Movie Trivia: 25 Essential Facts About Jurassic Park
One movie has long ruled at the top of the summer blockbuster mountain: Steven Spielberg’s JURASSIC PARK. Released back in 1993, the adaptation of Michael Crichton's novel shattered box office records and broke new technological ground. At the time, no one had seen anything like JURASSIC PARK, with its seamless mixture of animatronic creatures and state-of-the-art computer animation.
Nearly thirty years later, the movie still dazzles, scares and delights just like it did in 1993. While some special effects movies show their age mere years after production, Spielberg's film seems timeless. In other words, JURASSIC PARK still has bite.
But how much do you really know about the dinosaur-filled adventure? In celebration of Spielberg's monumental achievement, here is some of our favorite JURASSIC PARK trivia. Night-vision goggles not included.
Essential Jurassic Park Facts and Trivia
1. JURASSIC PARK has roots in a very different story. Before author Michael Crichton wrote the novel, he toyed with the idea of a graduate student who creates a dinosaur. While that concept ultimately never went anywhere, he returned to dinosaurs for the book "Jurassic Park."
2. Steven Spielberg knew about the book before most people. In 1989, prior to the release of the novel, the two men were discussing a project that ultimately became their incredibly successful TV series, "ER." That’s when Crichton first mentioned the upcoming novel. Spielberg was intrigued.
3. Every studio wanted the book. We could have gotten a very different JURASSIC PARK, depending on where the rights to the novel landed. Every studio came with a filmmaker attached and a pitch ready to go. Warner Bros. had Tim Burton, Columbia pictures had Richard Donner and Fox had Joe Dante. Universal had the inside edge with Spielberg, who wanted to make SCHINDLER’S LIST shortly after. They made the deal and Spielberg made both movies, which ended up being released just months apart in 1993.
4. Tim Burton nearly returned to the world of dinosaurs. When Burton secured the rights to the Topps trading card series MARS ATTACKS, he also got the rights to the sequel card set, DINOSAURS ATTACK. But given the box office failure of MARS ATTACKS and the development of THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, he backed away from the idea.
5. A Disney Legend nearly helped with the movie. Bob Gurr, who was responsible for "anything that moves” at the original Disneyland (including all sorts of ride vehicles and things like the monorail), was on Spielberg’s shortlist to create the full-sized dinosaurs for the film, thanks to Gurr's work on the King Kong attraction at Universal Studios. Ultimately, Gurr wasn’t utilized.
6. Originally, the dinosaurs looked very different. At the time, the most believable technique for movie monsters was stop-motion animation, which had been nearly perfected in the years beforehand on movies like DRAGONSLAYER. But Dennis Muren, from Industrial Light & Magic, suggested computer imagery. He rigged up a T-Rex skeleton as a proof of concept. It worked.
7. Some big names turned down the lead role. For prickly paleontologist Alan Grant, Spielberg looked at well-known actors including William Hurt and Harrison Ford, both of whom turned it down. Sam Neill was cast shortly before filming. Now, it's hard to imagine the movie without him.
8. Jim Carrey auditioned for the role of the chaos theory aficionado Dr. Ian Malcolm. The filmmakers had already seen Jeff Goldblum, however, and were committed to him for the role.
9. Two of the cast members have a connection to HOOK. Joseph Mazzello auditioned for HOOK, but Spielberg deemed him too young; he cast Mazzello as Tim in JURASSIC PARK. (The child actor was also in talks to work with Spielberg’s BFF Stanley Kubrick, on the ARYAN PAPERS, which was ultimately never produced.) And Cameron Thor, who plays the villainous Dodson, appeared in HOOK as well.
10. Pre-production went on for a whopping 25 months, spanning the entire production of HOOK, as well as the production of Robert Zemeckis’ DEATH BECOMES HER, a movie that utilized many of JURASSIC PARK’s department heads and the work of Industrial Light & Magic.
11. Ian Malcolm almost didn’t make the cut. At one point during pre-production, another writer, Malia Scotch Marmo, who had also worked on HOOK, did a pass on the screenplay originally penned by Crichton. In this version of the script, she combined the characters of Malcolm and Grant. Spielberg didn’t like the idea and this draft was ultimately dismissed.
