Jurassic World and Soft-Canon: a Counteractive and Convoluted Conundrum

This article is a guest contribution by Thomas Fishenden.

When it comes to the Jurassic Park franchise, it is safe to say that there has been a lot of world building over the duration of the five installments which Universal Studios have produced. It is certainly safe to say that a lot has been added to the franchise over the years. The films have added new locations and new animals and characters, whilst the secondary materials – such as the viral marketing – have aimed to add in more continuity between the sequel installments. Canon, however, has not always been maintained – and there have always been issues which have plagued the Jurassic franchise and the continuity it shares between its various outings. We have seen Universal and Colin Trevorrow take steps towards addressing these issues in recent years – but unfortunately, a recent announcement during the press for Jurassic World: The Live Tour has us concerned about the future canonical consistencies within the franchise.

In the past, Colin Trevorrow has stated that he is the overseer of the franchise – and would oversee issues, such as Canon, moving forwards to ensure better continuity and cohesion across the property in the future. This had many of us excited, as it seemed to indicate that both Colin and the studio behind him were willing to take meaningful steps towards building a much more coherent cinematic universe. Indeed, it appeared that the Jurassic franchise would take a similar approach to other great franchises like Star Wars and Marvel, building outwards with meaningful connections to the very core pillars which first established the franchise. For a while, this seemed to hold true – with inconsistencies around the geography of the Isla Nublar report in both Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom openly addressed by the director, who proceeded to work with the team behind the viral marketing and surrounding canonical materials (Chaos Theorem) to build a meaningful explanation which alleviated the canon-breaking implications that the change in island geography had. Furthermore, the team working behind the scenes had the opportunity to build upon the background of the franchise – adding in new implications for the canon which alleviated some of the strained connections that the narratives of the more recent films had. It is safe to say that the Dinosaur Protection Group website, and other subsequent ventures, did a lot to build upon the canon in meaningful ways – addressing the concerns of long term fans and creating much more of a cinematic ‘universe’ than we had ever seen for the franchise before.

Whilst the Dinosaur Protection Group faded into obscurity after the cinematic debut of Fallen Kingdom, it appeared canon would continue to grow and expand within the franchise. This brings us to Jurassic World: The Live Tour. Press Events for the tour (see Chris’s coverage from an event in April of this year) got fans excited – with a clear focus on developing a story which could fit within the confines of a pre-established Jurassic World narrative. Indeed, whilst some of the live show would build upon the back of the blockbuster film, showcasing the Indominus rampage on Isla Nublar, the clear majority was stated to be a brand-new story exploring a top-secret InGen Facility in Chile. The story follows Doctor Kate Walker, who was working with dinosaurs in a similar behavioral capacity to Owen Grady, and has essentially been pitched as the other half of the IBRIS project which we see on screen within Jurassic World. This, again, is a project which has always been relatively secretive on-screen, so fans were excited to be able to learn even more about this new piece of lore which was sure to build upon the fundamental ideals explored within the first Jurassic World film. Anticipation was high – and this was only exasperated further by the debut of Battle at Big Rock, which explored more new characters within the same universe, after the events of Fallen Kingdom.

Unfortunately, however, it seems that the story continuity will not last.

Fast forward to the start of November, when the Live Tour is kicking off with its worldwide premiere. Colin was interviewed by the Social Media team working on behalf of Feld Entertainment., and in an Instagram story on the official tour account, Colin was asked where the events of the show fit within the timeline of Jurassic World. His response was as follows:

“We have something we call soft canon – which is that it happens, but it also exists within its own space. You know, Feld’s writers and creators made a new and original story which exists within the context of Jurassic World and I think people are really going to love it.”

This statement is great when we consider how passionate Colin is for the franchise, and it is nice to see how excited he is about the live show – but it also poses a very real problem for the franchise moving forwards. That statement of ‘soft-canon’, and the careful phrasing of this show ‘existing within the context of Jurassic World’, has set alarm bells ringing for many fans – suggesting that the show may not be a meaningful fit within the pre-determined canon of the franchise, as was previously implied. Soft-canon itself is an alarming phrase, considering its what ‘Jurassic World Evolution’ is described as — something that is not canon at all, but adheres to the rules of the universal while carving out its alternate reality.

This becomes problematic as a universe which is built without canon in mind can very quickly crumble and implode if not handle with a degree of oversight and brand management. Disney know this all too well – and it is the reason why the Star Wars Expanded Universe is now referred to as ‘Legends’. Here, Disney told too many stories which conflicted with one another and posed potential problems for the canons of the franchise so they had to restart this from the ground up and discount any of their old stories as being non-canon unless reintroduced into modern films or properties. Whilst this soured many Star Wars fans, Disney could get away with this because of the sheer scale and scope of Star Wars and its fan-base, with many more pre-established stories already under the franchise’s belt. Jurassic, in contrast, is a relatively new and expanding franchise with a smaller fan base, and so the movements made to grow the brand really need to be considered and thoughtful to connect with audiences and build a meaningful and consistent fan base. Therefore, the term ‘soft canon’ being thrown out so early in the growth of the franchise has both I and many other Jurassic fans concerned about the future direction of the franchise.

