The summer of '93 was an import one for
me as a movie geek. Of course I had grown up with Steven Spielberg's
work like Jaws and the Indiana Jones films and Close Encounters and
ET, but I had never been caught up in one of those as an “event.”
They had simply existed, either on cable or VHS. I did go see Last
Crusade opening weekend with my family, but it was just a cool thing
to do, not necessarily a landmark moment.
The evening of Friday June 11th,
1993 I was at my grandparent's house. We were watching the news after
dinner and the big story were the lines around the block for Jurassic
I was so pumped to see the movie, but also nervous. I was
supposed to go see it the next morning, but could I even get in?
My grandparents very rarely went to the
movies with me. Grandpa Vic would often say “I want to keep my
shoes” when I'd ask him to go watch movies with me, referring to
the sticky floors of the theaters. But they encouraged my movie habit
and bright and early Saturday morning my Grandmother dropped me off
at the domed Century Theaters in San Jose, California.
I walked up to the ticket booth while
my Grandmother waited to make sure I could actually get in and sure
enough I was able to buy a ticket to the first screening that
morning. No lines, no problems. I vividly remember getting a Coke and
some Red Vines, thinking all that stuff on the news was overblown and
then I entered the theater... a buzzing, packed theater.
Somehow I hit the sweet spot between
sold out and lining up hours in advance and just kinda slid on in. I
remember sitting off-center and being perfectly happy with my seat
and then the usher came in and asked everybody to scoot towards the
middle so the next wave of people could have easy access to remaining
When all was said and done I somehow
ended dead center, middle of the theater. It's like fate put me in
that seat. Then the movie played and I was hooked in a way I had
never been before. Some of it was the buzz of the crowd, some was the
technical majesty of the effects, both practical and digital, on the
screen, some of it was the charisma of all the actors, a good deal
was John Williams' score and there was also a little bit attributed
to the state of the art immersive screen I was watching it on.
The Century theaters were domed,
with curved screens so it felt a little bit like I was surrounded by
the movie. Not only that, but this was my first experience with
Digital Sound. The DTS logo is super cheesy now, but at the time it
blew my mind (and my eardrums).
I was so into the movie. A 12 year old
boy in 1993 was already the perfect mark for Jurassic Park and when
you add in the fantastic presentation to the mix you get something
I'll always love Jurassic Park thanks
to that screening. That summer I was boy obsessed. I both read the
original Michael Crichton novel and listened to the audio book (read
by John Heard). I collected Jurassic Park trading cards, I bought the
making of book, I listened to the soundtrack on repeat, I pumped
countless quarters into the Jurassic Park pinball machine. And I
dreamed of petting a real life dinosaur.
Cut to 24 years later and I found
myself in the jungles of Hawaii, about to enter a tent filled with
animatronic dinosaurs. Twelve year old me was very much on my mind in
But lets back up a second. I got the
call asking if I wanted to visit the set of the Jurassic World sequel
after I had booked a much-needed vacation to New Zealand in that same
timeframe. However you must remember that whole page of backstory I
just made you read. A little thing like vacation wasn't going to keep
me from getting to visit a Jurassic park in real life. The way it all
worked out I flew from Austin to LA to Aukland to Wellington (roughly
20-ish hours of travel), got to sleep for a night and then got on an
airplane and headed about 10 hours back the way I just came and I did
so with a smile because there was a chance I was gonna see some
goddamn dinosaurs and for that I'd fly around the world three times
One of the perks of getting to touch
down in New Zealand first was I happened upon a bag of limited
edition Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Doritos that was only available
in the Southern hemisphere. The chips were green colored and “Gamora
themed” and I said “Screw it, I'm going to gift these to Chris
Pratt if I get the chance.”
So, me and my movie tie-in junk food
ended up in Hawaii where I found out the set visit was very limited.
It was just me and Slashfilm's Peter Sciretta there, which made the
whole thing feel intimate and less junket-y where you're herded like
cattle from one part of the visit to another. Don't get me wrong,
those visits are fine, too, but this kind is way better.