12. Filming locations included the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the Universal and Warner Bros. lots in Los Angeles, Red Rock Canyon (for Grant’s introduction scene), and the Dominican Republic. It was truly a global affair!
13. A real-life hurricane hit the production. The shoot was hit by a full-on hurricane, Hurricane Iniki, which resulted in a number of sets being destroyed and leaving Samuel L. Jackson unable to return to Hawaii to film an elaborate death scene. (Boo!) Some shots of the real-life storm are in the film, doubling for the story's own hurricane.
14. There was almost a scene with a baby triceratops. (Take that Baby Yoda!) Production stills show an animatronic baby triceratops, designed and built by Stan Winston. Apparently, this sequence was cut when Spielberg grew anxious about the film’s potential running time.
15. More unclear is what happened to the end of the sequence where Laura Dern investigates the sick dinosaur. More of that sequence was shot, but the reasons for cuts are uncertain. Hopefully they figured out what was making the animal sick!
16. Initially, the movie ended with just the raptors following our heroes as they clamored up the dinosaur bones in the visitors’ center. (In the script, one of the raptors is impaled by a T-Rex rib bone). Producer Kathy Kennedy said, “The T. Rex is the star.” So they brought her back. Unfortunately, they couldn’t utilize Stan Winston’s full-sized dinosaur, so they relied completely on ILM’s computer-generated version, which worked like gangbusters.
17. Ian Malcolm and Hammond almost died, just like in the novel. During production, an ongoing debate raged over whether or not Malcolm would die as he did in the novel. Ditto Hammond, who at one point stood outside the visitors’ center and watched the helicopter leave the island without him. Thankfully, both stayed alive and came back for future installments in the franchise – and Crichton even brought Malcolm back for his follow-up novel, THE LOST WORLD.
18. The movie featured more technological breakthroughs beyond the CG dinos. JURASSIC PARK features one of the first uses of digital face replacement, for Ariana Richards, when she falls down the grate while they’re scurrying through the ducts.
19. Spielberg was also insistent on the best sound possible. The director personally contributed to the development of DTS digital sound systems for theaters, and George Lucas helped out on the final mix since Spielberg was off in Poland filming SCHINDLER’S LIST.
20. The trailers didn’t show the dinosaurs. Spielberg played it coy when it came to giving away the movie's fictional stars. Pre-release trailers offered only fleeting glimpses of the beasts, and products that showcased the dinosaurs didn’t hit shelves until after the movie was released.
21. And, by the way, there were a lot of products. There were videogames, action figures, T-shirts, and a special “dino-sized” meal at McDonald’s that included even-larger fries and a drink in a six different collectible McDonald’s plastic cups.
22. JURASSIC PARK was a huge hit. Seriously huge. It obliterated box office records, was the first film to gross over $500 million overseas, and ultimately beat Spielberg’s own E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL as the highest-grossing movie of all time. Thanks to participation points and a piece of the back end, the director personally made more than $250 million on the movie.
23. JURASSIC PARK wasn’t just a box office powerhouse. It was a critical darling, and ultimately an awards favorite. The movie won all three Academy Awards for which it was nominated: Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. Also at the Oscars that year, Spielberg won many awards for SCHINDLER’S LIST, including Best Picture.
24. Spielberg soon returned to the island. A success that big naturally led to a sequel. Michael Crichton’s 1995 novel "The Lost World" inspired the movie sequel. Spielberg’s version of the story, which had pretty considerable differences from the book, opened in 1997. He shepherded subsequent movies as a producer.
25. Perhaps the biggest and best JURASSIC PARK spin-off was Jurassic Park: The Ride, an attraction that opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1996, Universal Islands of Adventure in Florida in 1999 and Universal Studios Japan in 2001. Based in part on a scene from the original novel, it’s a thrilling water ride that offers close encounters with many dinosaurs, ending in a perilous plunge. It’s truly the ultimate follow-up to the movie.
JURASSIC PARK plays as part of our Comeback Classics series!
All images courtesy of Universal Pictures.