Animatronic dinosaurs have always been a staple of the Jurassic Park franchise. The original movie was considered to be a breakthrough in terms of visual effects and the seamless way the filmmakers blended both the computer-generated dinosaurs and the physical on-set animatronics.
Jurassic Park – and it’s subsequent sequels – pioneered special effects in the film industry and the dinosaurs put on screen to this day still hold up against modern visual effects.
That’s why in 2015, many audience members felt as though Jurassic World didn’t quite fulfill what the franchise had established with the first trilogy, utilising only one animatronic dinosaur in the entire movie, with the rest of the dinosaurs being computer-generated by the talented artists at ILM.
That all changed however when writer/producer of the upcoming sequel Colin Trevorrow announced to us that animatronics will return in the sequel.
It was later revealed that Neal Scanlan and his team, fresh off Star Wars: The Force Awakens, will be making and puppetering the animatronics for the sequel, and judging by some of the dinosaur reveals in the trailer and behind the scenes reel, it has paid off!
Today, Neal himself gave the LA Times a bit of a tour of his work for the movie and shared details on how the dinosaurs are operated this time around.
“We tried to take onboard, to some extent, the ever-moving understandings of what dinosaurs may or may not have really looked like. One has probably assumed in the past that they were rather muted, but when you look in nature color is an important attractant. And would that have not been the case with these animals?”
As seen in both the behind the scenes reel and the trailers, Neal’s team built a full size T. rex along with animatronic models of Velociraptor ‘Blue’ and the new hybrid dinosaur, the Indoraptor. They created puppeteering aids, rod puppets and several prop dinosaurs for use on set, which were all imagined by both Neal’s team and ILM’s David Vickery to help the post-production process and to aid the seamless look between both VFX and the animatronics.
The animatronic model of Blue required 15 puppeteers hidden below to move the cable levers and use the radio control mechanism that brought her to life. They rehearsed the movements for each particular scene in advance so that the dinosaur could react to Bayona’s direction on set.
“Like a dance team we’re not thinking about the individual steps,” Scanlan says. “We’re just doing it. You’re thinking about it in a much more consuming way, like ‘Can you make her more aggressive? Can you make her more agitated? Can she breathe more heavily?’ It’s like music in an orchestra – everyone knows how to bring up the crescendo.
Recently, ‘Fallen Kingdom’ made headlines for having “the most animatronic dinosaurs since ‘Jurassic Park'” – while this is untrue, it no doubt is an homage to the classic trilogies heavier use of practical effects. Most of the dinosaur animatronics in Fallen Kingdom are head and neck only, attached to a static lower detail body model that’s to be replaced with CG in post. This particular approach can be seen with the Stegosaurus head animatronic from the Snapchat video:
Check out the #FallenKingdom animatronics in action, with this new BTS piece released over snapchat (which also confirms the return of Mosasaurus & addition of Stygimoloch)! pic.twitter.com/iX51c3yQ7h
— Jurassic Outpost (@JurassicOutpost) December 9, 2017
Fallen Kingdom’s approach to animatronics is different than past Jurassic films, with all but the Indoraptor being built for laying down in a restrained and sedated pose. While the Indoraptor animatronic emulates the classic Jurassic style more, it seems it will be entirely replaced with CG in the final film, though the CG certainly is phenomenal and greatly benefited from the animatronic as its reference.
Needless to say both director JA Bayona and Neal Scanlan are striving for perfection with the practical and visual effects. From what we have seen in the trailers so far, both sides of special effects are excelling in this movie, which could potentially make it the sequel with the best visual effects.
Source: LA Times