Cabazon Dinosaurs, formerly Claude Bell's Dinosaurs, is a roadside attraction in Cabazon, California, featuring two enormous, steel-and-concrete dinosaurs named Dinny the Dinosaur and Mr. Rex. Located just west of Palm Springs, the 150-foot-long (46 m) Brontosaurus (Dinny) and the 65-foot-tall (20 m) Tyrannosaurus rex (Mr. Rex) are visible from the freeway to travelers passing by on Southern California's Interstate 10. The roadside dinosaurs are best known for their appearance in the film Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985).
|Architectural style||Novelty architecture|
|Town or city||Cabazon, California|
|Construction started||1964 (Dinny) / 1981 (Mr. Rex)|
|Completed||1975 (Dinny) / 1986 (Mr. Rex)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Claude K. Bell|
|Structural engineer||Gerald Hufstetler|
Sculptor and theme park artist Claude Bell began construction of the dinosaurs in 1964 with the goal of attracting more customers to his nearby restaurant, the Wheel Inn (open from 1958 to 2013). Dinny and Mr. Rex were completed in 1975 and 1986, respectively. Bell died in 1988 at age 91 and his family sold the property in the mid-1990s. Since then, Cabazon Dinosaurs has been the site of a roadside creationist museum and giftshop.
The creation of the Cabazon dinosaurs began in the 1960s by Knott's Berry Farm sculptor and portrait artist Claude K. Bell (1897–1988) to attract customers to his Wheel Inn Restaurant, which opened in 1958 and closed in 2013. Dinny, the first of the Cabazon dinosaurs, was started in 1964 and created over a span of eleven years. Bell created Dinny out of spare material salvaged from the construction of nearby Interstate 10 at a cost of $300,000. The biomorphic building that was to become Dinny was first erected as steel framework over which an expanded metal grid was formed in the shape of a dinosaur. All of it was then covered with coats of shotcrete (spray concrete). Bell was quoted in 1970 as saying the 45-foot (14 m) high, 150-foot (46 m) long Dinny was "the first dinosaur in history, so far as I know, to be used as a building." His original vision for Dinny was for the dinosaur's eyes to glow and mouth to spit fire at night, predicting, "It'll scare the dickens out of a lot of people driving up over the pass." These two features, however, were not added.
A second dinosaur, Mr. Rex, was constructed near Dinny in 1981. Originally, a giant slide was installed in Rex's tail; it was later filled in with concrete making the slide unusable. A third woolly mammoth sculpture and a prehistoric garden were drafted, but never completed due to Bell's death in 1988.
Following the sale of the property by Bell's surviving family in the mid-1990s, Cabazon Family Partnership and MKA Cabazon Partnership of Costa Mesa, California, became the new owners of the roadside attraction. The partnership obtained approval for an expansion of the Cabazon dinosaur site in 1996 with the land-use approvals including restaurants, a museum, and gift shop, and a 60-room motel at the Main Street exit in Cabazon. Orange County developer and MKA partner Gary Kanter said the original vision has been for MKA to transform the area into a children's science and museum exhibit.
Currently located inside Dinny is a gift store and museum promoting creationism with some of the toy dinosaurs in the shop sold under the label "Don't swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution." The current ownership has expressed a young Earth creationist belief that most dinosaurs were created on Earth about 6,000 years ago – the same day as Adam and Eve. In stark contrast to that belief are Bell's painted frescoes and sculptures inside Dinny, depicting a naturalist and evolutionary viewpoint. Bell's paintings include representations of Cro-Magnon man (labeled "Cro-Magnon Man 30,000 [years ago]") and Java Man (labeled "Java Man 400,000"). Bell's historic displays now exist alongside information detailing the creationist viewpoint of the earth and man's origins.
The Cabazon Dinosaurs attraction also features an open-air museum with fiberglass and robotic dinosaurs. Other activities at the site include a sand pit where visitors can experience a "dino dig" as well as a gemstone and fossil-panning sluice. Pastor Robert Darwin Chiles, assisting Kanter in turning the exhibit into a non-denominational church, has been quoted as to his belief of why children are drawn to the dinosaur attraction, "There's something in their DNA that knows man walked with these creatures on Earth." Chiles and Kanter plan to promote their views of creationism at the attraction based on their interpretation of the Book of Genesis.
