Continuing to expand the boundaries of both technology and entertainment, Jurassic Park III builds on Steven Spielberg's dual hits, 1993's Jurassic Park (1993) and Lost World: Jurassic Park, The (1997). With the first film, Spielberg used ground-breaking technology to bring Michael Crichton's best-selling novel to life. The film captured three Academy Awards® for its technical achievements, including one for Best Visual Effects, and became the biggest grossing movie in the world up to that time.
In 1997, Spielberg followed with an enormously successful sequel, again based on a novel by Crichton, and again employing the latest enhancements in computer technology and animatronic effects. Lost World: Jurassic Park, The (1997) still holds the record for the biggest grossing opening weekend in film history with $92. 7 million, and earned an Academy Award® nomination for its visual effects.
Jurassic Park III adds to that legacy with an original story that continues to explore man's fascination with dinosaurs. "I've been on three digs with (paleontologist) Jack Horner," said director Joe Johnston. "On the last one, I saw something on the ground that I thought might be a bone - turned out to be a rock but next to it, something was sticking out of the ground, about a quarter inch. I started scraping it out and it was a T-rex tooth, poking out of the ground where it had fallen maybe 65 million years ago, and no human being had ever touched it. Just the thought of that is amazing. "
Oscar® winning dinosaur designer Stan Winston agreed."We've been in love with and curious about dinosaurs for as long as I can remember. They've been important to filmmaking since King Kong in 1933 and they're also an important part of our museums. Every child grows up wanting to know about these creatures that roamed the earth before we did."
That insatiable interest inspired Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy to embark on a third trip to the Jurassic world, but this time with Johnston at the helm. He had approached Spielberg about directing the first Jurassic Park sequel, which Spielberg, of course, directed himself. "When we decided to go forward with this film, Joe was Steven's first choice," said Kennedy. "He has done a phenomenal job because he knows how to combine human drama and special effects without sacrificing one for the other."
Johnston sees them as part of the same package. "Every film should have characters you can relate to and believe in, whether it's dinosaurs or coal miners," he said. "And you still have to control everything that goes through the lens. "
Alessandro Nivola, who portrays Grant's impetuous protégé Billy Brennan, appreciated Johnston's respect for the story's integrity. "He never sacrificed the relationships among the central characters for the sake of a thrill. ''
Winston described his visual gifts. "Joe is a wonderful artist. He has a great eye and understands fantasy, and the elements that are vital to this kind of effects movie."
Spielberg and Johnston first collaborated in 1981 when Johnston was visual effects art director on Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). That film brought Johnston an Academy Award® (along with Richard Edlund, Kit West and Bruce Nicholson).
Johnston's early credits, which were rooted in the art directing side of visual effects, also included the original design for Yoda in Irvin Kershner's Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) as well as many of the weapons and vehicles in the original Star Wars.
In developing a new adventure for Jurassic Park III, he had to measure his work against the high standards established in the first Jurassic. "Jurassic Park is one of those turning points in movies. They put a living, breathing dinosaur on the screen," he said. "These are hard movies to make. Steven warned me about that and I realize now how true that is."
"But there's no such thing as an easy film. Some just have more in the toy box than others. I believe we've delivered the goods here, in part because of the stunning technical advances that have occurred since Steven's 1993 original. "
Long-time Spielberg collaborator Kennedy had an intimate view of the dynamic between Spielberg and Johnston on Jurassic Park III. "Throughout the process Steven has been enormously generous and supportive,'' she said. "He has empowered Joe to formulate and shape the look of the movie. It very much relates to the first two films, but is definitely Joe's movie. ''
A Trip To Isla Sorna
The story for Jurassic Park III is the first of the series not adapted from a Michael Crichton novel although it uses characters and concepts created by the author. Working with writers Peter Buckman, and Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, as well as resident dinosaur expert Jack Horner, the filmmakers created an adventure that begins with a parasailing accident near Isla Sorna.
"We trick Sam Neill's character into going back to these islands, which he's sworn he will never do," explained William H Macy, who plays Paul Kirby. "Everything is fine until we crash. From then on, we're on the run - to avoid ending up in the belly of the beast."
Johnston savored the idea of bringing back Neill's character. "This is a different Dr. Grant," said the director. "He barely survived Isla Nublar and he's been hardened by his experience. He's more cynical and he really doesn't want to be there. "
His character may have been reluctant to enter the fray, but Neill was eager to don the doctor's fedora - and his shoes. "I've never played a film role twice, and coming back to play Grant was like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes. "
But not too comfortable. "We have a story that moves like an express train driven by some very alarming dinosaurs," said Neill. "This film is more extreme, a full-on thing from the time you get to the island, which is almost immediately, to the time we get off - for those who do! Who will survive? I'm sorry, I'm not at liberty to say. Joe said this would probably be the most physical film I'd ever do," the New Zealand-based actor said of the grueling 20-week shoot. "He was right. "
Macy agreed. "We got banged up pretty badly. When we shot in the fuselage of the airplane, it was like spending the day in a clothes dryer. The good news was that almost all of us, sooner or later, ended up on top of Téa Leoni."