Our first stop was the destroyed Main
Street of Jurassic World, built up off of Police Beach on the North
Shore of Oahu. This exterior set was totally cool to be exposed to
the elements because in the story for the sequel the Park has been
abandoned for years. They've given it back to the dinosaurs and thus
everything is overgrown, broken down, unkempt and probably filled
with a bunch of dino doo-doo. I didn't see any, but I'm sure it was
They built Main Street on an old WW2
airfield and it looked identical to the one you see (in much better
shape) in the first Jurassic World even though that original set was
built in New Orleans. The production design team was able to recreate
it in exacting detail from the construction drawings, 3-D scans and
photos taken on set the first time around.
I didn't see any evidence of it, but
I'm hoping we see a skeleton holding margarita glasses in each hand
somewhere in this scene.
While that's wishful thinking on my
part, what I can say is that this location doesn't play a huge part
of the movie, but I was told that it serves a pretty big moment that
sounds like it mirrors the original Jurassic Park.
When our heroes return to the island
they find more dead dinosaurs than alive dinosaurs. Bones, carcasses,
etc. I mean, the dinos have been left to their own devices so
naturally the meat-eating meatasauruses have been eating the
veggiesauruses and they don't tend to clean up after themselves.
Apparently our heroes come to Main
Street and see their first sign of life: a Brachiosaur walking
amongst the ruins. Like I said, it sounds like a callback to the
original moment when Grant sees the Brachiosaur for the first time.
There's still awe and majesty even as this island is about to go up
One of the big characters that has been
kept out of pretty much all advertising is Ted Levine's character,
Wheatley. We didn't get to see him work, but we heard a lot about
him. Ted Levine is a very great and intimidating character actor
probably best known as Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs and his
character here is apparently a real son of a bitch. He's a hard-ass
military style dude on the ground to organize the extraction of the
very specific species he's tasked to grab and from the sounds of
things he's a little bit of a mix of Pete Postlethwaite's Roland
Tembo and Peter Stormare's Dieter Stark from The Lost World in that
he'd rather hunt the dinosaurs instead of saving them, but he doesn't
seem to have Tembo's respect for the animal. He's a little more cruel
about it and like most cruel people in the Jurassic universe things
probably aren't going to end too well for this dude.
While the production was very secretive
about what happens after everybody gets off the island we did get
filled in on some of the key on-island locations. We know that our
group is trying to find Blue and to do so they need to journey to a
radio tower on the island where they can plug in and track the
dinosaurs (remember they all had tracking devices implanted). I
assume there is where Justice Smith's character comes in since he's a
computer dude who is deathly afraid of literally everything on the
We've all seen the trailers by now so
you know they find Blue. What you might have missed is that Blue has
made her nest in the overturned jeep that the T-Rex messed up so
beautifully in Jurassic Park. I was told later that the idea to do
that came from Mondo, of all places. You may remember their teaser
poster print they did for Jurassic World depicting a Raptor on top of
the ruins of the car. Apparently that image stuck with the creative
team and they couldn't find a place to put it in the first film, so
they wrote that into the sequel.
And speaking of Blue, I guess it's time
to talk about losing my mind and petting a real, living, breathing
I'm jumping forward a little bit here,
but before the final part of our set visit, Peter and I got to step
into the SFX tent and see some of the animatronics involved in the
movie. We missed the biggest animatronic build of the shoot, sadly.
They built a full sized T-Rex all drugged out and in her container,
but that wasn't brought to Hawaii so I didn't get to see her.
I did get to see a baby stegosaurus and
Blue in all her head to toe glory, though, so I'm not complaining.
The stego was a partial build. The body
wasn't fully animatronic as the scene it's in apparently calls for it
to be fairly stationary. The head, though, was articulated and
puppeted by two guys, one controlling the rig that made its head move
around in a surprisingly big range and the other using a remote
control to make the eyes blink.
Working together they made this head on
metal skeleton come to life. It sniffed at my leg and nudged my
outstretched hand like a big, goofy dog. Even though I could see the
illusion thanks to the physical body not being in that tent at the
time I still bought into it thanks to the animation happening before
The raptor didn't require as much
suspension of disbelief. Blue was a full build. She was groggy,
laying on the ground, but fully articulated. Her legs could push out,
her arms moved, her ribcage expanded and contracted with each breath,
her head could raise up off the ground and move around, her eyes
opened and closed and could follow you, her mouth and tongue were
working. In short, she was alive. In that tent at that moment, with a
huge team of puppeteers behind her, Blue was a living thing.
This was the moment I had dreamed of
since I was a wide-eyed kid sitting in that movie theater watching
dinosaurs come to life.
