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The 25th anniversary of Spielberg's Jurassic Park - and the colossal impact it had on moviemaking


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Steven Spielberg's unforgettable - and nightmare inducing - Jurassic Park turns 25 today, just as the fifth instalment arrives in cinemas worldwide.

Jurassic Park

The novel to film adaptation, released on June 11th 1993, represented a huge technological advancement in movie magic, thanks to its use of remarkable special effects and revolutionary CGI that brought the terrifying dinosaurs back to life, scarring audiences everywhere.

Based on writer Michael Crichton's unnerving 1990 novel, the film follows optimistic mad-scientist John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), as he attempts to manufacture an ultramodern and advanced safari park on Isla Nublar, in order to exhibit his genetically recreated primeval creatures, produced from a strain of DNA extracted from a mosquito.

Hammond later invites palaeontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) to explore the park and facilities, at which point everything goes drastically wrong. Of course.

The film is renowned for numerous reasons, from the thrilling suspense, showcased in various scenes though fierce and fast-paced dinosaur attacks, and the chilling yet uplifting score by renowned composer John Williams. Most noticeably however, it earned its deserved adoration due to the astonishing demonstration of nearly a hundred years of filmmaking progress.

Jurassic Park was the first film to create realistic and believable creatures using computer animation, of which, undeniably, confirms it to still be the unrivalled use of visual effects in over 25 years.

Initially, the film was not going to contain any computer-generated creatures. (Can you imagine?Spielberg actually set out with the intention of “creating a modern day King Kong”, using the process of stop-motion to showcase the dinosaurs.

But, eventually, it was decided that acclaimed special effects genius Stan Winston would construct various animatronic puppets for the film, including the life-sized and nightmarish Tyrannosaurus Rex, with Phil Tippett who would then control the dinosaurs’ movement through his own leading form of stop-motion animation, “Go Motion.”

Tippett, known for his groundbreaking work on George Lucas’ Star Wars, and Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, even designed three-dimensional storyboards of the films set-pieces using Claymation, in an attempt to produce the most impressive results. Yet the hard work didn’t pay off when Spielberg and his family previewed a sample of the work, noticing that the creatures' movements were unstable and shaky.

Hearing about the disappointing results, Dennis Muren, a visual effects supervisor on the film, cleverly suggested that they use CGI to animate all of the body and fast-motion creature shots, and after trying his method, Spielberg was astounded. The combination of all three techniques was used throughout the film, producing what we know today to be one of the most visually impressive uses of CGI in film. 

Upon release, the film broke box office records, becoming the highest grossing film of all time with over $350 million made domestically. It also won a number of well-deserved Oscars, including one for Best Visual Effects, naturally.

Filmmakers before had attempted, and failed, to deceive audiences through the manipulation of camera lenses, space, visual effects, and animation, but Jurassic Park set the bar for moviemaking from that day forward.

By the early 2000s, CGI creatures had become the norm, evident in blockbusters such as Men in Black, The Hulk, and the Star Wars prequels, all of which were influenced by Spielberg’s triumph.

The culmination of effects is still heavily used today, most recognised in established franchises such as Marvel and Transformers. Whilst Spielberg’s Jurassic Park used no more than 63 CGI FX shots in total, Joss Whedon’s action packed film, The Avengers, uses a striking 2,200 shots created by CGI, proving that the power of computer generated imagery is only evolving as time goes on. Regardless, the impact Jurassic Park had on the birth of CGI will remain forever.

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