Leoni, who portrays Macy's estranged wife, wore the scars of her effort proudly. "I had bruises everywhere. As we went along, more of my makeup was to cover the real bruises than to create fake ones. But it was all worth it," said the actress, who accepted the role before the script was finished. "Joe promised she would be heroic - that she had a little Rambo in her - and that was good enough for me. "
Leoni's attitude impressed Johnston. "Téa is an amazing athlete. There were some things I was ready to ask her stunt double to do, but she said no, let me do this, it looks like fun. She really did get bruised and cut and scraped, and never complained. I had heard great things about both Bill Macy and Téa, which turned out to be even truer than I had expected. "
Johnston put each of the film's main characters in classic Jurassic jeopardy - a head-to-head encounter with a carnivorous dinosaur. "I think my favorite scene was when a Pteranodon picks me up," said 14-year-old Trevor Morgan, referring to the flying reptile that make its mark in Jurassic Park III. Morgan plays Eric Kirby, the son of Paul and Amanda Kirby (Macy and Leoni).
Renowned paleontologist Jack Horner, one of the foremost authorities on dinosaurs and prehistoric life and a prized member of the Jurassic Park team since the first film, keeps an eye on the accuracy of the depiction of the dinosaurs. "I also make sure that the animals walk realistically, that the actors pronounce the scientific terms right, and that sixth graders don't write nasty letters to the director after seeing the movie," he teased.
New Guy On The Island !
The filmmakers wanted to challenge the Tyrannosaurus Rex, who dominated the first two movies, with a rival that could truly destroy the island. Horner suggested the Spinosaurus, which is larger and more vicious than the T-rex.
The animal's look appealed to Johnston. "A lot of dinosaurs have a very similar silhouette to the T-rex," said Johnston, "and we wanted the audience to instantly recognize this as something else. The Spinosaurus has a long jaw, a long tooth row and a sail on his back. "
Or in the words of a scientist: "The Spinosaurus was a massive carnivore with the snout of a crocodile, a back fin resembling that of a Dimetrodon, and the ferociousness of the Tyrannosaurus," said Horner. "It was the biggest meat-eating dinosaur that ever lived, and different from any animal we'd seen so far. " Only one reconstructed Spinosaurus skeleton ever existed and it was bombed during World War II. So there is no representation of the Spinosaurus, only records to suggest what it might have looked like.
"But we do know that it had a skull that was eight feet long, and a body that was about 60 feet long," Horner continued. "If we base the ferocious factor on the length of the animal, there was nothing that ever lived on this planet that could match this creature. Also, my hypothesis is that T-rex was actually a scavenger rather than a killer. Spinosaurus was really the predatory animal. "
The Spino offered Winston, ILM's Jim Mitchell and special effects consultant Michael Lantieri new challenges, too. "Our Spinosaurus is much bigger than the T-rex and almost twice the weight," said Winston. "From a machine standpoint, it works and moves faster and is more powerful."
The 44-foot model required Winston and his staff, led by longtime associate John Rosengrant, to remove a wall at his studio in Van Nuys to get it out of the building and onto a flatbed truck for the late-night drive to Universal Studios' Stage 12.
The film features a savage battle between this new creature and the veteran T-rex, which has been dusted off and completely re-skinned for its third appearance in the franchise. While this Jurassic giant has gobbled up its share of screen-time in this film, the new predator finally puts T-rex in his place.
Joe Johnston described how the combined efforts of the Winston and ILM teams play out onscreen. "If you want to get in close and see subtle expressions, it's always Stan Winston's dinosaurs. They can definitely act," he said. "If you want to see them do anything very physical, it's ILM. "
ILM's Mitchell, who has worked with both Spielberg and Johnston on earlier films and is a veteran of both previous Jurassic Park films, was excited by the advances made in Jurassic Park III. "The looks of these dinosaurs, the way their skin and muscles move, and how they behave in their environment, is far more detailed and explicit than in the first films. The Spinosaurus dives into a lake. He has to act in water. Some of the most dramatic real life images are the Spinosaurus in the water. "
Rosengrant elaborated. "When our hydraulics team was creating the mechanics, they treated the Spino just like a submarine. There was never a single glitch. ''
Mitchell's ILM team designed some dinosaurs which were built completely in the computer, including the giant Brachiosaurus, an Ankylosaurus and a herd of Triceratops. "For the others, we had to mimic in our animation what Stan did with the live-action models," said Mitchell.
