Congrats – we made it through the week – let’s use Sci-Friday #187 to discuss the magical world of Jurassic Park animatronics. Of course, Jurassic Park is known mostly for its innovative CGI. Yet, CGI only makes up six minutes of the movie’s two-hour running time. What were many of the other dazzling special effects? None other than old-fashioned film-making and animatronics. Take a behind-the-scenes look at the animatronics of Jurassic Park and then let’s break down what they contributed to the final product of the movie.
According to Wikipedia, many of the animatronic and practical effects were either happy accidents or natural by-products of the cast’s creativity. For instance, shooting the T-Rex scenes “proved frustrating because when water soaked the foam rubber skin of the animatronic dinosaur, it caused the T. rex to shake and quiver from the extra weight when the foam absorbed it. This forced Stan Winston’s crew to dry the model with shammys between takes.”
But wait, it gets better! “Malcolm distracting the dinosaur with a flare was included at Jeff Goldblum’s suggestion. He felt a heroic action was better than going by the script, where like Gennaro, Malcolm was scared and ran away.The ripples in the glass of water caused by the T. rex‘s footsteps were inspired by Spielberg listening to Earth, Wind and Fire in his car, and the vibrations the bass rhythm caused. Lantieri was unsure how to create the shot until the night before filming when he put a glass of water on a guitar he was playing, which achieved the concentric circles in the water Spielberg wanted. The next morning, guitar strings were put inside the car and a man on the floor plucked them to achieve the effect.”
One of the things that stands out to me after 25+ years is how Jurassic Park illustrates the beauty of storytelling and film-making. The cast and crew of Jurassic Park weren’t content to ‘fix it in post,’ or ‘wash away the problems with a money hose.’ No, they used their brains, their experience, and their creativity to make the impossible look possible. Their use of practical effects and CGI were heartfelt, authentic, and contained a sense of creativity integrity that still holds up almost thirty years later.
I hope you enjoyed this moment of scifi special effects! Please feel welcomed to dive down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years. Have a great weekend! 🙂