Making the dinosaurs of 'Jurassic Park' (pictures)
With "Jurassic Park 3D" hitting theaters this weekend, the legendary Stan Winston Studio reflects on the creation of the terrifying dinosaurs seen in an adventure 65 million years in the making.
This weekend, "Jurassic Park" celebrates its 20th anniversary with a 3D re-release likely to captivate and terrify audiences just as it did in 1993. During the development of the film "Jurassic Park," director Steven Spielberg enlisted the team at Stan Winston Studio to design and build many of the realistic-looking dinosaurs seen in the movie.
Surprisingly, "Jurassic Park" contains only 15 total minutes of dinosaur footage, and 9 minutes of those are purely the work of Stan Winston Studio. Winston, who died in 2008, was instrumental in many blockbusters, winning Academy Awards for best visual effects in "Aliens," "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," and "Jurassic Park." We look at a few special behind-the-scenes images and videos captured while Winston's studio created the Tyrannosaurus rex, Brachiosaurus, Velociraptor, and Dilophosaurus.
According to the Stan Winston School blog, Spielberg courted Winston to do a large portion of the "Jurassic Park" special effects after his work on the alien queen in "Aliens."
"Steven figured that if we could build a 14-foot-tall alien queen, we'd be able to build a 20-foot-tall T.rex," Winston said at the time. "But that was a somewhat naive assumption on Steven's part. There was a big difference between building that alien queen and building a full-size dinosaur. The queen was exoskeletal, so all of its surfaces were hard. There were no muscles, no flesh, and there was no real weight to it. The alien queen also didn't have to look like a real, organic animal because it was a fictional character -- so there was nothing in real life to compare it to. There was just no comparison in the difficulty level of building that alien queen and building a full-size dinosaur."
When Spielberg asked Winston if he wanted the job, Winston recalled saying, "Yes, absolutely." Spielberg said, "How are you going to do it?" Winston replied, "I haven't got a clue. But we'll figure it out."
This image shows the framework of an early pre-production one-fifth-scale T.rex sculpting stand. After applying clay to achieve the desired form, the model serves as a reference during sculpting a full-size puppet. Animators at Industrial Light and Magic also scan the model and embed that likeness into digital shots.
To create a realistic 20-foot tall and 40-foot wide T.rex, animatronic gurus Richard Davison and Alan Scott attach plywood segments to an aluminum frame. From there, workers will apply a layer of chicken wire, seal everything with liquid fiberglass, and then apply 3 tons of Roma clay.
After a generous application of clay, the T.rex model becomes much more recognizable. Trcic, who spent 16 weeks sculpting various iterations of the enormous dinosaur, adds some finer elements to the T.rex visage.
"Before we ever got to mechanizing the dinosaurs, their look was tweaked and re-tweaked," artist Paul Mejias said. "I remember Stan and sculptor Mike Trcic spending tons of time on the T.rex head, for example. There were 13 different permutations of that head in maquette form, because Stan wanted something very specific, and he wasn't going to stop until he got it. He did that on all the dinosaurs. They had to be right, no matter what it took, no matter how much it cost, no matter how many people he had to hire. They had to be perfect."
This image reveals the full studio set used for the iconic nighttime scene where audiences get their first terror-inducing view of a "Jurassic Park" T.rex. Watch the animatronic T.Rex going through rehearsals before shooting:
A four-axis jaw enabled the Brachiosaurus to look more real as it chewed on fauna in "Jurassic Park."
"Stan Winston wanted the Brach to appear to be as docile as possible, so one of the things that a four-axis jaw gives you is that sort of orbital movement of the lower jaw grinding side to side which is reminiscent of a cow chewing its cud,” said Andy Schoneberg, the lead artist for the vegetarian dinosaur.
Here's an image of the finished Brachiosaurus puppet awaiting its on-set debut. "I think there were six of us altogether puppeteering on the Brach," said lead artist Andy Schoneberg. "There was someone on the eyes, someone on the tongue, I was on the jaw movement. There's someone on the lips. And the big move was the neck movement. There was head movement but there was also neck movement where the whole thing could pitch forward and back."
You can observe more of the dinosaur in the rehearsal video below.
John Rosengrant tries doing his best raptor impersonation within a foam test suit. "I had always wanted to perform in suits," Rosengrant said. "I think to do it well, you have to be a bit of an actor -- although, the characters we play usually have a singular mission, which is to kill something. 'Must eat. Must destroy.' There isn't a lot of deep psychological acting going on there! But I do think it requires some very good physical acting to do this work.”
Throughout production, Rosengrant often stayed in the dinosaur suit for hours at a time, hunched over in a skiing pose.
Stan Winston Studio created many raptors for "Jurassic Park," with variations that included full-size cable-controlled puppets, half-puppets, insert legs, and men in suits. This image shows a final version of the suit. Rosengrant speaks more about how the iconic special-effects studio created the raptor in the following video.
Shane Mahan works on the final Spitter puppet that audiences see in "Jurassic Park." The Stan Winston Studio used a system of interchangeable heads for the dinosaur to make scene transition easier. The Dilophosaurus' infamous projectile poison spit comes from a paintball mechanism that blasted out a mixture of methacyl, K-Y Jelly, and some food coloring.
The video below reveals more about the complexities of creating and playing a Dilophosaurus in "Jurassic Park":