As with the 1997 sequel, Winston and his crew took advantage of advances in hydraulic and electronic technologies to breed their herds of lifelike dinosaur robotics. "There is as much science in what they're doing as there is in computer animation," said Kennedy. "Stan and his people have brought a tremendous amount of believability to these characters and to the films themselves."
The actors appreciated those advances, too. "What surprised me and probably everyone else who worked on the film was just how swept away one was by the experience of watching this technology," said Neill.
As usual, Winston and Rosengrant consulted with Horner while fabricating the new creations to make them as close to the real creatures as possible. "My work with Stan is to ensure that his model makers build these animals to look scientifically accurate," Horner noted. "Stan and his sculptors came up with a pretty good, original rendition of Spinosaurus, and then I added my comments based on some more up-to-date scientific information."
The work starts with drawings, sketches and color renderings. "We then build a 1/16 version called a maquette," Rosengrant explained. "Once we have the detail down, we sculpt a 1/5 scale version of the creature, adding more detail. From there, we finish the full-scale version. It took us 10 months to go from the 1/16 scale model to what you see on the screen, a 44-foot, 13-ton lizard that we're told would have been a medium-sized version of this creature. "
Even Winston was amazed by the accomplishment. "They hot-rodded this guy to the nth degree. Some of the hydraulic hoses we used are NASA approved. The T-rex weighed just nine tons, was about 35-feet and was operated at 300 horsepower." The Spino's 1,000 horsepower pulled two G's of force when its head moved rapidly.
The new creature had the desired effect on set. "I'm not kidding," said Leoni. "It was really scary to spend a couple days with an enormous dinosaur mouth looming over your gut. Trust me - when I look terrified, I am terrified!"
But Can He Act?
Instilling fear in the human cast members enhanced the performances of the animatronic characters. As Rosengrant related, "Stan has always said you can build these great machines but if they can't act, they don't perform. It helped the actors' performances when they saw this 26,000 pound dinosaur actually crash through the side of a plane. Actors can react to that, which helped us performance-wise, as the puppeteers reacted to the actors. That relationship was very exciting."
Neill found the word puppet a bit misleading. "These things are so sophisticated and so expressive that you start thinking of them as living beings, other personalities on the set. Each of them represents a combination of the intelligence of those people who are working them. "
The animatronic characters performed via a group of puppeteers clustered around a telemetry device, much like a sophisticated video game joystick. Their body language and motion traveled electronically through a computer, telling the hydraulics what to do. Each group of puppeteers (six each for the T-rex and Spinosaurus, four for the Velociraptors) deferred to a leader who controlled the head-and-neck movement using a telemetry device. Moving the lever translates to an alarmingly real movement (in real time) of the creature's head and neck.
Another puppeteer wore a second, very different, telemetry device, nicknamed a Waldo, that resembled a cross between a straight jacket and metal backpack. Any movement of the arms, hands and shoulders was commuted to the animatronic model's movement, again in actual time. These two performers worked in tandem with a support group that controlled the movement of the eyes, mouth and tongue.
Like the T-rex, the full-scale Velociraptors received a face-lift from Winston and his staff based on new information from Horner. "Every year we discover new things," he said. "We now have pretty good Velociraptor skulls and know that they look very different from how they were portrayed in the first two movies. We've found evidence that Velociraptors had feathers, or feather-like structures, and we've incorporated that into the new look of the raptor."
According to Horner, the Pteranodon, the flying reptile in Jurassic Park III, is fictitious, and based somewhat on the Pterosaur. Producer Kennedy described the creature as "enormous and scary. We put together a fairly intense scene that probably defines this movie as vastly different from the other two."
In addition to the full-sized adult flying reptiles that required a combined methodology of animatronics, puppetry and a man in a suit, Winston's artisans also designed and built a nest full of baby Pteranodons. While the raptors and the Spinosaurus were hydraulically controlled, Rosengrant explained, these baby Pteranodons were old-fashioned rod puppets. There were five of them in the nest set, with four puppeteers working underneath the set for each puppet.
Land, Sea And Air - Dinos Everywhere!
The biggest challenge facing veteran effects technician Michael Lantieri and his crew involved simulating the 44-foot Spinosaurus' attack on a downed plane in Isla Sorna's dense jungles. This task required close collaboration with Winston's crew.
