Secrets From the 'Jurassic World' Set: the Hungry, Hungry Mosasaurus, the Gyrospheres, and More (Spoilers!)

Like the tagline says, Jurassic World is now open, which means that moviegoers can experience the many attractions of the dino-centric theme park for themselves. But last summer, Yahoo Movies had the opportunity to visit the set of the fourth installment in the Jurassic franchise and learn some of its secrets. A year later, now that the park (and the film) is officially complete, we can reveal them to you…but only if you can present your admission ticket. (Consider that your warning: Spoilers to follow, so stop now if you haven’t seen the movie.)


Steven Spielberg suggested the Mosasaurus’ grand finale
The Jurassic Park director didn't visit Jurassic World set while the film was in production. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t earn his “Executive Producer” credit. According to World director Colin Trevorrow, Spielberg made a number of suggestions. For example, take the sequence that introduces Jurassic World’s resident aquatic attraction, the Mosasaurus. We first glimpse the creature during its feeding time, as it leaps into the air to nab its prey — a shark, naturally. (How else would you honor the director of Jaws?) Trevorrow’s idea for the sequence ended with the Mosasaurus getting its snack and dousing park goers with water in the process. But Spielberg encouraged him to go a step further. “He said, ‘No, what would be really cool is, after it eats the shark, the bleachers sink down so the crowd can watch her finish it off underwater and you can see all the blood!’ And I was like, ‘Jesus! Okay, that sounds great!'”


They really built those Gyrospheres
Though digital magic may have been used to make the dinosaurs run, the Gyrosphere that brothers Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) take off-road through the park is a real contraption. During the Hawaii section of the shoot, the ball was loaded onto a track and rolled around on ball bearings, under the watchful eye of a crew member armed with a remote control. “My son got to ride in it,” Trevorrow said. “He was able to ride it forward and in reverse. If only I had had that when I was a child!” We didn’t get a chance to take it for a test run ourselves, but we were shown the full-size Gyrosphere at rest on a soundstage. And producer Frank Marshall teased that the general public might get their very own Gyrosphere experience at some point; according to him, there have been discussions about turning it into an actual attraction at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando. We call dibs on the first ride!


Jake Johnson was encouraged to improvise
Having previously directed Jake Johnson in his feature debut, the low budget Sundance favorite, Safety Not Guaranteed, Trevorrow knew that the New Girl star was a skilled improviser. So when he cast Johnson as sarcastic park operator Lowery Cruthers, he allowed the actor some freedom to shape his character as he went along. Case in point: that random conversation that Lowery at one point has with his colleague, Vivian (Laura Lapkus), about his stepfather, Carl. That was a riff that Johnson decided upon before cameras rolled. Over the course of multiple takes, Johnson tried several different variations on the line, often cracking up the director and his scene partner in the process. “He was like ‘This movie’s about the dinosaurs, so anything you could do to get a chuckle here and there, [do it],” Johnson told us later.

What’s the movie called again?
Even if you somehow managed to clear the multiple layers of security and made it onto the Louisiana lot where part of Jurassic World was filmed, you wouldn’t have located the set. That’s because the production team used a code name to throw people off the scent. Instead of Jurassic World, all production documents listed the film’s title as Ebb Tide. That’s a longstanding tradition for a Spielberg production; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, for example, went by the name “The Genre Project” while “Big Valley” is rumored to be the alias of his current film, The BFG.


Jurassic World is the first Jurassic movie to use motion-capture effects
Back in 1993, the original Jurassic Park represented a landmark in digital effects, with legendary effects house Industrial Light & Magic creating realistic-looking dinosaurs on their computers. Jurassic World also breaks new ground: For the first time in the franchise’s history, it used motion capture to create some of the more prominent dinosaur characters. Chris Pratt’s four raptor buddies, for example, are all mo-cap creations; during production, he barked his orders at stand-ins who wore costume raptor heads.

After shooting wrapped, Trevorrow entered a greenscreen-filled soundstage with a quartet of mo-cap performers and had them act out the raptors’ movements for the ILM animators to build upon. “Because there are four actors playing the raptors, you get to recognize certain behaviors,” Treverrow said of his raptor cast. The director also used mo-cap to bring a surprise guest star back to life: The T. Rex from the first Jurassic Park. “There questions about whether the mo-cap process could work for the larger animals,” Trevorrow said. “We knew it worked for the raptors, because they’re at least somewhat human in height. When you get to a 20-foot high, 50-foot long animal, is that going to translate? But it really does; it’s pretty thrilling to watch.”

Jurassic World used a real amusement park
While many of the park exteriors were shot in Hawaii, Jurassic World’s brand-name clogged main thoroughfare — where the Pteranodons dive bomb visiting tourists at one point — was created in the parking lot of an abandoned amusement park on the outskirts of New Orleans. Originally opened in 2000 under the name Jazzland, the park was later acquired by Six Flags and rebranded as their New Orleans outpost. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through region, rendering the park inoperable.

The rights to the property have since reverted back to the city, but for now, the park sits empty, as this haunting photo essay shows. New Orleans was only too happy to turn it over to the Jurassic World crew, who set up shop for two-and-a-half weeks. To recreate a tropical setting, they imported dozens of palm trees weighing up to a thousand pounds each, and also cleaned up the snakes that were lying in wait about the park. All those storefronts you see in the movie — including a Margaritaville and a Starbucks — were actually built. The Pteranodons were CGI, though.

Chris Pratt talks about his adventure couture in ‘Jurassic World:’