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Friday, 12 June 2015

10 Facts about the Jurassic Park Franchise

Yesterday saw the release of the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise Jurassic World (expect a review in a fortnight). Since the novel was published in 1990 by Michael Crichton the story of an eccentric billionaire who clones dinosaurs using DNA locked in amber who then run amok has captivated the world over. For the release of Jurassic World and that yesterday was 22 years since the film was released I thought it would be fitting to look at unique facts about the franchise. These ten facts will cover the two novels by Michael Crichton and the four movies. Hold on to your butts here are ten Jurassic Park facts.

10. Some unique changes from book to film
As Steven Spielberg and David Koepp started to adapt Michael Crichton's hit novel onto the silver screen multiple changes were made. Some surrounded the characters such as John Hammond (played by Richard Attenborough) in the film being a friendly, jovial philanthropist who cares for his staff whereas in the novel he was a greedy, selfish egotist with every negative stereotypes for capitalists rolled into one. Alan Grant (played by Sam Neil) was in the novel a middle aged strapping paleontologist with a beard and liked children for their equal love for dinosaurs but in the film he was changed to a relatively young man who disliked kids but eventually grows to like children. In the novel Dr Henry Wu (played by B.D.Wong and is the only recurring character from the other films in Jurassic World) played a massive part while in the film he only had one scene even though B.D.Wong's name appears before Samuel L.Jackson's name who had far more scenes! One character called Ed Regis was even written out of the movie but his death (via T Rex) was given to the lawyer Donald Gennaro (played by Martin Ferrero) who incidentally survived in the novel. A few scenes from the novel were also cut in Jurassic Park but would later appear in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III. These included a tourist girl being attacked by Compsognathus (bipedal chicken sized carnivores) who had escaped to the mainland and a Tyrannosaurus attacking people through a waterfall which was moved to The Lost World. The group being attacked by pterosaurs (flying reptiles that lived at the time of the dinosaurs often called pterodactyls) which was moved to Jurassic Park III. Dinosaurs were also changed including there being more raptors bred in the book and a baby T Rex. A few dinosaurs were also swapped like Apatosaurus was changed to Brachiosaurus for the film. a sick Stegosaurus was supplemented for a Triceratops (as it was Spielberg's favorite dinosaur) and a herd of stampeding hadrosaurs (duck billed dinosaurs) for Gallimimus.
These are Gallimimus
9. The hardest effect to film

One of the special effects artists Michael Lantieri found that one of the hardest effects to produce was not actually bringing the dinosaurs back to life. The hardest effect was actually producing one of the film's most iconic scenes. When the jeeps stop thanks to the power outage (due to being electric cars on tracks) in front of the T Rex paddock ripples in a glass of water herald the arrival of the king of the dinosaurs. This effect proved to be very difficult to actually produce. In the end Lantieri found out how to produce it when he was playing his guitar in his spare time. He found that when he plucked the guitar the water would ripple in the desired effect. For the film he attached a guitar wire under the jeep dashboard and plucked it creating one of the most iconic scenes in not only the Jurassic Park franchise but also film history.

8. Jurassic Park's nod to another famous film dinosaur
At the end of The Lost World: Jurassic Park in a big deviation from the novel (as if you completely spliced two films together) a Tyrannosaurus is taken to San Diego in order to put it in Jurassic Park: San Diego. However the Tyrannosaurus breaks out and wreaks havoc across the city. At one part the T Rex is chasing a group of people through the streets including a group of Japanese businessmen who shouts in Japanese. What they say translates to: 'I left Japan because of this!'. All of this points to a massive reference to Godzilla; a giant movie monster who wreaks havoc across Japan. Although the first film was in turn inspired by another movie monster. Steven Spielberg was inspired to do Jurassic Park to see if he could possibly do and pay homage to the hit 1933 film King Kong (hence Jeff Goldblum's line in Jurassic Park 'What are they keeping in there King Kong?).

7. Crichton and his novel's antagonists
When he was writing Jurassic Park Crichton wanted a main antagonist that wasn't the obvious choice, that being Tyrannosaurus. Crichton had done his research and with many carnivorous dinosaurs being human sized or smaller he thought a small predator would be the better antagonist than a giant T Rex. For one such claustrophobic scenes such as the infamous kitchen scene with the raptors definitively could not be achieved with a T Rex. The intelligent, small raptors proved to be the perfect and he particularly liked the name of one: Velociraptor. However he had a problem as in real life Velociraptor was hardly as high as your knee. A second large raptor called Deinonychus proved to be a better suit and after finding out that they were closely he used some poetic licensing for his antagonists. In the novel it is explained that Deinonychus was found to be a larger Velociraptor. When it was being adapted Spielberg upped the size of the raptors as Crichton had his Velociraptors being the same size as the real life Deinonychus (just over half the height of a human). If they had waited a year though to release the film a raptor called Utahraptor would be discovered which was exactly the size of the raptors seen in the film. The creator of the dinosaur animatronics and puppets Stan Winston even said that he created it before it was discovered! 

6. They progressed the public's view on dinosaurs
In the 1970s something called the Dinosaur Renaissance happened where findings had shown that dinosaurs weren't sluggish, solitary monsters but really sociable, warm-blooded, good parents. This however proved difficult to change public perception. Crichton in his novel portrayed his dinosaurs as what these new findings were found to be like: caring parents, moving in herds and running with mammal and bird like agility. Dr Henry Wu in the novel even suggests making the dinosaurs more docile to appeal to the general public. When the film was released the dinosaurs were portrayed moving in herds and the raptors especially were intelligent, cunning and warm-blooded. Following the film and novel's immediate popularity video games, movies and television programs were released portraying dinosaurs as paleontologists believed they actually acted like. All thanks to Jurassic Park. Although many of the dinosaurs are now known to look and act differently (such as many dinosaurs including Velociraptor are known to be feathered) the impact of the film on public views on dinosaurs cannot be diminished.

