As a child, Steven Spielberg was captivated by dinosaurs. He collected cast-iron figurines of them and preferred them in starring roles on the big screen. “I was more interested in the dinosaurs in King Kong than I was in King Kong himself,” remembers the Academy Award-winning director. “I thought the T. rex was one of the most awesome dinosaurs of the fossil record! But I never knew how to parlay all my love for paleontology into a story until Michael Crichton came along and wrote his book.”
That book was Jurassic Park, which Spielberg adapted in 1993 into an exhilarating adventure and one of the highest-grossing movies of all time—not to mention a groundbreaking technological achievement. “It changed special effects forever,” the director says, “and for better or for worse, it really did introduce the digital era.”
In honor of Universal rereleasing Jurassic Park in 3-D and IMAX on April 5 and the movie’s 20th anniversary, EW looks back at the film that so memorably shook the earth.
Spielberg and author Crichton had been developing a feature film based on Crichton’s script Cold Case, about his time as a medical resident (which would become the TV series ER). Crichton, who passed away from cancer in 2008, told the director about another idea he was working on: a novel about dinosaurs being brought back to life through old samples of their DNA. Spielberg was immediately hooked. When galleys for Jurassic Park made their way around Hollywood in May 1990, the sci-fi adventure became the It project to buy. According to Spielberg, other interested directors may have included Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon) and James Cameron (Avatar). Universal won the bidding war, thanks in large part to Spielberg’s relationship with Crichton. The director started storyboarding before the script was even written and quickly assembled an effects team. Creature master Stan Winston (Aliens) created the large-form models, including a nearly 20-foot-tall T. rex, and stop-motion artist Phil Tippett (RoboCop) would animate miniatures based on those Winston designs for the more elaborate action sequences. Then Industrial Light & Magic’s Dennis Muren, who had just designed the liquid-metal effects in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, brought up the idea of using CGI to animate the dinosaurs. Muren invited Spielberg, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and Tippett to watch a CG demo of a gallimimus stampede.
STEVEN SPIELBERG Director Here’s what was scary: We were creating the title characters of a film. These were the stars of the picture, these dinosaurs. And if that didn’t work, nothing about Jurassic Park could have worked. So that was daunting, because I was using Universal’s money to basically make an experimental dinosaur picture. READ FULL STORY