When Dinosaurs Ruled the Car-Park

Jurassic Quest: Glendale Arena, Phoenix – Sept 5, 2021

Like many kids, I was a big fan of dinosaurs, back in the day. I remember in particular having a booklet that you could fill up with cards depicting various dinosaurs, on the back of which were facts about them. I’m not sure where you got the cards; might have been at petrol stations? Though it might also have been in packs of cigarettes – y’know, back when manufacturers were advertising to the pre-teen market. That inner child was thoroughly excited for Sunday’s trip to see Jurassic Quest, a drive-through experience promoted as “The Largest Exhibition of Lifesize, Moving, Museum-Quality Dinosaurs in North America!”

The reality? Well, let’s just say, the words in that sentence have varying degrees of accuracy. To begin with a positive, they definitely were life-sized, and that was the most impressive thing. You got a genuine sense of bulk, which perhaps doesn’t come across in the pictures. To that end, it’s a shame you weren’t allowed out of your vehicle to pose with the exhibits. That would have offered scale, and also provided opportunities for the staging of an amusing, “Help! The allosaur is eating me!” tableau. Particularly startling was the ammonite. I always thought they were 4-6 inches across, but the one here was 8-10 feet tall.

This species of dinosaur had SUVs as its staple diet.
I guess you could say it was… car-nivorous.

The issue of size cropped up in the velociraptor display, with some historical accuracy snark aimed at a certain, unnamed dinosaur movie, about the exaggerated size of their ‘raptors. This seemed a bit off. You probably shouldn’t be throwing shade at Steven Spielberg, when your dinosaurs are inhabiting the concrete parking lot at the Arizona Cardinals football stadium, with the major native flora present a plethora of the species, trafficus coneii. The setting was an area that could have seen significant improvement. This really needed a wooded area, and a variety of terrain. The odd, sad plastic palm-tree seemed more of a gesture, next to dinosaurs which were basically parked in parallel lines.

Equally underwhelming was the “moving” part of the equation. To be frank, the giant pile of dino-poo in Jurassic Park showed more life. Where they moved at all, it was very limited – waving gently back and forth, as if stirred by a light breeze. I also didn’t realize that dinosaurs communicated in rhythmic, high-pitched squeaks. Though that may actually have been the creatures’ grinding their gears. However, a positive was the upbeat and chatty tour presentation, streamed into the car via YouTube. While there were occasions where it didn’t quite match the exhibits, it provided a constant stream of informative tit-bits about dinosaurs that was quite entertaining.

Our favourite nugget was in regard to the Triceratops (below), famous for its horn and the large bony frill, apparently for protection from T. Rex attacks. Except, the commentary suggested, it actually acted as a pull-tab, allowing the Rex to yank its victim’s head clean off. My nine-year-old self gloried in this gory factoid, and I’d have loved to have seen this in the exhibit. Sadly, a bit of faded red paint on the flank of a herbivore was about as raw in tooth and claw as things got. This, I feel, was a wasted opportunity. It seemed largely targeted at kids, without realizing that there are adults who like dinosaurs too, and would welcome an experience that was more tailored for a “mature audience”.

I’d start such an event off with a bar, to warm up the customers. Then, as well as the creatures, have tribes of fur bikini-clad cavewomen and hairy cavemen roaming the scene, as depicted in that renowned documentary, One Million Years B.C [The day we visited was, by coincidence, Raquel Welch’s 81st birthday. If that’s not a sign…] interacting with the patrons. Ramp up the sex and violence, at least to the level of the gnarlier works of David Attenborough. Rather than just animatronics, have performers in suits as velociraptors, hunting down the cave people. Arterial spray, people. ARTERIAL SPRAY!!! Now that’s a show – and would give genuine meaning to the “I survived Jurassic Quest” T-shirts on sale at the merch stand, on your way out. In other words, embrace the artistic license at which they haughtily sniffed.

As is, this was… marginally okay. At $50 for a car, it’d be acceptable if you had a full load. Unfortunately, all the friends we offered our back-seat to, inexplicably had other engagements, which could not be cancelled in order to see slightly moving dinosaurs in a stadium parking lot. We must really get new friends. Other people’s reviews are similarly drastically split, between “It was awesome!” and “Biggest waste of money ever!” To be honest, I can see both points of view. While there were many ways in which it could have been better, my inner nine-year-old was still thoroughly impressed, and will be yelling out dinosaur facts for the rest of the week.

On the set of the next Asylum movie: ‘Parking-lot Megalodon’