It should also be noted that Star War’s non-canon ‘legends’ media only consists of expanded fiction that came out prior to The Force Awakens. Everything since then has been carefully cultivated to fit within the ever expanding galaxy, working with their brand team, writers, and directors as to not contradict the films, but add to them all while telling their own stories. Why Jurassic cannot do this, especially given their stable creative team, and smaller universe size, is a frustrating mystery.

Whilst I appreciate that it is hard to canonise a Live Tour (other properties like ‘Marvel Universe Live’ opted to tell entirely separate stories), I think straddling the line between canon and ‘soft canon’ is an attempt for Jurassic to have its cake and eat it too. Whilst it’s a humble attempt at developing upon the IP, I feel that it misses the mark and misses what fans have truly been clamoring for – which are stories which will have larger impacts on the overall franchise whilst enabling them to connect with these characters and these stories in much more meaningful ways. The attitude of utilizing ‘soft canon’ poses a worry for fans, as it brings into question upcoming properties like Camp Cretaceous, and where they will stand in terms of both canon and impact on the other properties within the franchise. Whilst there is certainly an argument for these being more children’s tailored properties, it is important to note that even in that regard a canonical middle ground is achievable. Take, for example, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This property found a way to tell stories within a pre-existing universe whilst not damaging canon. In fact, Clone Wars could build upon the pre-established in interesting and meaningful ways – connecting with both older and younger fans alike. This was due not only to the creative vision of Dave Filoni, but also due to the creative oversight and brand consistency which Disney and the Star Wars team had in place – and something which Jurassic seems to be sorely missing at this moment in time.

For the Jurassic World Live Tour, the format itself doesn’t entirely mesh with real world antics – so we understand that the action and context that which the story plays out may not be 1:1 to canon. But there is no reasons the overarching story itself of Dr. Kate Walker, InGens facility in Chile, and the events that subsequently played out cannot be canon. A simple “The story is canon, the action within and execution of it is soft canon” would be far more understandable. It was stated numerous times that Colin Trevorrow was involved from the start to make sure the story is hard canon. So what happened?

Make no mistake – I, and many others, are excited for new stories to be explored within the Jurassic universe. Many of us have clamoured for more from this brand for years, so the fact that we are finally getting this is exciting, and is a true testament to the creative passion of individuals like Colin Trevorrow. But, with that said, oversight is important too – and it’s important that this is built into a brand with solid foundations so that these stories can continue to be told for years to come. With that in mind, an organisation like Chaos Theorem or someone else altogether really need to be empowered to get more involved in the day-to-day canon of this universe, so that we can finally have something which feels cohesive. Continuity has always been a matter of discussion for Jurassic – and in some ways, poor continuity adds to the charm of these films. But, if Jurassic is to ever grow into a franchise with the power to do more than beat back other big names at the box office, then it is crucial that canon is considered, and that the time is taken to build a rich universe for these stories to take place within.

What do you all think? Where do you stand on canon in cinema, and is it important to you that these side projects tie in? Sound of in the comments below!


New Look at the Dinosaurs of Jurassic World Live Reveals Green Raptors

The Jurassic World Live Show tour is set to kick off its first set of shows in Columbus, Ohio next month, but much of the shows contents are shrouded in mystery. A new preview from USA Today gives us a new glimpse at the dinosaurs being made for the show – read on and take a look at their video below!

The show utilizes practical dinosaur puppets to bring the animals to life for the live audiences. Puppets is perhaps a bit of an understatement here. These dinosaurs animatronics describe more like advanced prehistoric vehicles, as the human inside each dinosaur uses advanced controls to bring them to life. In the Velociraptor, the pilot uses joysticks, levers, and triggers to control all the functions of the animal, even down to the eyelids. A small monitor inside gives the “dino-teer” a look outside of the creature in an effort to assist with steering functions.

And that’s just one of the dinosaur set to take the stage. We know the show will heavily feature a Troodon, as well as Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and T-Rex. The Rex animatronic is reportedly 43 feet long and fully piloted by Jurassic World Live staff members during the show. From a robotics standpoint, this show is shaping up to be just about as advanced as we could hope for from a traveling Jurassic show. The production has truly spared no expense with the inside workings of the dinosaurs.

However, we can’t help but talk about the Velociraptors seen in this video (who weirdly have square-ish snouts and nearly identical color schemes of Jeanie the Troodon).

You may have read our recent article about the issues that have plagued the velociraptors for decades. Jurassic World Live seems to have fallen into the same trap: green raptors. We won’t stand on a long soap box again about the raptor color here. We have already done that before and are likely to do it again, but it essentially boils down to the raptors looking pretty generic and bland – and not having any real canonical reason to keep being green. To the casual viewer, we know this probably will not be a glaring issue – though, with so many iconic wild raptor designs from Stan Winston Studios for the Jurassic Park films, we can’t help but wish they made a reappearance.