5. Joe Johnston directing Jurassic Park III was due to a promise
Joe Johnston was a good friend of Steven Spielberg and had directed multiple family films in the past such as Jumanji and Honey! I Shrunk the kids. Spielberg knew though that Johnston liked the previous Jurassic Park films and promised him if a third installment was made he would try and get Johnston the directing role. This proved successful for Johnston and he got the directing role for the film which turned out to be a train wreck (I actually do like the film but it definitely was a train wreck). Johnston however did make his own film unique with the daring move of using the little known outside the paleontological community dinosaur Spinosaurus as the film's dinosaur antagonist. In homage to the first film though the end shot featuring Pteranodon (a species of pterosaur from the film) flying over the sea is exactly the same as the one at the end of Jurassic Park albeit with the original using pelicans instead. 

4. Rain and the T Rex model
Steven Spielberg hired special effects wizard Stan Winston to create life sized dinosaurs for the film. Winston had previously created costumes, puppets and animatronics for a variety of films including creating the Predator for Predator and Predator 2, the stunning Terminator make-up in The Terminator which turned Arnold Schwarzenegger into the ruthless killer cyborg and had created Frankenstein's Monster, Gill-Man, Mummy and other classic movie monsters for The Monster Squad. In Jurassic Park Winston excelled himself creating the lifelike models for each dinosaur. This included a 15,000 pound T Rex animatron on the sound stage for the infamous T Rex breakout scene. Late in production however Spielberg decided to make it rain during that scene to add more atmosphere. However Winston had made the animatron with precise dimensions and movement when it was dry. When it was wet the latex soaked up the water making it much heavier. This increase in water tension even made the animatron shudder when not active and producer Kathleen Turner said that it would suddenly move scaring everyone half to death! To avoid the sudden life bursts in the animatron people had to hit it with towels in an attempt to dry it. A considerable feat with the model being lifesized meaning that it stood a meter higher than an average bull elephant!

3. The first sequels
Michael Crichton published his first novel in 1966 (Odds On) although under a pseudonym. During his career he never once released a sequel to any of his novels; that was until The Lost World in 1995. Following the success of the film adaptation of Jurassic Park fans wanted a sequel, especially as Crichton had left the ending open for a possible follow up. Thanks to this Crichton broke his rule and made a sequel where he delves into the darker side of the company from the first book InGen, pays homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous story and shows that (quoting Ian Malcolm) 'life finds a way'. He even made a joke about some of the changes that the film made to the original book. In the film paleontologist Alan Grant says that T Rex's sight is based on movement like a frog but in the book Grant only finds this out after seeing the Tyrannosaurus after it had escaped and even then only because it had been cloned using amphibian DNA, not because it actually had vision like a frog. One character in The Lost World called Richard Levine makes fun of this. When The Lost World was going to be translated onto the silver screen after his good experience on the first film chose to break his rule and decided to direct the sequel. Even though Jaws had a sequel he had nothing to do with it so it was his very first sequel with The Lost World.

2. How the dinosaurs were made to look real
During the creation of Jurassic Park Steven Spielberg wanted the dinosaurs to look as realistic as possible. Instead of CGI originally Spielberg hired Phil Tippett who had worked on the special effects for Return of the Jedi (to which he won an Oscar) to use Go-Motion for the wide shots of the dinosaurs. This is an updated version of stop-motion animation where they could seamlessly blur frames together to make a natural looking effect. Although his kids liked the effects Spielberg wasn't satisfied with the results so Dennis Muren whose effects team Industrial Lights and Magic (ILM) suggested CGI. James Cameron's The Abyss and Terminator 2 had breathtaking CGI and had broke ground with special effects in those films. He convinced him by showing him CGI imagery of skeletal Gallimimus running against a field realistically. Go-motion was scrapped and CGI was put in to replace it but instead of it all being in done through computer as with most current films Phil Tippett was hired still to create miniature dinosaur models which Muren then used to create better CGI dinosaurs based on these models. In production CGI was blended with Stan Winston's life sized models creating the masterpiece that we have. In the first film there are 15 minutes of dinosaurs, 9 minutes of animatronics and 6 minutes of CGI.

1. Jurassic World contains multiple homages
Jurassic World is the first film in the franchise to be filmed after the tragic deaths of Michael Crichton, Richard Attenborough and Stan Winston. I haven't seen the film yet so I cannot say if there is a homage to Crichton although I can say there is a dinosaur in real life named after him called Crichtonsaurus. However there is a homage to Richard Attenborough with there being a stature in dedication to his character John Hammond. Stan Winston similarly has a slight homage. If you go on the Jurassic World website (the link here: you go to a fake website for if the place was real. There you can find a menu for a restaurant called Winston's; a homage to the late Stan Winston. There are also sly references to the first film such as the Gallimimus paddock being filmed at the same ranch as the paddock in the first film and the Tyrannosaurus in the film has scars on its body and neck. The same places where Velociraptors attacked it at the end of the first film. Finally through one of the trailer's (confirmed in an interview) there is a restricted section on the island with remains of a familiar building from twenty two years ago...

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