After a 14 year hiatus, the world of Jurassic Park returns to theaters this weekend with Jurassic World, the fourth installment in what is undoubtedly the greatest dinosaur-cloning franchise in Hollywood history. You won’t need to know the original trilogy to enjoy Jurassic World. But if you haven’t yet experienced all three movies, you’re missing out. Though the quality wanes from the highs of Jurassic Park to The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, the entire series is a visual feast that pushed filmmaking forward with revolutionary computer-generated imagery and astonishing practical effects. If you don’t have 349 minutes to brush up on the series before Friday, at least read these 60 nuggets about Jurassic Park and its sequels that we gleaned from DVD commentaries, featurettes, and archival YouTube videos. Hold on to your butts!
Jurassic Park (1993)
1. Jurassic Park novelist Michael Crichton’s original idea for the book told the story of grad student who cloned a dinosaur from 65-million-year-old DNA. He abandoned it after deciding it was too fantastical. As time passed and science progressed, Crichton thought his idea sounded more plausible, and he returned to the project. He replaced the grad student with an amusement park honcho because he needed a way to explain why someone would pump millions into the research. Still, he was never quite satisfied with that solution.
2. Director Steven Spielberg learned about Crichton’s idea before the 1990 book was finished and won the film rights before it was even published. He began storyboarding from the novel, even before the screenplay was written.
3. Paleontologist Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies served as the technical advisor for Jurassic Park, and would serve in the same role for all subsequent sequels. Among his contributions: pushing the production toward a more bird-like portrayal of dinosaurs, which included nixing early plans to have the raptors shoot their tongues out like lizards.
4. Spielberg originally planned to use stop-motion photography for the dinosaur shots that didn’t feature puppets or animatronics. As production neared, he began considering CGI and had the team at Industrial Light & Magic prepare a sample of what they could do. He was so impressed that he decided to use it instead of stop motion. The CG work in Jurassic Park “changed the world,” Spielberg says.
5. After visual-effects artist Phil Tippet, who was in line to do the stop motion for the film, saw what CGI was capable of, he told Spielberg, “I think I’m extinct.” Spielberg says that inspired a similar line spoken in the movie by mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum).
6. That didn’t mean stop-motion animators weren’t important during production: They worked with the computer animators to create realistic-looking dinosaur movements. To pull this off, a Dinosaur Input Device was built. The small machine — which looked like a crude, mechanical dinosaur and was manipulated by stop-motion animators — was rigged with sensors that translated its every movement into computer animation.
7. To further help them develop the dinosaur movements, animators took mime classes, pranced around the Universal lot pretending to be Gallimimus, and studied the movements of lizards, giraffes and rhinos, among other modern animals.
8. Nicolas Cage played a pivotal role in Laura Dern’s decision to be in the movie. (She plays paleontologist Dr. Ellie Sattler.) In 2013, she recalled that she had just made the David Lynch movie Wild at Heart with Cage when the offer for Jurassic Park came. She was skeptical, but he insisted that she do it because, “no one can ever say no to a dinosaur movie!”
9. Spielberg initially wanted the Tyrannosaurus rex to be a lightweight, Bunraku-style puppet. Once that proved impractical, the effects teams considered building it with electric motors inside, but soon realized those couldn’t allow the dinosaur to move fast enough. Finally, the team settled on hydraulics.
10. Special effects guru Stan Winston’s studio built two massive T. rex models for the movie. One was a full-bodied, 9-ton, animatronic beast that could move as fast as 90 inches per second. The other was built from only the waist up and had a smaller range of motion, but a more detailed face for close ups.
11. The production went to great pains to ensure the T. rex looked was as scientifically accurate as possible, but a few liberties were taken with its appearance. For one, its teeth were more banana shaped than portrayed in the film.
12. Winston’s studio built a baby Triceratops for a planned scene that would have had the dinosaur playfully toss Lex (Ariana Richards) into the air with its horn. The scene was cut before production.
13. While shooting the scene in which entrepreneur John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and the scientists watch a cow lowered into a raptor cage at feeding time, Spielberg made dinosaur noises into a bullhorn to help the actors imagine there was a raptor present. Sam Neill, who played Dr. Alan Grant, said it was “more funny than anything.”
14. The sick Triceratops was the only dinosaur shot at the productions location in Hawaii. At least seven puppeteers were required to operate its eyes, mouth, stomach, etc. The puppeteer operating its tail was inside of its body during shooting.
15. That scene remains the most famous of Laura Dern’s career, she says. The question she’s asked most often by fans is, “Are you the lady that stuck her hand in dinosaur poop?”
