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Sunday, 10 June 2018

25 Years of Jurassic Park

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is now out in cinemas (highly recommend it by the way) purposefully to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original release of Jurassic Park in 1993. Regular readers of this blog, and people who know me in real life, can attest how much I love the Jurassic Park franchise. With special effects remaining superb today, interesting characters, and, of course, dinosaurs Jurassic Park has stood the test of time. Today we'll look at 25 things which I find interesting about the franchise looking at the books, games, comics and even the marketing of the series. All of the things which we will look at shows how important Jurassic Park has been. Warning: this post will contain some spoilers for the new movie as well as other entries to the series. I'll be abbreviating certain titles during this post so I shall lay them out now: JP is Jurassic Park, TLW is The Lost World, JPIII is Jurassic Park III, JW is Jurassic World, JW:FK is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, JPT is Jurassic Park: Trespasser, JPOG is Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, JPTG is Jurassic Park: The Game, and JWE is Jurassic World: Evolution.

25. From a dark novel to a family feature
Those who have read Michael Crichton's novel will know that it is far darker than Steven Spielberg's adaptation. Many characters swear, John Hammond is a far more sinister and self-centered character, Robert Muldoon is a drunk, and characters are brutally torn apart by dinosaurs. When Dennis Nedry is killed by a Dilophosaurus he comments that he can feel his intestines which have been torn apart and Henry Wu is also torn disemboweled while still alive. Unnamed characters also die quite horrifically. A young man at the very start of the novel is taken to mainland Costa Rica after being mauled by a Velociraptor, and we see in detail his wounds, and a baby is killed by Procomsognathus who had escaped to the mainland. If we had gotten a book accurate adaptation JP likely would have remained a smash hit but not in the same way. It would have been a hit in the same sense as Terminator 2; T2 made US $523.7 million while JP made US $1.029 billion. Spielberg was always into making family features despite wanting to make more adult hits like Schindler's List. As a result JP was made into a more darker family feature than a straight up adaptation featuring gore and violence. Even the two darkest entries in the series, TLW and JW:FK, are nowhere nearly as dark as Crichton's novel. Quite possibly JP would never be such a big franchise as it is now without this shift.

24. Landmark in film history
Jurassic Park's first CGI dinosaur
JP is one of the movies lauded for its special effects with it being one of the first movies to use CGI to such a great extent and realistically as well. Originally Phil Tippett, who had worked on Return of the Jedi, was hired to use go-motion, a more updated version of stop-motion, to create the dinosaurs. However, Spielberg felt it could be improved upon. A team from Industrial Lights and Magic (ILM) under Dennis Muren was approached to use a relatively new form of special effects to make the dinosaurs: CGI. ILM had used CGI to create the fantastic effects of the aliens in The Abyss and the shape-shifting living metal T-1000 in Terminator 2, both directed by James Cameron. After showing Spielberg an animation of skeletal Gallimimus running go-motion was scrapped in favor of CGI. Tippett was kept on board to create the models which Muren and his team would adapt for their CGI, and then their CGI dinosaurs would be combined with animatronics and puppets made by Stan Winston. As a result we managed to see the breath-taking effects where most still stand the test of time which actually were better than the effects which we saw in JW. Hence, JP, T2, and The Abyss are seen as some of the films which brought CGI into the mainstream which has since shaped the film industry.

23. Surprising lack of dinosaurs
Especially compared to later entries in the series the original JP had surprisingly few dinosaurs in the movie; this includes species and how many dinosaurs literally appear. JP is 127 minutes long and in that only 15 minutes have dinosaurs in it of which nine are animatronic and six are CGI. That means barely over 10% of the movie has dinosaurs in it! Eight dinosaurs physically appear in the movie, a few more are mentioned though, and even then one is a skeleton (the Alamosaurus in the Visitor's Center), and another, Parasaurolophus, appears briefly alongside Brachiosaurus in the movie's most iconic scene. Quite ironically only two dinosaurs which appear are from the Jurassic: Dilophosaurus and Brachiosaurus. The rest are from the Cretaceous. 

