Monday, March 11, 2013

The Animatronic Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park


It's well known that Jurassic Park revolutionized CGI effects in cinema, but what tends to be forgotten is how much incredible practical work went into creating the dinosaurs of Isla Nublar. The Stan Winston School has been seeking to remind us of it by posting a series of behind the scenes videos narrated by the effects technicians themselves, and they are a must watch for anybody even remotely interested in special effects. Or, well, dinosaurs. 




Prior to watching this, I was unaware that there had been raptor suits at all. I'd assumed the dinosaurs were mostly animatronic rigs. The pronated hands and lack of feathers, of course, are enough to make one twitch, but I'd love to run around in one of these costumes myself.




The Tyrannosaurus animatronic is probably the most incredible creature the Stan Winston studio has ever built....




...although the Dilophosaurus isn't any slouch either. 



And finally, a little bit of rod-and-puppet work on the ambiguous small theropod that pops up in "The Lost World." I absolutely refuse to call it Procompsognathus. 

See more cool special effects videos over at The Stan Winston School. It's worth an hour or two of your time. 

13 comments:

  1. It's halfway decent as a Procompsognathus (minus the pronated hands), isn't it? Where it truly fails is as a Compsognathus.

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    1. On further reflection, you're right. Though you've got me imagining a fluffy animatronic Compsognathus now, and I'm now depressed that such a thing does not exist.

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    2. Asher: "Though you've got me imagining a fluffy animatronic Compsognathus now, and I'm now depressed that such a thing does not exist."

      For what it's worth, there's the Sinosauropteryx in NOVA's "The Four-Winged Dinosaur" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZC2ebSaaVXg ).

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  2. I'd seen the Dilophosaurus clip at Marc's suggestion and was marveling afresh at the craft and ingenuity of the animatronics. It's a breath of fresh air to see the artists and technicians invest so much in the actual, physical creations; a vanishing thing in today's dependence on digitisation (and this in the wake of the deeply dismaying news of Disney's closing its doors on hand-drawn animation for good).

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    1. Disney hasn't "given up on hand-drawn animation" any more than they are "not doing any more princess movies ever". They just don't happen to have any of either in the pipeline at the moment, but the press loves attention-grabbing, upsetting headlines, so...

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    2. Ah, my mistake. I should have been more thorough in my reading. Sorry.

      (Though truth be told, their last hand drawn offering was so woeful that it shows how little they seem to be investing it at all these days, but I digress.)

      (And I hate that I can't post comments when using Firefox, which is intensely annoying, but I digress further.)

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  3. Awesome share, Asher, and I do mean "awesome" not just "cool"/"sick"/"Dench". Great to see the amazing amount of work and detail that went into creating the models.

    I recall the sense of wonder I felt upon seeing this movie for the first time. The CGI also marked a milestone for me as it was the first that I found to be acceptable rather than looking grainy and fake with me wishing that they had just used animatronics.

    I had assumed that the Deinonychus's had had people inside because they walked kind of how people walk. I remember that it was the kitchen scene that decided it for me. (It was also fortunate that they had pronated hands so that they could open the doors).

    The T. rex was absolutely fantastic and amazingly life-like. A marvelous unification of science, engineering, and art.

    I found the not-Dilophosaurus to be unconvincing. The neck was lovely but the skull looked like it belonged on a stone gargoyle.

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  4. Love this blog - Love the vintage dinosaur stuff - You are folks after my own heart. As for the dinosaurs on JURASSIC PARK, having first-hand experience as one of the key artists on the film, the thing you should know is what Stan and Speilberg said (which was, something akin to) - "We're not building REAL dinosaurs; we're trying to meet the public's expectations of what they think dinosaurs looked like." And the bottom line is, technically, (okay, I'm being a squid here)that is what John Hammond and the genetic engineers at INGEN were doing as well. Right? They weren't "real" dinosaurs, they were genetic manipulations. I think that Dr. Grant even says that in the novel. However, it was an amazing opportunity for a life-long dinosaur fan to work on the first film - So many INCREDIBLE dinosaur artists all in one place!

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    1. Thanks, Shannon! And I've always liked the fan idea I've seen floating around, that Hammond and co. got accurate, feathered dinosaurs, assumed that they had made a mistake, and engineered the feathers right out of them. Which would play nicely into the film's themes of the arrogance of controlling something you have no understanding of.

      And I can't imagine what working on that film must have been like. I'm hugely envious. So what were your duties as a key artist? Were you working on concept designs?

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    2. In the novel, Dr Wu believes that they've made dinosaurs that are TOO real - and that, for the next version number, they should engineer creatures that are closer to people's expectations. He has a hard time convincing Hammond, who seemingly wants the dinosaurs as 'real' as possible.

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  5. I worked on the 1/4 scale T-Rex sculpture with long-time friend Michael Trcic - I sculpted the "baby" triceratops that was cut from the first film but made an appearance (albeit briefly) in the second film - I ended up working on just about every dinosaur in the finishing department (painting and additional effects) and puppeteered the sick triceratops, the raptors, and the spitter. I was on set for the T-Rex, but there were too many support people and not enough Screen Actor's Guild contracts to go around - but I was there at Warner Brothers - every day (and most nights!). All of the concept designs were Crash McCreery - by the time Jurassic Park rolled around, he had established himself as the preeminate illustrator there (however, Mike Trcic and I exposed him to the work of Mario Larrinaga and Byron Crabbe on the original KING KONG to steer him in that direction - which he took to like a duck to water)

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  6. @Marc Vincent - I recall that as well, but I'll tell you that I, too, fall victim of "expectation" thinking. Just watched the incredible "DINOTASIA" on Blu Ray and the dinosaurs depicted are so stylized that my first reaction wasn't positive. But then I unclenched my butt-cheeks and decided to just watch the show. It was entertaining and probably a lot more accurate in its depiction of dinosaurs than the Jurassic Park franchise. That said, I like my dinosaurs a bit more vintage looking - but it is just a personal preference.

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