Bloomfield resident Guy Gsell has a vision. And that vision is 24 life-size animatronic dinosaurs all rearing their terrifying heads and roaring in a theme park in Secaucus, starting in May, 2012. His company is officially called Jerseysaurus, but the obstacles are formidable enough that he jokingly calls it JerseyTsuris.
“Every day that somebody doesn’t say, ‘You’re crazy. You can’t do this,’ is a day that I just keep going,” he says.
Gsell, who is now known in Hudson county as “the dinosaur guy,” spends his days meeting with paleontologists, talking to the Meadowlands Commission staff, visiting the factory in Texas where the animatronic dinosaurs are made, checking out other dinosaur exhibits and looking to lease a parcel of at least 15 acres in Secaucus. There are three potential tracts that meet his specifications, one of which even affords a view of the Empire State Building.
Gsell has spent most of his adult life associated one way or another with theater, so his sudden incarnation as the dinosaur guy can seem a bit puzzling. But as he connected the dots for me at Panera Bread in Montclair yesterday, it almost seemed as if building a dinosaur park was his destiny. Starting with the New York World’s Fair of 1964/65.
“The only thing I remember was seeing the dinosaurs. The Sinclair dinosaurs.”
Gsell switched from theater to the exhibition business with his last job, director of Discovery Times Square. And that’s when dinosaurs — as an attraction — crossed his mind again. “It’s one of those things that’s out there,” he said. “They usually play outside. And they usually play at zoos.”
Even a former job at the NY Renaissance Faire in Sterling Forest is helpful, because it gave Gsell experience in working with protected land.
Like the Renaissance Faire, “Field Station: Dinosaurs” would be housed in tents, with no permanent buildings. “It’s supposed to feel like a scientific encampment,” Gsell says. He’s planning on a parking lot for the folks from New Jersey and envisions a NJ Transit train — “the Dinosaur Express” — for folks from New York City. He plans on charging $20 for adults and $17.50 for kids, and having the park ready enough to start selling it at the NJ teachers’ convention in November.
Of course all this talk of a dinosaur theme park naturally brings to mind Michael Crichton’s 1990 sci-fi novel “Jurassic Park,” which was made into a movie by Steven Spielberg three years later. As you may recall, that story did not end happily.
Still, there’s enough artificial intelligence built into the mammoth creatures — the dinosaur formerly known as a brontosaurus is 33 feet long — to give one pause.
“They roar, they move their heads to track your movements,” Gsell says. “And when the crowds get big they get nervous.”