The SFX crew told us that this
particular build breaks down into three parts that when connected
makes a seamless, full body Velociraptor and that it typically takes
11 puppeteers to bring her to life. Some will operate individual
limbs, some the bladders built in that make it look like she's
breathing, some on her face.
The SFX team, lead by Star Wars' Neal
Scanlan, didn't just create living dinosaurs. Nope, there's lots of
dead ones as well. Near Blue's nest, out in the jungles of Hawaii,
they built a full scale, dead adult Stegosaurus. This thing was
massive. Sixty feet long, 15 feet tall, and immaculately detailed.
Leathery, drying skin hanging over an exposed ribcage... It was sad
and beautiful at the same time.
There were a good dozen more dino
carcasses scattered around the landscape. We went to visit the Radio
Tower location, which is near where they shot the Gyrosphere Valley
sequence in the first Jurassic World, at a place called Kualoa Ranch,
which has been the location of a ton of movies and TV shows. When
Hurley was golfing in Lost or when Lex, Tim and Dr. Grant were
running from the Gallimimus in the original Jurassic Park, the Kong
skeletons scene from Skull Island... that was all shot at Kualoa, a
giant gorgeous amazingly beautiful reserve. I'm also told the Obamas
frequent the event center.
One of the locations in this huge
natural wonder is a steep green hillside and the Radio Tower was down
at the foot of that. They had rigged the whole area with gas pipes so
they could pump out fire for a big lava sequence and they even dotted
the landscape with those dino carcasses. From the tower location you
could easily see for miles and they had a bunch dotting the landscape
and like the Stego these aren't just bones, but fully detailed
The scene in the trailer where Chris
Pratt is running down the hill yelling “RUN!” is from this
location and it looks way more steep and treacherous in person than
it does on camera, let me tell you.
We saw very little actual filming, but
our last stop of the day did take us to the active set.
The scene is the finale of the big
island escape and involved Justice Smith and Chris Pratt and a
speeding truck racing down a dock, trying to make it to a boat being
chased by lava and probably a dinosaur or two. I don't know about
that last part, but it is a Jurassic movie, so if someone's running
odds are there's a dinosaur involved somewhere.
Instead of getting to watch the scene
unfold we instead spent our time at this location interviewing many
of the key players, including legendary producer Frank Marshall,
Justice Smith and Chris Pratt. I've run all those interviews
separately and will list them at the bottom of this article. I highly
recommend you give them a read if you want to know more about the
movie and hear some fun filming anecdotes.
This was my first time meeting Pratt
and he was every bit the joking, charming leading man type I expected
from his film work. Of course within seconds of him entering our
interview tent I bestowed upon him the gift of limited edition
Doritos that had his face on them and to my delight he was super over
the moon about it.
There was a debate about whether or not
he was going to “smash them” that night or hold on to them for
posterity's sake and eat them in 20 years. That spurned a quick
conversation about just how high you could get eating 20 year old
movie tie-in Doritos and then we calmed down and had a nice chat
about Jurassic stuff.
Before we left we got a visit from
Bryce Dallas Howard, who was in the tent next door to the one we were
doing interviews in. We had interviewed her earlier in the day and
since she knew she had two full blown geeks she asked us if we had
any thoughts about her dad signing on to do the Han Solo movie. Of
course we did and we listed off a few words of geek wisdom that she
rapidly typed into the notes app on her phone and she said she was
going to send them on to her dad. Whether or not she did and whether
or not he took any of them to heart I have no idea, but it was a
pretty cool moment nonetheless.
And that ended the big trip. The next
day I got back on a plane and went back to enjoy my vacation knowing
that I had gotten to bond with a real life dinosaur. The SFX guys
could explain all the servos and components that made Blue look alive
all they want, but I'm pretty sure they just cloned a real life
dinosaur. That's my story and I'm sticking with it!
Thanks for following along on this
crazy adventure. Hopefully you know a little bit more about this
crazy new Jurassic movie. If not now you know about limited edition
Doritos, so I guess it's a win either way.
If you want to read full transcripts of
the interviews with the main players then here you go:
Director JA Bayona On Making Jurassic World Scary Again
Producers Frank Marshall & Patrick Crowley Discuss The Goals Of This Huge Sequel
Chris Pratt Talks About Jumping Through A T-Rex's Mouth
Bryce Dallas Howard On Becoming A Dinosaur Rights Activist