It took 22 years, three sequels and countless human casualties, but in this weekend’s blockbuster Jurassic World, the good people at InGen finally have a fully functioning dinosaur theme park. In fact, Isla Nublar is not just home to genetically revived prehistoric monsters: It also has a deluxe resort complex that’s a hybrid of Universal Studios and a Caribbean paradise.
The resort was painstakingly put together by veteran production designer Edward Verreaux, who has worked on various Steven Spielberg-produced films since the first Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. Verreaux told Yahoo Movies this week that, when planning Jurassic World, he and his team cast a global net for inspiration.
“We visited these lovely high-end resorts in the South Pacific, with a hut on sticks in the middle of the lagoon,” he said. “The way John Hammond [the fictional creator of Jurassic Park] had it, you went there for the dinosaurs, and that was it. Now you go there, and you spend a week and you do all these different things.” Verreaux and his team eventually landed on a multi-part design that included the massive dinosaur zoo, a boardwalk and commercial zone, hotels and other attractions. Here’s how the elements of the park came together.
Watch a “live feed” of different areas of the Jurassic World resort:
Jurassic World’s Main Street
The film spends considerable time on the Main Street and boardwalk, which serves as a central hub for visiting tourists. The boardwalk, which is reminiscent of Universal Studios’ CityWalk in LA and Orlando, is filled with restaurants and stores, many of which were real businesses that paid sizable product placement fees to the movie studio Universal for a fictional storefront. Verreaux name-checked the arcade/restaurant Dave & Busters and Ben & Jerry’s as two major sponsors. The cheeky Jurassic World website lists several others, including Columbia Sportswear, Oakley Sunglasses and Starbucks.
“All those stores had product in them and they all had interiors,” Verreaux said, noting that every storefront was actually able to function like a business. “There were several times where the various [sponsors] would come out and they wanted to tell us how it should look. We said, ‘Sorry, you don’t get to do that. You get to have your store in the park, but you don’t get to tell us what it looks like.’”
(One sponsor who did have some intimate involvement in the film: Jimmy Buffet, who makes a cameo inside his branded chain of Margaritaville restaurants. Read more about that here.)
The Main Street was meant to be a more upscale locale, like “The Grove meets a high-end resort.” It sports a nightclub and top-notch steakhouse called Winston’s, named for Stan Winston, the late special-effects pioneer who worked on the first three films.
The production had originally intended to use parts of a New Orleans-area Six Flags that had been partially destroyed and then abandoned after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The idea was to reclaim and rehabilitate its boardwalk and main street, which would provide a jumpstart on creating an authentic theme park feel. Its still-standing roller coasters would also be featured in the background.
Unfortunately, the park was just too wrecked — it had been built on top of a lagoon, and was sinking into it. Instead, the production built the Main Street and boardwalk sets in the parking lot, which actually allowed more structural freedom. But, fantasy tourists can still put roller coasters on their itinerary: “We’re not saying that they weren’t there,” Verreaux said. “We just weren’t featuring them [in the movie].”
A shot of Jurassic World’s Innovation Center (Jurassic World/Instagram)
The Innovation Center
At the end of Main Street is what they called the Innovation Center. The production designer likens the big pavilion to the castle at the end of the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, while a statue of Hammond standing at the center of the plaza is a nod to the bronze carving of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse that greets Disney World visitors.
The Innovation Center took design cues — including a spiral staircase and holographic dinosaur — from the visitor’s center of the first Jurassic Park movie, on which Verreaux also worked. In fact, the first film ran out of money for the center, which inspired Rick Carter, the first production designer, to drape much of the rotunda with plastic scaffolding and cloth tarp. “We’ll just say they’re still working on it,” Verreaux remembered Carter saying, and he came up with the same sort of solution as his one-time boss when the budget got tight once again, building only parts of the boardwalk and having director Colin Trevorrow keep the camera angled away from the unfinished area.
The rides and attractions
The movie implies that Jurassic World also has golf courses, a water park, and a T. rex and raptor show held in an amphitheater. (There are even a few glimpses of these in the opening.)
There were, however, plenty of extra attractions and rides that did get plentiful screen time, including the stadium for the Shamu-like Mosausaurus show. Similar to Disney World, a monorail circles the entire resort; one eventually abandoned idea was to have the monorail attacked in such a ferocious way that it (along with its helpless passengers) was tossed into a dinosaur-infested lagoon. There’s also a petting zoo with baby dinosaurs, a Cretaceous Cruise (a wild river for kayaking sightseers), and a Gyrosphere tour that plays a heavy role in the action once all hell breaks loose.
The unique Gyrosphere — which producer Frank Marshall told a Yahoo Movies reporter could eventually become a Universal Studios ride — was one of the neater physical innovations built for the film. It was constructed using “a gyroscope chassis, and there were two circular frame bars as well as the seats,” Verreaux explained. “It was on a rolling base that then had an arm so it could be controlled from the distance by another vehicle. Almost all the time you saw the ball just driving along, it was really our actors sitting in this vehicle. The plexiglass was digitally added.”
That actually sounds a pretty sweet in and of itself, and Jurassic World, even without the dinosaurs, seems like a pretty great place to visit. Given what happens in the actual movie, it might be best to stick with just monorails and roller coasters, anyway.
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