22. Progressing Views on Paleontology 
Although those who know about dinosaurs will know that JP is inaccurate, after all we now know that most or possibly all dinosaurs had feathers, but when it was released it was fairly accurate for the time. Paleontologist Jack Horner was hired as an adviser to the series and as a result audiences were introduced to more accurate dinosaurs. Previously dinosaurs had been portrayed as slow, sluggish brutes destined to go extinct little more than being large iguanas. Horner made sure the dinosaurs were active. We saw this in the book as well. Henry Wu acts Hammond whether he should release a new batch of dinosaurs slower than the ones they have in case guests didn't believe that they were real. Originally the Velociraptors were meant to have forked tongues which flicked out of their mouths like lizards but Horner convinced the makers to drop this, and when they breathe on the kitchen door window it fogs over showing it was warm blooded. I have seen this called a mistake with people saying dinosaurs were cold blooded when in reality it is accurate - dinosaurs like Velociraptor were more than likely warm blooded. The later entries occasionally continued this trend. TLW and JW:FK both portray Tyrannosaurus as an ambush predator while the raptors in JP3 have some head feathers, although in real life they were entirely covered in feathers.

21. Greater Interest in dinosaurs

JP coincided with a new wave of dinosaur discoveries from China which found that dinosaurs were indeed feathered. These combined with an upsurge in people becoming paleontologists at university. The 1990s also saw a boom in dinosaur related media ranging from the video game Turok to the Whoopi Goldberg movie Theodore Rex. Possibly the best documentary on dinosaurs, Walking with Dinosaurs, was made thanks to JP. Producers and writers Jasper James and Tim Haines wanted to make a documentary on the scale of JP and with effects from Mike Milne produced Walking with Dinosaurs in 1999. They had even initially approached ILM to make the dinosaurs but as they were charging over $10,000 per second of footage they were deemed to be too expensive for the BBC! Walking with Dinosaurs still remains one of the most successful documentaries by the BBC and has spawned sequels, a live experience, and a movie since then.

20. Alternate Scripts
JP went through many script revisions before we got the one used. Quite curiously all bar the final had Robert Muldoon survive. Some scripts were also darker than the one we eventually got even though most were not nearly as dark as the novel was. In one script Hammond was closer to his book counterpart with him being a greedy capitalist but he was still caring and selfless with him eventually sacrificing himself to let others escape from Velociraptors. One storyboard also had a different ending. In this ending Grant and the kids escape from the Visitor's Center but are chased by the Tyrannosaurus who then tries to attack their helicopter instead of the one we saw where the Tyrannosaurus saves them from the pack of raptors.  

19. Metaphors hidden in plain sight
The gift shop
Steven Spielberg's movies were constantly criticized for being heavily marketed. For every family movie we saw toys, comics, video games (E.T. The Game is often cited as almost crashing the video game industry), clothing and countless other products made. Directly quoting Ian Malcolm: before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you're selling it, you wanna sell it. Albeit JP was heavily marketed as well having a comic series by Topps, ten video games being released between 1993 and 1995, lunch boxes, Burger King tie-ins, clothes, many toy series, and novelizations just to name a few examples. Spielberg, though, decided to address this criticism in JP outside of just Malcolm's rant. We catch a brief glimpse of the gift shop showing the wide range of JP merchandise including books, lunch boxes, and toys in a purposeful attempt to show how much Spielberg's movies have been over-marketed. JW also featured huge amounts of marketing having tie-ins with Sony, Margahritaville, Pandora, and LEGO to name a few examples where most were very blatantly shown in the movie. Director Colin Trevorrow did this on purpose as a critique of marketization and commodifying nature and some of the examples of product placement are physically destroyed by the fighting dinosaurs. This brings us to our next point...

18. An environmentalist and anti-capitalist series?
The environmentalist aspect of the series is very clear; throughout the series humans try to exploit nature for their own gain but, as always, life finds a way. JP scientists create dinosaurs as attraction but as they don't understand them all hell breaks loose; TLW features wild dinosaurs being captured for a zoo in San Diego which backfires; JW sees the Indominus rex literally created for entertainment and war; and JW:FK features dinosaurs being made or captured for human desires. With the exception of JPIII all the movies and books feature humans trying to exploit nature but 'life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously'. Many people have highlighted the environmentalist aspect of the franchise but one often overlooked is a possible anti-capitalist theme to it; in TLW Ian Malcolm even says to Hammond 'you've gone from capitalist to environmentalist'. Especially book Hammond sees dinosaurs as something to be used for profit regardless of ethics and whether they really understand the life they've just created. This is especially prominent in JW and JW:FK. As mentioned Trevorrow used product placement to show capitalist exploitation of the dinosaurs and this revolves around the Indominus. They give it a name specifically for ease of marketing and one character makes jokes about calling it along the lines of 'Pepsi-saurus'. Irrfan Khan's Simon Masrani is just like an eccentric and ostensibly good-hearted billionaire like Elon Musk. Quite recently, as of writing, his self-driving car tests have resulted in crashes as Musk overlooks poor working conditions. Like Musk Masrani chases a dream, (a 'cool' hybrid dinosaur) but ignores the awful reality until it is too late. Then this theme is further reinforced in JW:FK as dinosaurs are captured to sell to billionaires in order to fund a new biological weapon. Anti-capitalism may not have been behind the thinking of Crichton, Spielberg, and Trevorrow but it is there.