In any case, progress on building the dinosaurs seems to be drawing to a close as the first tour date draws near. USA Today reporter Carly Mallenbaum got a chance to look around the studio and even put some of the animatronics to the test. Check out the video below to see how the studio is bringing these prehistoric creatures to life.

Are you planning on catching a showing of Jurassic World Live? Are you excited about the animatronics they are using or does their appearance fall flat? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: USA Today

Let’s Talk About the Color of the Jurassic Park Velociraptors (They’re Not Green)

Last August, we took you on a deep dive through the different variants of Velociraptor the Jurassic Park franchise introduced us to over the years. Today, we delve a little further into a specific aspect of the raptors of the first movie to debunk a common misconception that has plagued fans and Universal collaborations for years: the original Jurassic Park Velociraptors were NOT green.

The misconception of the green velociraptor has been perpetuated ever since promotional material from Jurassic Park hit the mainstream in 1993. The main culprit for this fallacy stems from a particular set of photos that most people have stumbled across at one point or another. Here is just a taste of few pictures from that set.

Green Velociraptors? Not quite… read on.

As you can see, these pictures give the raptors a faint, but noticeable, green tint to their skin. This mis-color can be attributed to several factors: blue stage lighting, a set full of green plants, and post-shoot color corrections.

This has been problematic for a variety of reasons, but the issue has really spread like wildfire when it comes to merchandising. Mattel’s recent Legacy Collection has been a hit with casual fans and serious collectors alike, but the toy line is not without its faults. In this case, raptor color is, well…the big one. Take the Muldoon/Raptor figurine set for example. The ill-fated park warden is sporting his signature khaki look, but we cannot say the same about the accompanying Velociraptor.

Green, green, and more green. Since the green raptor promo pictures were some of the most common materials distributed by Universal, it would not be a stretch to speculate that many partners, like Mattel, are pulling the color palettes for their toys directly from those images. Perhaps even Universal believes this is the proper color? The result is a recreation that is not exactly authentic to the source material. And let’s take a look at the SDCC Exclusive Hammond figure that Mattel just announced. See if you can predict where we might take issue with the set.

You guessed it. Another green raptor (and as one commenter comically noted, a stand that resembles “a bowl of guacamole”). Tasty Mexican food similarities aside, the raptor color is the real takeaway. So, while many of you know what we’re about to say, let’s set the record straight. Without any doubt, we can tell you the Jurassic Park raptors were BROWN. Photos unmarred by color corrections or studio lighting reveal exactly how the predators were supposed to look.

Stan Winston’s studio took great care in creating the scariest possible version of the Velociraptor, including the color selection. The finished product was a molted brown color to allow the animals to blend in with the earthy tones of the Costa Rican forest. And you do not just have to take our word for it. The folks over at the Stan Winston School have shared numerous pictures of the original animatronic raptors.

Check it out below!

As you can see, not a hint of green. Just watch the film!

The Winston team put so much work into building the scariest and most advanced and lifelike animatronics on the planet for Jurassic Park, as you can tell from the painstaking details in each figure. In our minds, it’s time we honor the legacy of Stan Winston’s work and get these toy raptors (or any other homages to the original, like potential appearances in Jurassic World Live Tour or Camp Cretaceous) back to the way they were meant to be colored…Brown, inspired by a Leopard.

What do you think about the colors used for the raptors in toy sets? Does the green color bother you? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think!

First tease of ‘Jurassic World Live Tour’ Film Accurate Tyrannosaurus Rex

When ‘Jurassic World Live Tour’ provided the first real look at the dinosaurs from the show in April, fans all had the same thing to say: “That’s not the Jurassic World T. rex”. We later found out the use of the Walking with Dinosaurs tour Tyrannosaur was only placeholder, as the shows Rex was not yet ready. Now thanks to Mashable, we have our first tease of work in progress T. rex that will begin touring this Fall:

According to the report at Mashable, the ‘Jurassic World Live Tour’ Tyrannosaurus will be 42 feet long, weigh 8000 pounds, and travel at speeds up to 16 miles per hour. As with the other dinosaurs, the team creating the dinosaurs for the live show are working from the film assets, including the Industrial Light and Magic CGI models to bring these dinosaurs to the stage as film accurate as possible, more real than ever before.

Jurassic World Live Tour is set during and after the events of Jurassic World, and is an all new canon story in the Jurassic Park saga. Writers Shawn Thomas and Steve Jarczak and directors Dan Shipton and Ross Nicholson worked closely with the franchise creative team, including Colin Trevorrow, to make sure the story will be an authentic installment in the growing fictional universe. Be sure to read our full report that goes deep into the plot, dinosaurs, and making-of here!

Are you excited to see the final Jurassic World Live Tour Tyrannosaur? Sound off in the comments below and let us know! Jurassic World Live Tour hits arenas later this year – check out the official site for dates, locations, and pick up your tickets today!

Source: Mashable