Jurassic Park was released in 1993 after Universal and Steven Spielberg won the bidding war to adapt the book by Michael Crichton into a feature film. Rights to the film were aggressively sought after – other Hollywood icons wanted to direct Jurassic Park including Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon) and James Cameron (Titanic and Avatar). However, Spielberg and Universal had a one-up on the competition – Spielberg was a close friend of Crichton’s, having previously worked on developing Crichton’s script Cold Case into the television hit drama ER. After winning the bidding war, Spielberg was so excited to begin that he began storyboarding the movie before the script was even written.
For those few who may be unfamiliar with Jurassic Park, the premise of the movie is this: after the death of a Jurassic Park employee, three specialists are brought in to confirm the park is safe for the public. What the specialists find upon arrival at Jurassic Park exceeds their wildest dreams: Jurassic Park does not house life-size replicas of dinosaurs, but is in fact home to living dinosaurs. Chaos ensues when the electric fence designed to separate the dinosaurs from park-goers is powered down, leaving no protection for the three specialists as they race to re-boot the fence before they become dinosaur grub.
Jurassic Park is iconic not only for the gripping plot, but also highly admired for its revolutionary use of computer-generated imagery. Initially, using CGI was not considered; instead, Stan Winston – “creature master” of iconic films like Alien – crafted large dinosaurs, like a 20-foot tall T-Rex. Then, stop-motion artist Phil Tippett (who also worked on the film RoboCop), would animate smaller versions of Winston’s models. It wasn’t until Dennis Muren, fresh off working on Terminator 2: Judgement Day, brought up the idea of CGI and invited Spielberg to watch a demo. From that moment on, the team dove head first into computer-generated imagery.
Kathleen Kennedy, producer of the film said, “I remember getting the phone call where Dennis said, ‘I think I have something you and Steven should take a look at.’ We saw this wire-frame model of a dinosaur running across the screen, and it caused five or six of us to literally leap to our feet because it was so extraordinary and significantly beyond anything we had seen in motion control up to that point.”
Another fascinating aspect of the movement was the creative measures taken to create the dinosaur sounds. Famed sound designer Gary Rydstrom headed up the project, focusing on creating dinosaur sounds from the sounds of real animals. For example, the raptor’s sounds were made from a combination of 20-30 animal sounds; the main attack scream is made from a combination of walrus and dolphin noises. The T-Rex’s infamous roar was made from slowing down the trumpeting of a baby elephant.
Grossing $914M worldwide, Jurassic Park was an enormous financial success; it ranks as the 17th highest grossing film in North America, and the most lucrative of Steven Spielberg’s many prodigious films. After two re-releases – one in 2011 and the second in 3D in 2013 – the movie exceeded the $1B mark in terms of revenue. At Mercury One, we have in our possession a staff from the film which was given as a thank-you gift to Jim Barton: a top executive at Silicon Graphics, Inc., which was the company that developed software to produce special effects like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.
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