17. Crichtonsaurus 
Crichtonsaurus in Jurassic World: Evolution
A dinosaur has been named after Michael Crichton due to him being the author of JP. In 2002 an ankylosaur from China was given the name Crichtonsaurus in honor of Crichton. Incidentally another species of dinosaur has been named after Crichton. A second species of Crichtonsaurus was discovered but paleontologists realized in 2015 that it was indeed a different genus of dinosaur so it was named Crichtonpelta. Ironically, things have come full circle. The new park building game JWE, to be released in two days time as of writing, features a Crichtonsaurus as a dinosaur which you feature in your own version of Jurassic World. A few people on Reddit have been wondering how this can be, some have argued that Crichton wrote a novel based on the real-world events, forgetting that Crichton was a big author even before JP. The popular HBO show Westworld is a remake of a movie written and directed by Crichton after all. In the JP universe Crichtonsaurus is likely named after the famous sci-fi author instead of the author of a novel where cloned dinosaurs break out and eat the guests.

16. Carnosaur and Jurassic Park

JP was not the first novel to feature dinosaurs brought back from extinction in a zoo which goes wrong. In 1984 the novel Carnosaur was released by John Brosnan, under the pseudonym of Harry Adam Knight, which features an eccentric lord in Cambridge, England who breeds dinosaurs for his own menagerie. I have not read the novel but it does bear resemblances to JP with Brosnan commenting that he liked the ending of the movie JP as it resembled his own book. In fact he was so worried about the similarities between the two when his book was reissued in case people thought he had plagiarized Crichton. However, it is unlikely that Crichton intentionally plagiarized Brosnan as the novels diverge quite a lot after the cursory 'eccentric person breeds dinosaurs for a zoo who escape an eat people' plot line. This did not stop people from wanting to use Carnosaur to capitalize on JP. Roger Corman, a director famous for his glorious over-the-top, low budget and campy movies, was hired to direct Carnosaur in 1993 to capitalize off of JP's marketing. Brosnan even wrote a script for it which was never used (the movie bears no resemblance to the novel) and they even hired Laura Dern's mother, Diane Ladd, to appear in it! Naturally the movie was awful and Brosnan has described it as 'interesting crap'. Ironically, JW:FK's plot of dinosaurs running loose in a mansion resembles Carnosaur's plot more than the actual adaptation does!

15. No real dinosaurs?
A line in the novel has sparked a fan theory about the first novel and movie. Henry Wu debates with Hammond the validity of the dinosaurs saying that they recreated them but they aren't sure how truly accurate they are. When Hammond dismisses his request to clone slower dinosaurs he says that the dinosaurs are 'real' with Wu remaining unconvinced. We now know that the dinosaurs of JP being very different from their real counterparts - Wu in JW even directly says this and viral marketing have confirmed several fan theories on this. This is where a fan theory comes in. The theory states that the reason why paleontologists are invited to Isla Nublar is to not only assess the security but also to see if they get convinced by Hammond's dinosaurs. If the experts think that the dinosaurs are 'real' and not approximates then Hammond's dream can happen unhindered.

14. Important games

There have been many games relating to the franchise, JPOG remains one of my favorite games, but two are important. The first was released in 1998 called Trespasser, JPT. A sequel to TLW which was partially directed by Speilberg and featuring Richard Attenborough it told the story of a woman who landed on Isla Sorna and her attempts to survive. They wanted a game as ambitious as the first movie with it having no HUD display to make it realistic, have dinosaurs act naturally with each having moods, and real physics. However, a rushed development meant that dinosaur AI was extremely poor (some would break when changing moods), the physics went out of control, and objects at times refused to render. In some instances mods had to actually make the game playable! Despite this the game remains to have a huge following and has highly influential in the gaming industry. Games such as Half-Life 2 have based their gameplay off of JPT but done right. In 2011 Jurassic Park: The Game, JP:TG, was released by Telltale Games. This was meant to be a sequel to JP featuring some characters left behind as the main cast left via helicopter. It was a point-and-click game featuring puzzle solving with a great emphasis on story. Unfortunately most characters were forgettable, the puzzle solving was basic, and the story was a tad bit dull with Telltale being forced to have its own employees post anonymous reviews praising the game. Telltale learnt from their mistakes and would go on to make games improving on JP:TG such as the fantastic The Walking Dead. Trevorrow has come out and said that both these games are 'soft canon' - this means that the events are canon but if anything counteracted the movies that aspect would be written out.

