Jurassic Park: All-access pass

10 fascinating factoids about Spielberg's dino-classic

Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) plays a game of catch with a T-rex in "Jurassic Park."

Released in 1993, Jurassic Park was the first film to be shown with DTS digital surround-sound. I saw it in Tampa, Florida, at an advance screening set up by Universal, and let me tell you, the entire theater shook when that T-rex roared.

Equal parts 1950s-style science fiction, thrilling adventure, lopsided love story and something cornball torn from the frayed pages of Boys Life magazine ("Dinosaurs live again!"), Jurassic Park is a supremely enjoyable movie.

It was written by the late, great Michael Crichton (read the book; it's even better than the film) and directed by Steven Spielberg, perhaps Hollywood's greatest storyteller.

But you knew all that already.

The film was re-released earlier this year, in 3D, to capitalize on its 20th anniversary. It's this version that the SCAD Cinema Circle screens Saturday, July 13 in the Trustees Theater.

Just like Jaws, Spielberg's animal-terror benchmark, there are a few inferior sequels to Jurassic Park. The man himself directed the first one, but it's kind of a stinker ("Dinosaurs live again, again!"). The less said about Joe Johnston's Jurassic Park III, the better.

Jurassic Park 4 is currently in production, with a projected release date of summer 2015. Colin Trevorrow is directing, with Spielberg reportedly in a consulting role. The "re-boot" again takes place on the island of Isla Nubar, where John Hammond's vision of a dinosaur theme park has finally come to fruition. It's a Sea World sort of place, with aquatic dinos actually putting on "shows" for guests.

Until, of course, something goes wrong ....

We'll wait for that one with bated breath. In the meantime, before settling down in your Trustees Theater seat for the ultimate Spielberg thrill ride, here are 10 "Did You Knows" to enhance your enjoyment of the one (and, truthfully, the only) Jurassic Park.

1. In 1989, Steven Spielberg was in pre-production on a film based on novelist Michael Crichton's book ER. After reading the not-yet-published galleys of Crichton's Jurassic Park, he decided to film that one instead (on Spielberg's behalf, Universal paid Crichton $2 million for the rights). After completing the Jurassic Park film, the director returned to ER, and helped to develop it into the hit TV series that launched George Clooney's career.

2. Casting choices: Harrison Ford turned down the role of Dr. Alan Grant, as did William Hurt. Richard Dreyfuss was considered for the role. Juliette Binoche was Spielberg's first choice for Dr. Ellie Satler; Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright, Michelle Pfieffer, Laura Linney, Sandra Bullock and a half-dozen others were considered before the part was given to Laura Dern. And Universal wanted Sean Connery for John Hammond.

3. Generally speaking, any shot of a full dinosaur — running, eating, chasing other creatures or doing various dino things — was computer-generated, but shots of parts of dinosaurs were of animatronics. Every time you see a shot of the T-rex' big, nasty head, that's a Stan Winston-created animatronic. The exception: The full-sized T-rex (which is only seen briefly) weighed about 15,000 pounds.

4. Since actual dinosaur vocalizations were not known, Spielberg's sound engineers had to improvise. The T-rex roars were a combination of dog, penguin, tiger, alligator, and elephant sounds. The velociraptor squeal is a combo of walrus grunts and dolphin squeaks. For the part where the T-rex catches a Galliminus and shakes it in his mouth, the sound was taken from a dog shaking a toy in its mouth.

5. When the T-rex comes through the glass roof of the Ford Explorer in the first attack, the glass was not meant to break, producing the noticeably genuine screams from the child actors.

6. Small, chicken-sized dinosaurs called Procompsognathids were cut from the film for budgetary reasons. Chrichton's novel ends with John Hammond being attacked and consumed by a mass of these creatures; this doesn't happen in the movie. The dinky dinos ("compys" for short) made their debut in the Spielberg-directed sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

7. With every new draft of the script, there was a different set of survivors and a different set of characters dying. At various points during pre-production, Hammond, Malcolm, and Dr. Wu were going to die and Gennaro and Muldoon were going to live.

8. The first mega-budget film to use computer-generated visuals, Jurassic Park was an inspiration to other filmmakers, including Spielberg's pal George Lucas, whose Industrial Light and Magic supervised the film's post-production work (Spielberg was in Poland directing his next film, Schindler's List). Lucas was so impressed with the advances in computer technology that he decided to go forward with his three Star Wars prequels.

9. Just like Jaws, which hid the shark for much of the movie, Spielberg crafted Jurassic Park as exercise in suspense, tension and release. There are only 15 minutes of actual dinosaur footage in the film: 9 minutes are Stan Winston's animatronics, 6 minutes is ILM's CGI.

10. Jurassic Park was the highest-grossing feature film until Titanic sailed onto the horizon in 1997. To date, the film has earned more than $914,000,000.

Source: Internet Movie Database


About The Author

Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.
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