Animal Kingdom Games of Chance

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Despite Walt Disney’s insistence that his parks be free of charlatans, there is one area of Walt Disney World that does have a whiff of old-timey hucksterism: the Fossil Fun Games of chance at Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama at the Animal Kingdom. Games of chance that, if you’re not careful, will end up costing you as much as a signature dinner for a plush-ish frog.

Other areas of Walt Disney World do have in-park experiences that are not included in your admission price. Most of these are either low cost (Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade), somewhat hidden (the arcades at Toy Story Pizza Planet and the Space Mountain exit), or both. Or if they are high cost (tours), they are all but invisible to the average guest and not available to or made enticing to children. The Animal Kingdom Dino-Rama is the inverse of this, potentially high-cost, extremely visible, aggressively marketed (barkers shouting “step right up”), and alluring to children.

On the plus side, what you see is what you get.

The Dino-Rama area is themed like a carnival, with a back story that Chester and Hester were local merchants trying to capitalize on the influx of the research and tourist dollars of the folks coming to visit the nearby Dinosaur Institute. Bit by bit, C&H created a South-of-the-Border-esque agglomeration of rides, souvenir stands, fun house mirrors, and midway games. Chester and Hester, as the story goes, wanted to cash in on the unsuspecting tourists. Um, well, I guess there’s something to be said for transparency.

Rather than rail against the machine, I’m here to inform so that, when the time comes and little Jimmy is begging for you to win him a bright blue stuffed reptile, you’ll be prepared.

Here are possible approaches to the situation:

  1. Avoid the area altogether. This is challenging because DinoLand is home to two of the most preschool-friendly attractions at the Animal Kingdom, the Boneyard and TriceraTop Spin.
  2. Just say no. Explain the cost of the games and their place in the family souvenir budget. Be prepared for tears.
  3. Cave into a game or two and win your kid a prize.
  4. Let your kids try their hand at the games to win their own prize (the most expensive option).

If you decide to go with option three or option four (what the heck, you’re on vacation), here’s what you need to know:

  • The games are dino-themed versions of classic carnival games of skill and chance: toss a basketball, squirt water into a tiny hole, whack-a-mole, horse race, etc. For best results, you may want to do a little Google research in advance on how to best approach these games.
  • Prices vary slightly from game to game. You can expect to pay between $2-3 per person, per game.
  • Be aware that the games of chance last a very short time, often less than 30 seconds.
  • There are some games that have multiple chances for one price, two or three basketball shots, for example. If you have more than one child, ask the barker if they can each take one of the shots. This may cut down on your total cash outlay.
  • If you have more than one child, you should plan in advance the ramifications of winning only one prize.
  • The games of chance are sparsely populated until at least noon. Some booths have a “winner every game” policy. If your goal is to get Junior a prize, these are the ones to hit. Fill the game with members of your own family. Play a few successive games until you have the number of prizes that will appease your clan.
  • If your child is going to play, make sure he/she understands the rules of the game in advance. If possible, have them watch several rounds before they play to get the hang of it.
  • Make sure your child understands which prizes are available. There are large items displayed that may only be available if you win multiple games.
  • The Fossil Fueler game has two sides of seating. You may be competing against people you can’t see.
  • If your child is going to play, make sure he/she understands the possibility of not winning a prize.
  • If you do win prizes, consider what your plan will be for toting them around all day. Using a boa as a boa can be uncomfortable when it’s 95 degrees out.
  • Don’t assume that your child will let you get away with the Fossil Fun prize being his souvenir for the day/week/trip. These items are not Disney-themed.

So fellow tourists, what are your strategies for coping with Fossil Fun? Do you have any tips on how to avoid breaking the bank on Whack-A-Dino? Do you have a secret trick for staying strong against the siren song of the carny? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted on May 23, 2012

17 Responses to “Animal Kingdom Games of Chance”

  • Can we take a moment to digest the absurdity of the prizes not being Disney-themed?

    I know it would not go along with the much-maligned Chester and Hester theming, but for this to be the only place on property to play carnival/amusement park games, and for all of the “prizes” to be cheap, non-Disney dinosaur stuffed animals is ludicrous!

    There are two dinosaur characters in Toy Story, for Walt’s sake!!

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 23, 2012, at 2:59 pm EDT

      I agree completely! At California Adventure, they have Disney themed prizes and a Dumbo that I won back in October was one of my favorite souvenirs! I wish they would do that in DinoLand as well.

  • by Rob Crawford on May 23, 2012, at 3:03 pm EDT

    I’ve always been vaguely disappointed that Disney has these.