13. Rexy
The Tyrannosaurus featured in JP is very important to the series. Given the name Rexy by fans, due to Muldoon calling her that in the novel, she was called Roberta in the script. However, Rexy didn't end with JP - the Tyrannosaur shown in JW and JW:FK is the same Tyrannosaur from JP. If you look carefully in both movies you can see that she has scars on the side of her body; these are the scars given to her by the Velociraptor from the end of the first movie. With this in mind she is joint with Ian Malcolm and Henry Wu for physically appearing the most in the franchise where both appear in three movies. If we include JP:TG then she would appear the most in regards to just the movie canon. 
12. Confirmation of Fan Theories 
A promotional website for JW takes you to a website forMasrani Global  and you can access secret emails. One of these, called 'Ruffled Feathers', confirms two fan theories. I'll put the email here:
DATE: 02/20/2003 1410 CST
---END LOG---
The first theory confirmed is why the dinosaurs are featherless with the 'null allele' reference - the addition of frog DNA meant that the dinosaurs cannot produce feathers. The second theory is where it says 'with that accident we left on Sorna'. Fans have argued that the reason why the Spinosaurus was so aggressive and different to the real dinosaur was due to it being a hybrid setting up the Indominus. As a result, fans have speculated that this confirms a fan theory that the Spinosaurus was indeed a hybrid.

11. Box Office
JP is one of the most highly successful franchises being in the top 50 most successful franchises above Godzilla, Mortal Kombat, Ghostbusters and Family Guy. JP and JW are also two of the most successful films. JP sits at twenty-eighth with it earning over a billion but JW smashed it out of the park earning over US $1.6 billion! JW sits just below The Force Awakens, Avengers: Infinity War, Titanic and Avatar.

10. The first dinosaur
For JW:FK a new canon guide to the history of the JP universe has been released called Jurassic World: Survival Guide. In it we find out that in 1986 InGen cloned its first dinosaur: Triceratops. Before then the first dinosaur had always been debated. According to the Topps comic Rexy was the first dinosaur to be cloned whereas Trespasser implies that it was Velociraptor. Unfortunately we have no indication what was bred first in the books although the books do have a miniature elephant being bred to drum up support for Hammond's business ventures. However, the Survival Guide mentions that in 1984 InGen cloned its first animal, strongly implied to be extinct, but we still do not know what it is. YouTuber Klayton Fioriti has argued that it could be a Smilodon, the saber-toothed tiger, as stuffed toys of them can be seen in the gift shop in JP.

9. The disaster of JPIII

I would argue that the only outright bad movie in the franchise is JPIII and looking at its production it is clear why. Spielberg was good friends with Joe Johnston, who had directed Jumanji and Honey! I Shrunk the Kids, so he made him a promise: if a third movie was made he could direct. It could have worked if not for the script. The script repeatedly changed and some of the older versions were far better than the one we received. One involved a group going to Isla Sorna to find Alan Grant who had ignored international law in order to study the island's dinosaurs. Another, featuring the characters of the film we got, revolved around mysterious deaths on the mainland which people suspect to be dinosaurs so Grant leads an expedition to Sorna to investigate where they get trapped. Last minute script changes meant it was incomplete when filming started and the cast joked that during their party at the end of shooting they would be presented a finished script. The antagonist was changed, the fates of characters were altered, and entire scenes crucial to the plot were scrapped. As a result we got a jumbled movie where the best thing about it was the effects.

8. The turbulent making of JPIV
Yeah, I'm glad this got scrapped
We received many different ideas for a fourth installment before we got JW in 2015, many of which I am glad they abandoned. One of the earlier ones was mentioned in an interview with Johnston which incidentally was a plan for JPIII where the Pteranodon came to the mainland. A potential script by John Sayles was actually leaked, which you can actually read here, where the only recurring character was John Hammond. The movie was meant to be released around 2005 and aspects of it would inspire aspects of JW: a ex-military operative would be hired by Hammond to go to Nublar to get the DNA canister from a company who wants to used trained and genetically modified dinosaurs for war. Another script featured grotesque human/dinosaur hybrids which I am glad they scrapped. After the death of Stan Winston in 2005 the project was scrapped until around 2011. A script similar to JW was revealed where an open Jurassic World would clone a newly discovered Chinese dinosaur called Diabolos rex is cloned. Its discoverer and her sons go to check it out where she meets a dinosaur trainer just as things go bad. When I first learned of JW, and when I wrote about it on here in 2014, articles and this blog called the Indominus the Diabolos rex.

