JANUARY’S LOCAL HOT SPOT OF THE MONTH: CABAZON DINOSAURS.
In the 1989 Nintendo-worshipping film The Wizard, three youngsters hitch to California with hopes of entering into a video game tournament with a $50,000 cash prize. While the movie certainly turned kids into Super Mario 3 and Power Glove disciples, I think TNUC speaks for many by saying it made us dream of California and dinosaurs even more.
Similar to how I blame the Ninja Turtles for 50% of my obsession with pizza, Uncle T holds The Wizard responsible for an early fascination with “Cali-fornia” from all the scenes portraying the west coast state as the ultimate sun-washed, dreamy place to live. The clear highlight that kept me coming back for repeated viewings more than anything else – yes, even more than the Power Glove – was the wild dinosaur park during the film’s final scenes.
This brings us to announce TNUC’s brand new monthly onslaught for 2016, ‘Heavy-Hot Spot-of-the-Month’. First up, California’s very own (and still fully functional) roadside attraction, the CABAZON DINOSAURS.
If you didn’t already know, yes….THIS PLACE STILL EXISTS. So last Saturday Uncle T and Lady T hopped aboard the old front wheel drive sleigh and headed for Cabazon, a town right outside of Palm Springs.
As the sun began to set behind the San Bernardino mountains and palms blew violently from powerful wind gusts, suddenly there in the distance appeared the two towering dinosaurs sitting to the side of the I-10 freeway. Truly a strange and surreal sight to behold.
To much surprise the area appeared to have barely been tampered with. What I had pictured in my mind was almost exactly what stood before us. Living in California you get accustomed to overpopulation and massive amounts of development constantly changing things. Besides a few gas stations and a restaurant, Jimmy Wood’s dreamy dinos were still sitting in the middle of the desert surrounded by beautiful landscape.
The gift shop could still be found inside the Brontosaurus and the entryway was the same door through the tail, just like in the movie.
Inside not a whole lot had been modified either. Same prehistoric fleshy walls, paint chipped green railings and shelving (just more stocked than it was in the movie). See below.
The area through the gift shop where Jimmy runs up and opens his lunchbox was closed off, but I peeked under the curtain and saw that something had obviously been there not long ago. I asked the front desk girl if she had any fun facts about The Wizard and she looked at me like I was on a 9-day quaalude bender. She said her only knowledge was of the few scenes from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure that were shot on location.
However I did find out that construction began on the Cabazon Dinosaurs in 1964. They were built by Claude Bell, a sculptor for the popular amusement park Knott’s Berry Farm. The T-Rex and Brontosaurs took more than 10 years to build and ended up costing a fortune.
Beyond the park’s two big giants that can be seen from the freeway, visitors can pay an $8 admission and go through a maze of medium sized dinosaurs in the back. I was praying the guy at the ticket admission window was a strung out Lucas Barton – living in the desert and waiting for Jimmy to return for a rematch – but sadly it was just some teenager.
Up a spiral staircase inside T-Rex’s head is a spot to sit and gaze out at the desert through his chompers.
Final Thoughts: Even if your not a Wizard or Pee-Wee disciple, by all means stop at Cabazon Dinosaurs to bask in everything it has to offer if you’re in the Palm Springs area. As for The Wizard, the movie gets a lot of immediate flack for being “basically a Nintendo infomercial” but I think it has way too much charm to be reduced to such a thing. For one, the cinematography is incredible and something that gets overlooked. The sun reflecting off the desert has a certain effect that makes everything in this movie glow. Pair that with a atmospheric score, a soundtrack that features Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel” and CHRISTIAN SLATER and what’s there to criticize?
**Thanks for checking out our 1st entrant into the Local-Hot-Spot-Of-The-Month. Our apologies for getting off to a late start, but the good news is that February’s chosen hellhole is right around the corner! If you feel this entry was a little ‘tame’ compared to TNUC’s “Lost Legend” and “Deadbeat” champions of yesteryear, wait till you see what’s coming. Oh just wait.**
As always, past monthly countdowns are readily available here:
Awesome post Uncle T! Loving the new, Local-Hot-Spot-Of-The-Month, addition to our holy ground. I’ve always enjoyed watching the Wizard, people who don’t are stuck up suit and tie execs and up tight crappy movie critics.
*WWF crowd chants* HO-LY SHIT, HO-LY SHIT, HO-LY SHIT!!!!!!
Amaaazzzzing post. My jaw dropped, and all I ever picture to the tune of Real Life’s “Send me an Angel” is the truck ride passing by that giant car-spider in the movie LOL.
I can’t believe you made this post. The before and after pictures, the feeling of nostalgia, the atmosphere, the Wizard spirit from your photos almost put me to tears. I am infatuated with movie locations and most of the time do my research on some of the most memorable movies from my childhood. But how could I forget the Dinosaur park in “The Wizard”?? I would have done exactly as Uncle Tnuc did, and even break the rules and get kicked out by trying to take a picture where Jimmy opens his lunch box. Damn Tnuc, you did it again man. This is why I can never leave the Land of Uncle Tnuc. There’s no other site out there like it.
I absolutely COULDN’T have said it better than this:
As for The Wizard, the movie gets a lot of immediate flack for being “basically a Nintendo infomercial” but I think it has way too much charm to be reduced to such a thing. For one, the cinematography is incredible and something that gets overlooked. The sun reflecting off the desert has a certain effect that makes everything in this movie glow. Pair that with a atmospheric score, a soundtrack that features Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel” and CHRISTIAN SLATER and what’s there to criticize?
Being a video game nut myself, I am always caught in the argument of “The Wizard” being a Nintendo infomercial. But like you said, “it has way too much charm to be reduced to such a thing”. Think about it, you’re still a kid growing up playing Nintendo games and to see “video games” in a Hollywood movie was just too cool for school. Seeing movie stars play in the arcade and watching Christian Slater play TMNT on the NES was priceless. You felt so irresistibly cool for owning a Nintendo. Last but never the least, the scene of Super Mario Bros.3 being introduced for the first time at the competition was just so badass. Thanks for the post Tnuc. And Marko, you’re dead on with those “stuck up suit and tie execs and up tight crappy movie critics.” That’s exactly the type I converse with lol.
this is a good movie with a lot of soul. videogames just make it more accesible and a creation of its time but no self-respecting creature of the mid80s would speak ill of this masterpiece… and where’s the love for Paul Carrack I Live For The Groove? The HOT-SPOT-OF-THE-MONTH series is already my favorite anthology
so cool. i’d love to go there some day. I loved The Wizard growing up and this always seemed like such a weird, unique spot.
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Putnam was such a good deadbeat in that movie as well. Would be perfect for the series. Good time to bring back the dead beat of the month if you ask me.