Prehistoric Disney T-Rex Café Gets Modern AV, Control System

Published: January 22, 2016

The T-Rex Café at Disney Springs has become a popular dining option for families on a Disney World adventure because of its all-encompassing adoption of the theme, from the menu and drink options to enough pre-historic atmosphere to stir the imaginations of dinosaur enthusiasts of all ages.

Highlights at the spot that dubs itself a “prehistoric family adventure” include a crystal cave that constantly sweeps through a range of intense backlit colors and thickets of cretaceous jungle foliage around smoke-emitting tar pits.

But the stars of the show are 23 fully-articulated animatronic prehistoric creatures that include a tyrannosaurus rex, apatosaurus, triceratops, mastodons and a woolly mammoth family, along with pteronodons and a giant octopus suspended over the bar and the heads of the diners.

A star ceiling and suspended models of the planets provide an outdoor nighttime atmosphere to much of the dining area. Several times every hour, a meteor shower uproots this tranquil night sky, agitating the animatronic beasts, followed by a massive asteroid across the sky and smashing into the earth, shaking the building with 8kW of sub-bass rumbles and crashes.

Cinematic quality HD video content for the meteor shower was created by AVHD Visual Solutions of Canada. This is the famous Cretaceous–Paleogene event, which is thought to have brought on the extinction of the dinosaurs and the rise of us mammals.

Photos: Go Inside Disney’s Prehistoric T-Rex Café

Although (or maybe because) the attraction has been running successfully for many years, the original technology that helped to bring the show to life was in need of an upgrade. The five 4K-lumen projectors that blended to deliver the meteor and asteroid show, together with a single projector in the retail area, needed occasional replacement lamps and realignment of overhead projector blends after each relamping, says Kevin Zevchik, president at local integrator Zanim8tion and U.S. manager at AV Stumpfl.

Zanim8tion’s work included an upgraded system to control the 24 animatronics in the restaurant, he says.

“The new modular system is dynamic and seamlessly integrated into the iPad WingsTouch system for interactivity and ease of maintenance,” says Zeevchik. “The important request from the facility was that during the transition there was no down time. Each animatronic was transferred to the new system one at a time, so no animatronic was offline for more than an hour and noticed by guests or the facility.”

Zanim8tion replaced the five aging projectors with two Digital Projection‘s 11K ANSI lumen, laser-powered HIGHlite WUXGA projectors, which can run for about 20,000 hours before needing relamping. With two shows every 20 minutes at T-Rex Café, that means the new projectors could run for about 56 years before needing to be replaced.

The projectors will still require regular maintenance visits by Zanim8tion to clean the optics and change the dust filters, which will inevitably have some impact on their alignment. That’s where the café’s new AV Stumpfl Wings VIOSO system that controls the projector blends and media replay comes into focus, if you’ll pardon the pun.

More bar and restaurant high-tech upgrades.

“Once the maintenance crew has finished handling the projectors, Wings VIOSO uses a small, dedicated camera pointed at the ceiling to automatically realign the images and the blends, and have the show ready within five minutes of completing projector maintenance. Nobody is going to miss the tedium of projector alignment,” says Zevchik.

Zanim8tion also replaced the early-model AV Stumpfl SC-Master show controller with a system that allows the programming of custom dinosaur shows for corporate events and educational tours at the café.

In addition to the audio, video and projection elements controlled by the new Wings engine, the new AV Stumpfl AVIO network has 12 Wings IObox relay controllers for the 192 movement controllers that drive the animatronic models.

These upgrades have allowed T-Rex Café to add new movements by the dinosaurs and independent programming of individual dinosaurs for the educational tours. The entire replay system can be controlled from tablets when staffers need to conduct tours or customize the café for specific events.

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