‘Jurassic Park’ Five Film Facts: Are Those Raptors or Guys in Monster Suits?

Adam Pockross
Movie Talk

1993 was a banner year in pop culture: "The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" first powered up, Prince became the artist formerly known as Prince, and most important, Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" brought dinosaurs -- along with millions of childhood fantasies -- to life, right before our awestruck eyes.

Now, 20 years later, Spielberg's looking to make our jaws drop even farther by giving the highest-grossing creature feature ever a dino-sized extra dimension; call it "Jurassic Park of the 3D Kind," if you like. You probably know a heck of a lot more about dinosaurs thanks to "JP," but here are five film facts you may not know but definitely should.

Suiting Up

1. In and around the filmmaking community, it's widely accepted that "Jurassic Park" was a game changer, particularly in the world of computer-generated imagery (CGI). "It changed special effects forever," Spielberg recently told Entertainment Weekly, "and for better or for worse, it really did introduce the digital era." However, part of the reason why the digital enhancement works so magically is that Spielberg used it sparingly and in support of practical effects.

For example, four-time Oscar-winning creature master Stan Winston designed a 20-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex, which was used in conjunction with miniatures and CGI. And for the iconic kitchen scene, the imagery of two hungry velociraptors was mostly created by using two full-size puppet suits run by humans inside! In the video above, from the Stan Winston School of Character Arts, you can see how much effort goes into not just designing and making the suits but also what it takes to "drive" a raptor.

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Lions & Tigers & Koalas -- Oh My!

2. Believe it or not, dinosaurs didn't really sound like they do in the movie. Well, scratch that -- they might have sounded like that, but since no one truly knows for sure, the Oscar-winning sound-effects team had to come up with its own take, using a variety of real-world sounds. Swans and geese gave voice to the swooning brachiosaurs. Alligators, elephants, koalas, lions, tigers, and whales helped make the T. rex sound terrifying. And to accomplish the attack scream of the raptors, sound designer Gary Rydstrom combined the low-frequency tone of a walrus with the high-frequency squeal of a male dolphin yearning for a female.

Earth, Wind & Fire Inspired

3. Steven Spielberg ratchets up the suspense as well as any director in the game, whether it's shooting just below the water line in "Jaws" (1975) or the moments on board the landing craft before storming the beach in "Saving Private Ryan" (1998). "Jurassic Park" certainly had its fill of suspense, but the first moment we truly realize we're in for an edge-of-the-seat thrill ride is just before the T. rex initially appears. You remember the ripples in the glass of water, right? Spielberg first came up with that idea while he was blaring Earth, Wind & Fire in his car and noticed the mirror shaking. After many attempts to get the desired ripple, "special dinosaur effects" man Michael Lantieri, who won an Oscar for his efforts, was able to pluck the right ripple-inducing frequency on a guitar string attached to the dashboard of the Ford Explorer, which the T. rex eventually used as a toothpick. You can see Lantieri explaining the process in the Blu-ray extra above.


4. At the time, the $68 million that Universal and its licensed merchandising partners spent on "Jurassic Park" set the record for the largest movie publicity budget ever. That's $8 million more than Spielberg's production budget. According to the Chicago Tribune, Universal "contracted with more than 100 companies to sell more than 1,000 licensed products," including "T-shirts, sleeping bags, action figures, video games, watches, puzzles, skateboards, coloring books and toothbrushes." Oh, and don't forget the McDonald's Happy Meal with the "dino-sized" fries!

2-Nom John

5. "Jurassic Park" won all three Academy Awards for which it was nominated: best sound effects, visual effects, and sound editing. However, John Williams wasn't nominated for his unforgettable score -- just listen to one crescendo and you're taken right back to the park. Perhaps academy members were reluctant to give Spielberg's longtime collaborator two noms in the same year, seeing as he was nominated (and won) for "Schindler's List" the same year. However, it wouldn't be unusual for Williams to be nominated for two different movies in the same year. In fact, Williams has earned nominations for more than one film 13 times in his career, including 1978, when his "Star Wars" score beat out another score he created for Spielberg, for "Close Encounter of the Third Kind." You can hear Williams's classic score in the trailer above.

[Related: Get local showtimes and movie tickets for "Jurassic Park"]