The film that started it all, 65 million years in the making. On June 21st, 1993 Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment released ‘Jurassic Park’ – a new science fiction film by Steven Spielberg, based upon Michael Crichton’s best selling novel of the same name.
Jurassic Park is set on Isla Nublar, a fictional island off the coast of Costa Rica where billionaire John Hammond and a team of genetic scientists, have created a theme park that hosts cloned dinosaurs.
On a remote island, a wealthy entrepreneur secretly creates a theme park featuring living dinosaurs drawn from prehistoric DNA. Before opening the attraction to the public, he invites a top paleontologist, a paleobotanist, a mathematician/theorist, and his two eager grandchildren to experience the park — and help calm anxious investors. However, their park visit is anything but tranquil as the park’s security system breaks down, the prehistoric creatures break out, and the excitement builds to surprising results.
Steven Spielberg first learned about Michael Crichton’s novel in October 1989, when they were discussing another piece of work. Crichton had long toyed with the idea of man re-creating dinosaurs, and Spielberg was fascinated by his novel.
Before the book was published, a number of directors wanted to get their hands on the rights. Tim Burton, Richard Donner and Joe Dante bid for the rights, but in May 1990, Steven Spielberg alongside Universal Pictures acquired the rights, with Crichton’s non-negotiable fee of $1.5 million as well as a substantial percentage of the gross.
With the rights secured, Steven Spielberg had wanted to direct Schlinder’s List before beginning production on Jurassic Park. However, a deal was made with Universal’s president at the time, who greenlit Schlinder’s List providing Spielberg made Jurassic Park first.
It is well known that Michael Crichton was heavily involved with early drafts of the script, and Spielberg brought him on to adapt his own novel for a further $500,000. Crichton stated that due to his novel’s length, the script he wrote only ended up with about 10-20% of the novel’s content and that due to budgetary reasons, some scenes were dropped (notably the river raft scene). The novel was also very descriptive with it’s gore, but this too was toned down in the script.
In October 1991, Malia Scotch Marmo – who had collaborated with Steven Spielberg previously on Hook – began a rewrite of Crichton’s draft which merged the characters of Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ian Malcolm.
It was after Malia’s rewrite was turned in that Spielberg decided he wanted another write to rework it. David Koepp was brought on and started a fresh script, avoiding Malia’s rewrites. It is known that David Koepp fleshed out the characters more, defining who Ian Malcolm was, as well as making them all more colorful. John Hammond’s character is drastically different in the film than he is in the novel, dropping the ruthless business for a wealthy old man who just wanted to inspire people. The characters of Tim and Lex were also switched around, as Spielberg had wanted to work with young child actor Joseph Mazzello. This also allowed him to explore an older Lex’s adolescent crush on Dr Grant.
There were many drafts of the Jurassic Park script, with some still being uncovered. The changes are drastic, but director Steven Spielberg had a clear vision for this novel’s screen adaptation and landed on a fantastic script by David Koepp.
Filming began on August 24, 1992 on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The production stayed on Kauai for three weeks, filming daytime exteriors for Isla Nublar’s forests.
The infamous Hurricane Iniki passed directly over Kauai on September 11 and caused the crew to lose a day of shooting, as well as destroying some of the sets. There was a silver lining however, as the crew were able to brave the weather and film some of the storm – which made it to the final cut of the movie. Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Dr Ray Arnold, was supposed to have a much longer scene which included him being chased and eventually killed by escaped Velociraptors, but unfortunately that set had been destroyed by Hurricane Iniki.
The filming moved to Oahu, Hawaii and filmed a number of scenes, including the Gallimimus herd scene.
In mid-September, the production returned to California and a number of scenes were filmed on stages at the Universal studios lot. The Brachiosaurus encounter, the tour vehicle in the tree, the kitchen scene and a handful of others were filmed on stages. The production used Red Rock Canyon for the Montana dig site scenes.
The main T-Rex attack scene was filmed at Warner Bros. Studios’ Stage 16. Due to the constant rain, Stan Winston’s animatronic T-Rex struggled, shaking and quivering from the extra weight when the foam absorbed the water. In behind the scenes footage, you can see Stan Winston’s crew drying off the T-Rex with shammys. In the script, Jeff Goldblum’s character of Ian Malcolm does not light the flare and instead runs from the scene, however Jeff Goldblum thought his character needed the heroic action.
The Dilophosaurus vs Nedry scene was filmed on Stage 27, and the shoot wrapped on Stage 12 while filming the climatic chases with the Velociraptors in the Park’s control room/Visitor’s Center. In the original ending on the script, Dr Alan Grant uses a platform machine to pick-up a pursuing Velociraptor and move it into the fossil T-Rex’s jaws. However, Spielberg thought the audience needed to see the real T-Rex for one last time, so opted for the ending we see in the film, where she enters the Visitor’s Center and saves the characters from the Velociraptors.
The filming of Jurassic Park wrapped early on November 30 with twelve days to spare.
Within days of the film wrapping, editor Michael Kahn had a rough cut ready for Spielberg to see, which allowed him to leave for Poland to film Schlinder’s List.
The visual effects were obviously a huge part of the post-production for the film, and Spielberg was able to monitor the process from Poland, having regular teleconferences with the ILM crew.
It is well known that Jurassic Park and ILM shaped the visual effects industry with their work on this film. The dinosaurs were originally set to be animated as stop-motion by Phil Tippett, and he had put together a couple of tests to showcase his work. The Raptors in the kitchen and the Tyrannosaurus attacking the car were shown to Steven Spielberg and the crew, but unfortunately the results were deemed unsatisfactory for a live-action feature film.
Dennis Muren, who was overseeing ILM’s digital compositing of the film, suggested that the full body dinosaur shots could be executed with visual effects and Spielberg asked him to prove it. A computer-generated walk cycle for the T-Rex skeleton was created and after being shown, ILM were approved to do more. An animatic was put together, showing the T-Rex chase a herd of Gallimimus. When shown to Spielberg and Tippett, Spielberg expressed “You’re out of a job,” to which Tippett repied, “Don’t you mean extinct?”. This line famously made it into the movie as a conversation between Dr Ian Malcolm and Dr Alan Grant.
During the post-production, Phil Tippett adapted to the new circumstances and his stop-motion puppetts were used as Dinosaur Input Devices which fed the animations to the computers.
Jurassic Park not only pioneered visual effects, but also was the first film to use digital sound. He funded the creation of DTS and George Lucas supervised the sound effects crew, who created everything form the animal sounds, to the rain and gunshots.
The post-production on Jurassic Park was finally completed on May 28, 1993.
Universal Pictures’ marketing campaign for Jurassic Park cost $65 million and had multiple deals with companies for related merchandise and products. Famously, a number of video games were made by Sega and Ocen Software, as well as Kenner’s toyline.
The film’s premiere was on June 9, 1993 in Washington D.C. On June 11, the film opened across America.