Rosengrant oversaw the construction of a full-scale Spino leg prop (á la King Kong's hand holding Fay Wray) that would be suspended from poles guided by two Winston puppeteers. For one series of shots, Johnston directed the puppeteers to slam the leg down on the plane fuselage -a full-scale prop built by Lantieri's team. Once director Johnston completed that portion of the sequence, another prop fuselage was placed on the sound stage. Lantieri rigged this plane with a hydraulic machine that crushed the fuselage from inside, creating the illusion that the Spinosaurus' weight was squashing it. ILM added the complete rendering of the animal, Johnston filmed the actors rolling around in yet another prop plane, and the scary scenario was complete.
Before the plane falls through the trees onto the jungle floor, the Spinosaurus attacks it as it dangles from a treetop 15 feet above the ground. For the opening portion of the scene, Lantieri designed a tree that was really a gimbal. "We put the airplane up on this and were able to move it around, shake it, tilt it, slide the actors in-and-out. It was a pneumatic gimbal with 100 horsepower powered by hydraulics and hoses."
The fuselage also had a breakaway cockpit, where actors Michael Jeter and Bruce Young pilot the vehicle. After the plane falls into the trees, the nose of the cockpit blows off and Winston's 44-foot, 1,000 horsepower Spinosaurus attacks the plane and its occupants. The creature bursts into the cockpit as the actors scramble to the back of the plane. While ILM embellished the sequence with digital graphics of the dinosaur, much of this scene was filmed live on the stage with the real actors (not stunt doubles).
After the plane sequence was completed, the very same gimbal was moved to Universal Studios' backlot for the climactic lake sequence involving the Spinosaurus.
"This was by far the most physical of the three Jurassic movies," Lantieri said. "We had a cast that was willing to get real bruises and bumps, be around real heat, and actually go underwater. So, it became much more of an action-adventure picture, and not just computer generated."
"If you go completely CGI, you end up with a movie more like Toy Story," he continued. "If you just go with the physical effect, you are limited by physics. The idea is to combine them, defy physics and do things the audience would never suspect is possible. It's a huge help to have a director with a background in visual effects, mechanical effects and storyboarding like Joe, who also wraps it all up in intense dramatic structure. "
Before settling on the Universal Studios backlot, the company traveled to Hawaii to film on Kauai and Oahu at sites including Dillingham Airfield, the Heeia Kea Ranch, the rain forests in the Manoa Valley, the Mary Lucas Ranch, the Wailua River, the Hanalei Valley and the Molokai coast. Los Angeles-area locations included South Pasadena, which stood in for Dr. Sattler's Washington D. C. area home, plus Occidental College, a rock quarry in Irwindale and a warehouse east of downtown L. A. for the interiors of InGen's breeding tanks.
The filmmakers then moved to Universal Studios sound stages for 96 days. Perhaps most notable among production designer Ed Verreaux's sets was the jungle rain forest, which filled Stage 12, one of the largest stages in the world. Verreaux and seasoned greensman Danny Ondrejko fabricated a spectacular jungle that looked and smelled like a tropical forest. With mist and fog piped in by Lantieri's technicians, they replicated the humidity that soaked the crew during the Hawaiian portion of filming - but not the mosquitoes and four-inch poisonous centipedes that thrive in the Hawaiian jungles. Ondrejko and his 14-member crew spent two months dressing Stage 12's jungle terrain.
Johnston was thrilled with the results. "The first time I looked at the movie, there were moments I had to stop and think, 'Is that Hawaii or is that Stage 12?' Because it intercuts so seamlessly. "
According to Verreaux, movie sets are typically designed and built first, with other departmental craftsmen adapting their needs to existing sets. For Jurassic Park III, however, he had to design his sets (particularly Stage 12's dense jungle) around Winston's animatronic behemoths. "The Spinosaurus worked like a large locomotive on a big track where he could move back and forth for different camera positions."
"We thought of this dinosaur as a large steam engine with a big backhoe on the front of it that could pull two or three Gs on the neck," he continued. "This thing could easily tip itself over if it wasn't engineered properly. We had to take all of this into consideration and build our set around what Stan's creature could do."
Verreaux's creations on the backlot were even more astonishing. Universal's Falls Lake location normally contains a blue-sky backdrop similar to a drive-in movie screen, which can give the illusion of an endless horizon. Verreaux built a giant rock wall over the backdrop that would double for two separate island locations - InGen's aviary and the decaying InGen marina. His crew spent three months laying tons of foam blocks that were hand-molded into jagged rock faces. Then the grip department erected a ten-story, three-sided scaffold and covered it with netting to simulate the aviary where Hammond's diabolical creatures fly freely.
After that two-day shoot in early December, the set was redressed for a night exterior sequence where the dinosaur attacks Grant's boat. This massive scene took nine nights to complete, with the actors, both human and animatronic, battling fire and rain. The preparation was just as intense. "We're dealing with equipment used to build bridges and highways," said Kennedy. "It's an incredible amount of work. But we wanted a movie even more exciting than the first two."