16. The doctor in the scene with the sick Triceratops is Gerald Molen, one of the movie’s producers.
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17. The self-driving Ford Explorers that shuttled visitors through Jurassic Park were modified by famed auto customizer George Barris. In order to make them appear as if they were propelling themselves down the track, Barris installed a remote steering system in the trunk. This allowed a stunt driver to drive the Explorers while remaining hidden from view being the rear tinted windows. A small camera on the dash pointed outward allowing the driver to see where he was going.
18. While driving to the set one day and rattling his windows with music from Earth, Wind and Fire, Spielberg was inspired. He thought the Jurassic Park Explorers should shake as the T. rex approached and wanted to see if a cup of water could ripple from the vibration. The water effect proved mighty difficult, but special-effects artist Michael Lantieri eventually figured out how to pull it off: He fed a guitar string through the dash, placed the cup of water on top and plucked the string. The water rippled.
19. During the T. rex attack scene, storyboards called for Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to scamper away in fear. Goldblum suggested that his character should be more heroic and stand up the T. rex, because he thought it would be more “delicious.” Spielberg went with it.
20. Among the sounds used in the film are mating tortoises (raptor bark), a noisy baby elephant (T. rex growl), falling redwoods (T. rex stomp), braying donkeys (Brachiosaur’s song), falling bowling pins (falling fossils) and a cracking waffle cone (hatching raptor egg).
21. During parts of the the kitchen raptor attack scene, puppeteers John Rosengrant and Mark ‘Crash’ McCreery are inside of raptor costumes. They held rods to control the raptors head movements, while the arms were remote controlled.
22. The Dilophosaurus, which spits in Nedry’s (Wayne Knight) face, was a puppet mounted to a harness that was worn on a puppeteer’s shoulder’s. The ground in that scene was built up off the studio floor, allowing the puppeteer to hide underneath and operate the dinosaur.
23. Spielberg changed the finale of the movie mid-production. Originally, it was supposed to end with two raptors attacking Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and the kids on a basket crane in the visitor center. Storyboards show Grant using the crane to smash one raptor into the mouth of the fossil T. rex, killing it. Hammond was to emerge at the last second and shoot the other as it lunged toward the crane. Spielberg was so impressed by the animatronic T. rex though, that he insisted on bringing it back. It was the “star of the movie” he said.
24. The biggest difference between Crichton’s book and Spielberg’s film is tone. The book is dark and cynical: The dinosaurs are pure evil, and John Hammond is sinister. “The dark side of Walt Disney,” Crichton calls him. Spielberg changed this, creating a warm, if misguided Hammond, and a story that both feared and revered the dinosaurs.
25. When production wrapped, Spielberg went to Poland to shoot his Holocaust drama Schindler’s List. He held regular teleconferences with the Industrial Light & Magic team to monitor all of the work being done in post-production.
26. Composer John Williams theme, considered one of his best, was recorded at Skywalker Ranch, where sound mixer Gary Rydstrom was creating the dinosaur sounds. He listened to these noises and tried to match them up with different orchestral instruments.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
27. While shooting Jurassic Park, Spielberg was already thinking about a sequel. He says he included the shot of the Barbasol can with the dinosaur embryos sinking into the mud because the volatility of misplaced dinosaur DNA seemed like a good starting point for the next film. Crichton ended up writing a novel sequel, in part because Spielberg needed a story for the next film.
28. Spielberg says he got so much fan mail asking for a Stegosaurus in the sequel that he made sure to include one in The Lost World.
29. Stan Winston’s team built a full-size animatronic Stegosaurus that wasn’t used in the film. At the last minute, Spielberg decided to use one created with CGI instead.
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30. The baby Stegosaurus that Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) pets on the nose was named Claire.
31. Two animatronic T. rex models were built for The Lost World. They remained on the same soundstage throughout production. Each time they were needed for a scene, that scene was built around them.
32. Spielberg called the scene that has the two T. rexes rip apart Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) the “make a wish shot.”
33. Spielberg calls the baby T. rex a “creative miracle” because it was a completely self-contained, fully functional animatronic dinosaur. It could be carried and still move like it was alive. Vince Vaughn, who plays photographer Nick Van Owen, said he really became attached to it. When it was moving, he said, “it had a definite life force to it.”
34. All of the raptors in Jurassic Park were female. Male raptors joined them in The Lost World. Like peacocks, the males have more vibrant colors.
35. To ensure that the actors eyeline tracked where the CG dinosaurs would later appear, crew members held up “monster sticks” during scene rehearsal. These were big cardboard dinosaur heads on top of broom sticks.
