelming concern with palaeontological accuracy, with Brontosaurs reaching their necks out of a lake and a climactic battle between Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus (echoing the climax of Fantasia's "Rite of Spring" segment). The craftsmanship more than makes up for the lack of accuracy, as this Primeval World is so convincingly realized, from the Palaeozoic swamps at the beginning to the end's Cretaceous lava floes.
What makes it even more wonderful is that the attraction is only accessible by rail... It, along with the massive Grand Canyon Diorama, occupies a stretch of track along the Disneyland RailRoad between the Tomorrowland and Main Street stations. For the fan of Victorian-Edwardian tales of dinosaurs, the only thing that could surpass a steam train trip through a prehistoric realm is a better version of itself. In this case, by very politely asking the conductors at Main Street station if it would be possible to ride the circuit around the Magic Kingdom in the "Lilly Belle" VIP salon car. This enclosed salon car, restored for Disneyland's 50th anniversary in 2005, is very richly appointed in polished wood, velvet drapes and Victorian furnishings. To look beyond those drapes and wood panels to see a panorama of dinosaurs passing by is the stuff of fantasy.
With such an evocative name, there has been no shortage of attractions around the Western world that have made use of the name "The Lost World" but have avoided its content. For example, the Kings Dominion amusement park in Virginia once featured a "Lost World Mountain" that house three rides: Journey to Atlantis (a flume), Land of Dooz (a mine train/roller coaster) and Time Shaft (a rotor). A year after opening in 1979, the Journey to Atlantis was replaced with the Haunted River overlay. The Land of Dooz - a train ride into a cartoonish world of gnomes - was replaced with a liscenced Smurf ride, and with that, the mountain was rechristened "Smurf Mountain". Presently, the mountain houses a roller coaster named Volcano. Other attractions have attempted to come a little closer to the source of that wonderful name by including some prehysteria and attempting to draw out at least some sense of encountering a world of antediluvian life.
Lost World Mountain at Kings Dominion
In 1961, the venerable Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park utilized space in an engineered seawall to introduce the Cave Train to the Lost World attraction. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2007, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk remains the oldest of California's classic beachfront amusement parks. In high Edwardian style, the original boardwalk consisted of a casino with a ballroom, an indoor swimming pool, a pier and a boardwalk. Carousels and train rides were to come, followed by the iconic wooden Giant Dipper rollercoaster that cuts a damatic profile across the beach (and serves as a backdrop for such films as The Lost Boys). Much of the original park from the early decades of the 20th century remains, while around it new rides and attractions have sprung up in wake of the competitive California theme park market.
The Cave Train to the Lost World was one of those attractions. The Cave Train served as the focal point and anchor for a new set of rides near the river area that served as the park's original focal point, back when it was merely a series of bathouses. Welcoming guests to the Cave Train was a placid lagoon who's waters would be periodically stirred by the monumental rising neck of a Brontosaurus. Turning, the Brontosaurus would growl at passersby before descending back into his murky depths. Behind him would be the station where guests could load into the mine carts of their steam locomotive for a trip into the darkened cave.
Postcard of the Cave Train to the Lost World
Inside, the train would pass through a glittering and swirling time tunnel that transported them into the promised Lost World. The first part of the ride consisted of mysterious formations of stalctites and stalagmites, crafted by human hands of course, and belching volcanoes. The dinosaurs would soon arrive to menace the train's passengers. Finally, these dinosaurs would give way to a series of vignettes starring cave men in Flintstone-like comedic and anachronistic situations. Included were an art studio specializing in cave paintings, a night club with dancing and a big band, poker games and an old, malfunctioning Model T.
Showing the wear and tear of time, the original Cave Train to the Lost World was closed in 1997. After a three year refurbishment, the ride reopened as the Cave Train Adventure. This new version includes many of the original figures and scenes, but blends them with a plethora of new characters, animatronics and effects to create a newer, blacklit "dark ride" experience.
It is notable that the Cave Train to the Lost World may even have served as a partial inspiration to the Beach Boardwalk's main competition: Disneyland. Though a historic walking tour pamphlet of the Boardwalk states "The Cave Train [was] inspired by high-tech rides introduced at Disneyland, the world’s newest and most remarkable amusement park of the time" this would be inconsistent with the date of the only attraction that obstensibly could have inspired Cave Train to the Lost World.
Disney Imagineering was conscripted by several exhibitors at the 1964/65 World's Fair to develop pavillions that were uniquely entertaining and educational. The Ford Motor Company received one of the most elaborate of the exhibits developed by the company. A special transportation system called the Magic Skyway was developed in which visitors could sit in new-model Ford cars to go on a Sunday drive only dreamed up in Science Fiction. Passing through a time tunnel, riders (who can tune the radio to English, French, German or Spanish narration) emerged into the prehistoric world of Brontosaurus, Pterodactyl, and Triceratops, catching a climactic glimpse of the battle between Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus amdist glowing lava fields. A bit further ahead, and we saw the evolution of cave men, the taming of fire, the hunting of Mammoths, and the invention of the wheel. Riders entered the time tunnel again and emerged in the skyways over the world of the future, where human technology and ingenuity created a utopia in steel, neon and tail fins.
With the end of the World's Fair, Disney's exhibits found a home at Disneyland. The Magic Skyway technology became the basis of the Peoplemover that also occupied Tomorrowland, while the dinosaur animatronics found a place alongside the Disneyland Railroad as Primeval World. This diorama, a compliment to the Grand Canyon Diorama installed in 1958, was itself installed along the tracks in 1966, a full 5 years after Santa Cruz built the Cave Train to the Lost World. The question rises over who inspired whom, either directly or indirectly.
Another, more recent, addition to the realm of Lost World attractions is the Lost World Outdoor Waterpark. Situated in the Glacier Canyon Lodge, this Wisconsin waterpark resort, conference centre and condominium complex boasts a 3.2 acre inner-tube adventure replete with fibreglass dinosaurs, palm trees and volcanoes. This ride includes a variety of environments for swimmers to pass through, from rapids to gentle floes, and a series out outdoor cabanas to enjoy.
Review by Cory Gross.