In popular cultureEdit
- The dinosaurs are seen in the background of a scene in the 1984 film Paris, Texas.
- The popular 1985 comedy film Pee Wee's Big Adventure filmed several scenes around the dinosaurs. According to director Tim Burton in the film's DVD commentary, many people thought the dinosaurs were built for the movie and did not realize they were part of a real roadside attraction. The Wheel Inn cafe was also the location of the infamous "Large Marge" scene.[full citation needed]
- The dinosaurs and the Wheel Inn diner made a brief appearance in the 1985 music video for the Tears For Fears song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."
- The dinosaurs are featured on the cover of Tonio K's 1988 album Notes from the Lost Civilization.
- In 1994, Huell Howser Productions, in association with KCET/Los Angeles, featured the dinosaurs (along with the nearby Hadley's Fruit Orchards store) in Visiting...with Huell Howser; the 29 minute program is available on VHS.
- A repeat visit by Howser was made in 1999.
- The Tyrannosaurus sculpture was referenced as an influence to the fictional town of Novac in the 2010 video game Fallout: New Vegas.
- The dinosaurs are mentioned in a horror novel called "Endless Night" by Richard Laymon.
- In the 1989 movie The Wizard, the family passes by the Cabazon Dinosaurs on their way home, and Jimmy becomes so excited and restless that they pull over. He runs from the car up into one of the dinosaurs and places his deceased sister's mementos inside.
- The dinosaurs are seen in the 2013 Susanna Hoffs video for the song "Raining".
- The dinosaurs are briefly featured in the 1994 US version of Oasis' video for the song "Supersonic".
- The dinosaurs are seen from inside the diner in "The Time Has Come" episode of Private Practice.
- The dinosaurs are featured in the opening credits of the movie National Lampoon's Vacation.
- Yanez, Laura (October 1, 2013). "Landmark Wheel Inn Restaurant closes at Cabazon Dinosaurs". KESQ News Channel 3 / CBS Local 2 / KUNA Noticias. News-Press-Gazette. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
- Taete, Jamie Lee Curtis (September 4, 2013). "Pee-Wee Herman's Dinosaurs Are Actually a Creationist Museum". Vice. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
- Garcia, Catherine (March 15, 2011). "Dinosaurs Keep Watch Over Cabazon". Banning-Beaumont, CA Patch. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
- Morton, Ella (November 12, 2013). "Pee-Wee's Big, Adventurous, 6,000-Year-Old Dinosaurs". Slate. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
- Pratte, Bob (September 12, 2015). "Cabazon's Wheel Inn gets stay of demolition". The Press-Enterprise.
- Treat, Wesley. "The Cabazon Dinosaurs". The Big Waste of Space Photologue. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
- Valley Legends (4/26/1999), Desert Sun.
- Feuerstein, Günther. Biomorphic architecture: Menschen- und Tiergestalten in der Architektur, Volume 1, p. 117. Edition Axel Menges, 2002. ISBN 3-930698-87-0
- Associated Press, Cabazon, California. Eugene Register-Guard, April 12, 1970. "Cement brontosaurus just beginning: Claude Kenneth Bell and his 'monster'." Hosted by Google Newspapers. Retrieved on January 2, 2010.
- Bet you didn't know (11/9/2005), Desert Sun.
- Cabazon expansion proposed (11/5/1996), Press Enterprise.
- Powers, Ashley. Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2005. "Adam, Eve and T. Rex: Giant roadside dinosaur attractions are used by a new breed of creationists as pulpits to spread their version of Earth's origins." Page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5. Retrieved on December 29, 2009.
- Dinosaurs draw people from all over, Judith Salkin, The Desert Sun, June 28, 2008.
- Famous Movie Locations: Wheel Inn Restaurant from Pee-wee's Big Adventure (Cabazon, California), by Kim Potts, Aug 10, 2010, Moviefone. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- OCLC 45478266
- Howser, Huell (October 28, 1999). "Hadley's and Dinosaurs – Visiting (714)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archive.