36. The small Procompsognathus, or compy, dinosaurs had foam bodies over small wire structures. In their first appearance, when they attack a little girl, most of them are computer generated. But in the scene where they attack Dieter Stark (Peter Stormare), they were attached to his shirt, and each was operated by its own puppeteer.
37. Miniatures were used twice in The Lost World: Once for the overhead shot of the Jurassic Park stadium and the other for the elaborate ship crash in San Diego.
38. A cliff wall was built on the side of a Universal parking structure for the scene in which the characters nearly plunge to their deaths when their mobile base is pushed into the sea.
39. Sounds in The Lost World include walrus whistles (ambient noises on the island), cows mooing through a tube (the Parasaurolophus), hummingbirds (the compies), baby camel cries (baby T. rex cries), and dental floss being pulled from its container (Pteranodon scream).
40. Scenes that had CG dinosaurs running wild and denting vehicles required rigging that would allow the vehicles to basically self-dent. Cables were wired inside the vehicle and hydraulics pulled those cables and the attached vehicle body inward. When the CG dinosaurs were inserted, it looked as if they were creating the dents.
41. Production designer Rick Carter spent months growing a field of grass for the raptor stalking scene. Once the grass was long, track was laid down so the raptors could smoothly move across the ground. CG grass was inserted to make the field look full and then removed as the raptors passed, making it look as if they were trampling down the grass.
42. A portable waterfall was built for the scene that has the T. rex poking its head through the water. It was rigged with a valve that released red water meant to look like blood.
43. The original ending had the characters leaving the island, and Pteranodons attacking their chopper. Spielberg decided mid-production that he wanted to bring the dinosaurs back to the mainland and see the T. rex destroy a city. During production, he said the movie became a Godzilla movie. “I just have only dreamed about making one of these as a child. And as a grownup I’m ashamed of myself,” he said.
44. A lot of the film’s crew can be seen running through the streets of San Diego in the final T. rex scene. Screenwriter David Koepp is eaten by the T. rex and listed in the credits as “Unlucky bastard.”
45. Even Spielberg says The Lost World wasn’t as good as the original.
Jurassic Park III (2001)
46. After watching Jurassic Park, director Joe Johnston asked Spielberg if he could direct the movie’s sequel. Spielberg did it himself, but invited Johnston to direct the third installment.
47. The opening parasailing scene made use of a new ILM cloth simulation technology to created a CG version of the parachute.
48. Five weeks before shooting began, the script was thrown out. The original story called for an airplane full of rich kids to crash land on the dinosaur-filled island.
49. The airplane crash scene was done with miniatures until the plane stops in the tree tops. The rest of the plane sequence required several different fuselages. One was mounted on fake branches that served as gimbal to shake the plane. Another rolled across the forest floor. Another was crushed on the inside and another was crushed on the outside.
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50. The Spinosaurus was a 12-ton, 24-foot, 1000 horsepower beast with miles of wires running through its insides. It was operated with a telemetry device worn by a puppeteer that translated his moves to the dinosaur.
51. Initial plans called for the Pteranodon to be played by a man in a suit, but after building the suit and trying it out on set, those plans were scrapped in favor of a CG version.
52. With John Williams unavailable to score the film, Don Davis stepped in. Recommended by Williams, Davis put his own stamp on the franchise. To create fearsome music that represented the Spinosaurus, he brought in extra tubas and trombones.
53. Sounds in Jurassic Park III include vultures (raptor screams), albatross screams (Pteranodon screams) and a roaring lion mixed with a crying baby bear (Spinosaurus screams).
54. The fabricated raptor resonating chamber that Dr. Grant uses to great effect on Isla Sorna is based on part of a dog’s skull, which was cast in silicon and enlarged.
55. The raptors were updated for the film, in part because paleontologists had new ideas of what they looked like. Namely, experts said raptors had feathers. The quills on the raptor heads were added in response to this, but they were still pretty far off from what paleontologists believe covered a raptors body.
56. Those quills responded to the raptor’s mood, standing up when they were upset and laying down when they were relaxed.
57. In the chase scene that has the raptor cornering Grant and company behind a chain link fence, effects supervisor John Rosengrant is inside of the raptor costume.
58. The platform on which the baby Pteranodons attacked Eric Kirby (Trevor Morgan) hid around 20 puppeteers that controlled the heads, wings and bodies of the little prehistoric birds.
59. The CGI spine seen above the water as the Spinosaurus approaches the boat was supposed to be real. One was indeed built for that purpose, but it broke on set at the last minute and was replaced with a CG version.
60. The giant pies of Spinosaurus droppings were made with 250 pounds of oatmeal. “It was delicious. There was a little cinnamon in there, so I’d just lick it off after each take,” Tea Leoni told EW.