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PART 2: The Making of the Jurassic Park Trilogy

For Jurassic Park, Stan Winston Studio was asked to create the live action dinosaurs; full-size animals who would be both quick and mobile. A miracle worker in both make-up and creature effects who had been acclaimed for his work on such notable films as "The Terminator," "Aliens" and "Terminator 2," Winston broke the project into three phases: research, design and construction.
Dedicated to making dramatic characters who are both spectacular and majestic, Winston and his team spent a full year in the research phase. Consulting with paleontol-ogists, museums and hundreds of texts, Winston's artists prepared detailed sketches and renderings that would later lead to fifth-scale sculptures, and finally, to such enormous creations as a 20 foot Tyrannosaurus rex.

In order to tackle the scope and breadth of the project ahead, Winston designated a group of teams that included both artists and engineers. To give you an idea of each team's complex responsibilities, meet "Team rex," which consisted of 12 operators performing widely varying functions. Constructed from a frame of fiberglass and 3000 pounds of clay, the 20 foot tall T-rex was covered with a durable yet delicate latex skin and then painted by a team of artists who blended a rich palette of colors to bring his body to life. The T-rex was then mounted on a "dino-simulator," an imaginative mechanism inspired by hydraulic technology and based on a traditional six-axis flight simulator used by the military. On this motion-based foundation, both the platform and the T-rex could be actuated through a computer control board.

Meanwhile, a fifth-scale version of the T-rex, resembling an elaborate erector set, had been built so that the identical motion of the scaled down armature could be generated manually by four puppeteers. Once the small T-rex (called a Waldo) had rehearsed the moves and actions required in a specific scene, a computer recorded the movement and programmed the big T-rex to repeat the action exactly. While the Waldo's puppeteers operated the animal's head, torso, tail and arms, additional puppeteers crouched nearby to simultaneously operate the T-rex's eyes, mouth, jaw and claws.



The Stan Winston Studio, which employed more than 60 artists, engineers and puppeteers in the making of "Jurassic Park," also created life-sized, articulated versions of a 20 foot Tyrannosaurus rex, a 6 foot tall Velociraptor, the long-necked Brachiosaurus, a sick Triceratops, a Gallimimus, the unusual Dilophosaurus (aka "the Spitter") and a baby Raptor hatchling.

With the challenge of creating "live" dinosaurs solved by Stan Winston, Spielberg turned his attentions to the necessity of miniature photography for the wide angle or full length shots. He took his thoughts to Phil Tippett, an Academy Award winning animator and effects wizard who devised the Go-Motion System (a much refined version of stop-motion) while working on the film "Dragonslayer." Tippett, who formerly worked for ILM, is based in Berkeley, California and eagerly began recruiting a team that would supply more than 50 Go-Motion shots.

In addition to choreographing the movements of the dinosaurs on film, Tippett was also relied on to provide a series of "animatics," as a means of helping the filmmakers to prepare and rehearse the highly complex scenes with T-rex and the Velociraptors.

Early in the process, Spielberg had also consulted with Industrial Light and Magic, the effects house founded by George Lucas which had collaborated with him on many films. ILM's effects supervisor Dennis Muren, a six-time Academy Award winner, was anxious to participate in "Jurassic Park," but since Steven hoped to use full scale dinosaurs and Go-Motion, he was unclear about ILM's role in the project.

But a year later, when Spielberg was working closely with ILM as the director of "Hook," a new conversation began. As the industry leaders in the area of computer graphics for film, ILM had only recently devised ground-breaking computer generated imagery and astonishing morphing techniques in the making of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Members of the ILM computer graphics team quietly experimented with an idea for "Jurassic Park"--they built the bones and skeleton of a dinosaur in a computer, and from that, they created a walk cycle for the T-rex.

Impressed with the test results, Amblin Entertainment soon gave ILM the greenlight to take on several additional shots, including a stampede and several wide-angle scenes that illustrate a herd of dinosaurs against a sweeping vista. When Muren next returned to Amblin, he astounded the filmmakers with a computer-generated sequence of the T-rex walking in daylight. It appeared that with the advent of computer-generated images, Go-Motion might soon be extinct.

Although Tippett's work was ultimately reassigned to ILM, Phil became a valuable member of the "transition team" and set up training sessions with ILM's graphic designers to teach them as much as possible about character movement throughout the production.

Michael Lantieri, who headed the fourth effects unit, had a long association with Amblin projects; he had worked with Robert Zemeckis on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and "Back to the Future Part II" and "III," and had collaborated with Spielberg on "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "Hook." His team would be responsible for a myriad of mechanical challenges including the construction of exterior cranes and large scale hydraulics that would move the enormous dinosaurs around. Lantieri's group was also responsible for a number of imaginative camera riggings that were customized to move fluidly with Stan Winston's creations.

During the two years of pre-production on "Jurassic Park," there wasn't an idle moment for Spielberg, Kennedy or producer Jerry Molen, who simultaneously undertook the making of "Hook," an imaginative dramatic adventure based on the story of Peter Pan.

Meanwhile, work continued on the screenplay, beginning with Michael Crichton's first draft. Later, David Koepp, the young screenwriter who had co-written the black comedy "Death Becomes Her," was brought on to the project, and he shares the screen credit with Crichton.

Construction was now underway in Hollywood on two of Universal's largest sound stages, and would later expand to three others on the lot, as well as one enormous sound stage at Warner Bros. Studios.
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EdGross
10/17/2011

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