7. The books joking about the films
The book JP portrays the eyesight of the Tyrannosaurus differently to the film. While the film states that Tyrannosaurs have eyes like frogs, being only able to see moving objects, in the book we find out that this is due to frog DNA being woven into the dinosaur DNA. In TLW novel a character makes a joke about Alan Grant's theory that Tyrannosaurs could only see moving objects, as one unfortunate character finds out, in a strange twist. It seems that TLW is a sequel to both the first book and the film.

6. Making an iconic scene

One of the most iconic scenes in all of cinematic history is when the cup of water ripples as Rexy approaches. Special effects artist Michael Lantieri found this to be the hardest scene to film but he found a way. 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 JP franchise but also film history.

5. Pop culture References
The franchise is littered with references to popular culture with some being very blatant, such as Malcolm saying 'What are they keeping in there? King Kong?' in JP, to more subtle ones. Crichton's second novel was purposefully entitled The Lost World in order to homage Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name due to both featuring a team of explorers going to a remote land inhabited by dinosaurs. The adaptation took it a step further when it brought a Tyrannosaurus to San Diego; at the end of The Lost World the explorers brought back a Pteranodon which flew back home while in the 1925 film an escapee Brontosaurus wrecks havoc in London, much like Spielberg's version. Some Japanese business people also flee the Tyrannosaur and when you translate what they're saying it turns out they are complaining that they 'Left Japan because of this' in a reference to Godzilla. Incidentally the US remake of Godzilla released a few years later took inspiration from JP with the baby Godzilla. In Trespasser an abandoned workers' village is called Burroughs after Edgar Rice Burroughs who wrote The Land that Time Forgot and another is called Verne after Jules Verne who wrote Journey to the Centre of the Earth. During JP if you look carefully Nedry is watching Jaws, another movie by Spielberg, and Trevorrow had the mosasaur eat great white sharks to see if Spielberg could pick up on the reference.

4. Honoring Stan Winston and Richard Attenborough

There are homages to both Winston and Attenborough in JW. There is a steak house, serving Chilean sea bass, in both the movie and the promotional material called Winston's in honor of him. There was also meant to be an animatronic Tyrannosaur destroyed by the Indominus but Spielberg had it cut in case it was seen as an insult to Winston's memory. Meanwhile, there is a statue of John Hammond in JW which was expanded upon in JW:FK as a portrait of Hammond is purposefully shown in Lockwood's manor.

3. Cancelled TV series
Surprisingly we have yet to receive a TV series but there were plans for two animated series. The first was entitled Escape from Jurassic Park and was actually had storyboards drawn for 23 episodes to be released around 1993/4. It would feature the cast trying to rebuild Jurassic Park as InGen's rival Biosyn trying to form their own in Brazil. We know that in one scene the team would be attacked by a plesiosaur while in a dingy. Spielberg himself cancelled the series as he didn't want the market to be saturated with Jurassic Park. Around 1997 a series called Jurassic Park: Chaos Effect was planned featuring genetic hybrids but it was never produced for unknown reasons. However, the hybrids got turned into a toy line under the same name instead. 

2. The Jurassic World viral marketing
The viral marketing for JW and JW:FK have expanded a lot on the lore. Mentioned earlier we have the Masrani Global website but we also got one for Jurassic World itself where you can visit the website as if it was a real zoo. You can see the dinosaurs, attractions, hotels and even a menu for Winston's! For JW:FK they came back to that website where it was, and still is, hacked by the Dinosaur Protection Group (DPG) revealing which dinosaurs have gone extinct again, bits and pieces of Jurassic World, and even a book reference. When you click on the original T.rex enclosure on the map it mentions it could hold an adult and juvenile; in the book there was an adult and juvenile at the park. The DPG also has their own website revealing all that has happened between JPIII and JW and later JW and JW:FK. Even this morning I found another bit of marketing; @Extinction_Now on Twitter shows an anti-dinosaur account wanting them to go extinct again due to how dangerous dinosaurs are, and it even has new footage from the Tyrannosaur rampage in San Diego!

1. An end of an era (Spoilers!)
From the trailers and websites we know that Isla Sorna and Isla Nublar have been, or will be, destroyed and Trevorrow has said that the third movie will not be set on the islands. Our first CGI dinosaur in JP is the Brachiosaurus in one of the most iconic scenes of the franchise where it stands on its legs calling. Our final shot of Isla Nublar as it is destroyed by the erupting volcano we see a Brachiosaurus being consumed by the pyroclastic flow. As it is being consumed it raises upon its hindlegs and calls. A new era for the series starts by homaging the old and as always:

Thank you for reading and I hoped you found it interesting. For future blog updates please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

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