  • A few years ago we were walking through this area and my two daughters wanted to play. So they both played. Up for the winner was a small red frog of some sort. So they play and my oldest daughter wins and gets the animal. My younger daughter is a bit sad but takes it in stride (she was 4 a the time)…within seconds the CM grabs another frog, a green one, and gives it to my younger daughter. Now I don’t know how often they do this or if they are allowed, but it made her day. And as stupid as it is, she still has that animal and remembers that the CM gave it to you. I’m not sure what lesson that taught her, but of everyone else in my family she comes the closest to loving Disney as much as I do….maybe that day had something to do with it….maybe not.

  • My wife and I don’t have kids, so dealing with the conflict has never been an issue. However, in general I find the mostly-unshaded blacktop area of the Animal Kingdom Dino-Rama to be unbearably hot and miserable virtually every time I set foot in there. I can’t imagine wanting to spend any amount of time walking from booth to booth. I would imagine your average kid would wear down pretty quickly standing on an open blacktop under the midday Florida sun. At any rate, I certainly pity the parent whose kids can overcome such conditions.

  • The carny games… ugh. They’re exorbitantly priced, don’t reflect any sort of Disney improvement on standard carny games (except the CMs don’t have that carny-strange thing going), and yes, they’re situated in the middle of unshaded blacktop.

  • After many years of going to various carnivals, festivals, parks and other carnival type events with plenty of “games of chance” options our girls are finally able to see and thankfully understand why the games are just not worth their (our) money. Of course, there were many, many tears of frustration to wade through first but, at 10 and 11 they now know it’s not worth their time. I agree that having this on Disney property and not giving away Disney prizes seems a bit strange not to mention it’s location. Also, having it at all somewhat brings down the level of “Disney” to a regular Six Flags or another standard park. I hold Disney at a higher level than other parks I have been too so I think it’s something that should be replaced with something more positive so to speak.

    • by Meredith McCutcheon on May 25, 2012, at 1:10 pm EDT

      We are still in the “tears of frustration” stage (my kids are only 4 & 6). I think I’m going to try something this year. We give both kids a set amount of money for souvenirs, and then they save some money (from allowances, birthdays, etc.) throughout the year to bring with them in case they want a more expensive souvenir than what they can afford with their “vacation money” from us. I think I’m going to tell them that I am not spending my money on this, so if they want to play, they have to use their money. This may be a hard lesson, but I hate these games. I might as well take $20 and throw it in the garbage (since that’s where most of their prizes end up anyway)

  • On our first trip to Animal Kingdom, I was disappointed to find this section in a Disney park. But we were there early, hardly anyone else was in the area, and we realized some of the games were “winner every game”. We thought they would have a minimum number of players, but if they do, the minimum must be 2! So my 2 sons would play, or 1 son and my husband, and we brought home a dino-zoo. They loved those stuffed animals, and my youngest still has the entire collection in his room. We didn’t spend any more than if I had bought them both licensed Disney plush toys, and they seemed much prouder of these that they had “won”. So while we are not usually the carnival-game type, and I’m still a little disappointed that they have this in a Disney park, it actually made for one of our best memories of Disney World. I guess everything really is better in the World!

    • It is pretty easy to do a lot of winning first thing in the morning. If you’re going to play, that’s definitely the time to do it. My girls also have quite a collection of frogs and dinos, which they love. But unfortunately this didnt seem to quell their desire to have other more Disney-themed souvenirs as well.

  • by Aliceinwonderla on May 24, 2012, at 10:06 am EDT

    I don”t really think of this as a money maker (though it undoubtedly is…), but as part of the theming. Kind of like how I am not really interested in stopping to enjoy the streetmosphere characters, but I sure am glad they are there to add to the story.

  • My kids had a ball playing these games the last time we were there! Our biggest problem was getting all of their “loot” packed in the suitcases to take home. LOL! Really, it’s only $2-3 per game, so comparing that to the price of other souvenirs, it’s really cheap. Plus they get to play for a while. Fun times!

  • I would echo those who have said it is easy to win early in the morning, particularly if you are fortunate to be there for EMH when park attendance is generally low. My daughter and niece did this first thing in the morning during EMH on our trip last fall, and both carried away nice prizes.

  • As a general rule, I avoid this part of the park when I am there. I consider it to be kind of the DCA of WDW, something garish and out of place (I am of course referring to DCA before the recent refurbishments). My very first trip to Animal Kingdom I did wander in and play a game. There was only one other participant, a young boy, and I don’t have any kids, so when I won, I gave the child my prize. I’ve avoided that section ever since, because I think it is tacky and needs to be removed.

  • 3 years in a row and the kids leave crying every time! Though, they have gotten to that age (5 and 6) where every carnival like this leaves them upset at losing.

    I do have to say that the first year, it was kind of empty, and they did give out prizes to all the little “winners.”

    And this most recent summer (2012), my 6 year old made me go on TriceratopSpin (Now called Primeval Whirl?) SEVEN times in a row. There was no line, and the other half of our family was watching Finding Nemo Live.

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