1993 ushered forth one of the most breathtakingly realistic monster movies of all time, Jurassic Park. Spielberg’s Jurassic Park brought prehistoric beasts back from extinction through a combination of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and animatronic puppets, seamlessly blending digital artistry with practical alternatives.
After five films and $5 billion at the box office, the Jurassic Park films have crafted themselves into one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time. By adhering to an award-winning formula, each movie has employed practical effects to captivate audiences with the perfect mix of substance and spectacle. The final Jurassic Park film, Jurassic World: Dominion, is set to release in theaters on June 10, 2022.
10 The Water Ripple Effect Was Painstakingly Difficult To Achieve
One of the most iconic shots in the franchise was two cups of rippling water. The shot was masterminded by Michael Lantieri, visual effects supervisor for Jurassic Park and its two sequels, The Lost World and Jurassic Park III. He bore a hole through the Ford Explorer touring vehicle and fed guitar chords through the base of each cup, anchoring the wires to the floor.
A crew member would then lie beneath the car and gently pluck the chords until hitting the exact frequency Spielberg wanted, causing the water to ripple a certain way. Lantieri would refer to that single, 3-second shot as the most difficult special effect to achieve.
9 The Dilophosaurus Did Not Use Any CGI
One of the first casualties in Jurassic Park occurs during a park-wide blackout, initiated by Denis Nedry, after accepting a bribe from a rival genetics company to smuggle dinosaur embryos off the island. Heavy rainfall disorients Nedry, causing him to crash his vehicle. This brings him face-to-face with a Dilophosaur.
The Dilophosaur was built as a full-scale, cable-controlled puppet with three interchangeable heads. The Dilophosaur’s spitting mechanism was modeled after a paintball gun, projecting “venom” (K-Y Jelly mixed with methacrylic alginate and food coloring). Underneath the tongue were two holes for tubing that pumped high-pressure air, giving it the ability to spit. All other parts of the body were radio-controlled. Cable-actuated legs were also created to portray the Dilophosaur’s hop when it approaches Nedry, achieved by suspending its legs from a stage catwalk on bungee cords.
8 The Brachiosaurus Was The Tallest Animatronic
The tallest animatronic puppet in Jurassic Park was the Brachiosaurus, whose head was eight feet tall. The base of the neck sat on a dolly so the model could move freely through the set on wheels. Stan Winston, the live-action dinosaur technician, wanted the animatronic to appear docile.
His team built a 4-axis jaw into the puppet, allowing its mouth to move from side to side. When Lex gets a face full of Brachiosaur mucus, it’s just a mixture of K-Y jelly, food thickener, and food coloring. This is something Spielberg insisted be dyed pale green as the Brachiosaur had a cold.
7 The Spinosaurus Animatronic Weighed Over 20,000 Pounds
Unlike the Tyrannosaurus animatronic which was sculpted from clay, the Spinosaurus was digitally scanned and computer-milled into foam pieces, later assembled into a full-scale model. Foam pieces were coated with heat-resistant paint to help seal the foam from high-temperature epoxy, then covered with a fiberglass-type cloth.
The skull held 76 teeth and was built from graphite, making it stronger than other animatronics in Jurassic Park. The Spinosaurus animatronic was the largest puppet built by Stan Winston Studios, which ran on nearly 1,000 horsepower. It measured 45 feet in length and weighed approximately 12.5 tons.
6 The Big Pile Of Dinosaur Dung Actually Smelled Pretty Good
Dr. Satler plunges herself, forearm-deep, into an ungodly sum of dinosaur dung. The dung is actually a mixture of mud, straw, and clay. Smeared with sweet honey and papayas to attract flies and other insects, this scene encapsulates what makes Jurassic Park awesome – believable special effects.
Jurassic Park is not afraid to get dirty in the process of grounding itself in realism, with characters that project a true passion for paleontology. It’s what sets Jurassic Park apart from other mainline monster blockbusters.
5 The Indoraptor Animatronic Was Made To Look Mentally Unstable
The Indoraptor animatronic from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was brought to life with two puppet pieces. One piece, its head and neck, was controlled by a team of operators. The other piece, its arm, was controlled by a single puppeteer. Both were created by special effects artist, Neal Scanlan.
The Indoraptor was sculpted and painted to give the illusion of its skin peeling away, with its mouth and teeth crafted to look slightly sickly. This was done to serve the Indoraptor’s ‘mental illness’.
4 The Raptor Hatchlings Were Originally Finger Puppets
Originally, the dinosaur hatchling was to be a baby Triceratops, portrayed by a simple finger puppet poking its head out of its shell. Spielberg scrapped this idea in favor of a baby Velociraptor that would crawl out of its shell. Composed of wax and a layer of plastic wrap, the egg was molded by FX artist, Greg Figiel.
Stan Winston Studio’s initial decision was to ‘marionette’ the Velociraptor with wires and strings until Richard Landon volunteered to design an animatronic. Landon mechanized the puppet internally, which proved to be one of the most meticulous, difficult-to-achieve special effects in Jurassic Park.
3 Velociraptors In The Kitchen Weren’t As Scary As They Appear
Jurassic Park‘s most famous Velociraptor scene takes place in an industrial kitchen, where Lex and Tim are in a spine-tingling game of hide-and-seek. The vast majority of Velociraptor shots were accomplished with stunt performers in bodysuits. To allow the stunt performers to see inside the suits, several slits were made in the neck (where the puppeteer’s head was positioned), and a small TV monitor was fixed inside the suit. Stan Winston also used a full-scale, six-foot animatronic for various other shots.
John Rosengrant, a supervisor at Stan Winston Studios, was the main suit performer. Rosengrant worked with a personal trainer to ensure he could hold certain poses, like the downhill skiing position, for prolonged periods of shooting. Rosengrant also studied Velociraptors, imitating their behavioral traits to create a realistic ‘Raptor’ performance.
2 The Ailing Triceratops Was Entirely Practical
Another amazing moment from Jurassic Park sees Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler, Dr. Malcolm, and park employees tend to an ailing Triceratops. This scene was particularly difficult to shoot as it was shot on location in Hawaii. However, puppeteers soon came to appreciate Spielberg’s decision to shoot within the environment as all the dirt and dust tied the scene together, grounding the Triceratops in reality.
Sam Winston’s team sculpted the Triceratops’ highly detailed, pebble-textured skin by hand, along with its aged, cracked horns and tongue. Control rods were inserted beneath the puppet’s hips to give the illusion of labored breathing. Eight puppeteers operated the Triceratops in a hole dug beneath the animatronic.
1 The Tyrannosaur Was A Little Too Real
Jurassic Park‘s Tyrannosaur paddock sequence is easily one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history. From Spielberg’s masterful use of scale framing to the environmental weather and ambient lighting, there’s a level of power and weight to the Tyrannosaur that would have been impossible to achieve with a digital dinosaur. Occurring at the midpoint of the film (down to the exact minute), the first big Jurassic Park action sequence is well worth the wait.
The full-sized animatronic T-Rex weighed approximately 7.5 tons. Shooting with a downpour of rain proved difficult as the latex ‘skin’ would absorb large volumes of water, causing the Tyrannosaur to randomly spring to life between takes, shaking and quivering from the excess water weight. Technicians would then use blow dries and towels to dry the latex, eventually resorting to suspending a platform above the animatronic to keep the water off.
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