Study Guide

Jurassic Park Behind the Scenes

  • Director

    Steven Spielberg

    Steven Spielberg loves monsters. He's directed movies about sharks (Jaws, 1975) and Nazis (Schindler's List, 1993) and done two movies starring Tom Cruise. It makes perfect sense, then, that he would be obsessed with dinosaurs and excited to bring Jurassic Park to life on the silver screen. The King Kong Encounter ride at Universal Studios inspired Spielberg's desire to make life-sized dinosaurs, so another monster—the legendary King Kong—gets credit for fueling Spielberg's monstrous appetite, too.

    Often named one of the greatest movie directors, Spielberg specializes in splashy spectacles, from the action-packed Indiana Jones movies to the brutal violence of Saving Private Ryan (1998) to the animated adventures of Tintin (2011). Over the years, Spielberg has developed an iconic style, which has been boiled down into five consistent themes, techniques, and collaborations: Daddy issues, streams of light, awestruck faces, a shot through a window, and the music of John Williams. Sure enough, Jurassic Park hits all five, making this film one of the Spielbergiest of them all.

  • Screenwriter

    Michael Crichton and David Koepp

    Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park was published in 1990. Crichton, as a novelist, was famous for novels that explored sci-fi quandaries, like finding a spaceship at the bottom of the ocean in Sphere (1987) or deadly bio-organisms in The Andromeda Strain (1969). He also created a TV show you may have heard of—ER—featuring actors like George Clooney and Julianna Margulies who have gone on to pick up bit parts here and there over the years.

    Spielberg and Crichton worked together on ER, which is where Spielberg first heard of Crichton's upcoming dinosaur novel. Immediately, Spielberg had dinosaurs on the brain. So Crichton teamed with David Koepp to transform the more cerebral novel into a more action-packed summer blockbuster.

    Koepp had previously written the Meryl Streep/Goldie Hawn dark comedy Death Becomes Her (1992), so he was no stranger to big personalities and incredible special effects. After the runaway success of Jurassic Park, Koepp went on to write future blockbusters, including the first Tobey Maguire Spider-Man (2002) and Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds (2005).

    Jurassic Park made lots of changes to Crichton's novel. Crichton's novel kills off John Hammond and Ian Malcolm, and it features more dinosaurs, like Stegosaurus and the flying Cearadactylus. The movie kept both characters alive, though, and omitted some dinosaurs for technical and budgetary reasons. Due to the success of Jurassic Park's film adaptation, Crichton wrote the sequel after the movie, and even revived the presumed-dead Ian Malcolm as the sequel's main character. Clever guy.

  • Production Studio

    Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

    Amblin' Man

    Before sharks, aliens, and Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg's first movie in 1968 was a hippie love story called Amblin'. So when Spielberg founded his own production company in 1981 (along with super-producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall), he took the title from his very first film and combined it with one of the first films he produced—E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)—for the company's logo. With that, Amblin Entertainment was born.

    Pretty much every big-budget summer blockbuster in the 90s, whether directed by Spielberg or merely Spielberg-esque, was produced by Amblin Entertainment, including all the Jurassic Park films, the Men in Black franchise, and a handful of disaster flicks like Twister (1996) and Deep Impact (1998). Basically, if it had big-name stars and big-ticket special effects, Spielberg was in on it. Amblin Entertainment is typically popcorn cinema, although it does occasionally diverge into more serious territory, like Spielberg's own Schindler's List (1991) or Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha (2005).

    Jurassic Park is the pinnacle of popcorn entertainment. When a man has his own production company, he's in charge from beginning to end. Spielberg was dreaming up Jurassic Park while Michael Crichton was still working on the novel. Ah, the benefits of being your own boss.

  • Production Design

    When Animatronics Ruled the Earth

    Jurassic Park was a special effects spectacular. Steven Spielberg called all the effects wizards in showbiz to work on Jurassic Park, including Denis Muren, the leader of ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), and Stan Winston, effects master who worked with Tim Burton and James Cameron.

    Together, these geniuses combined state-of-the-art animatronic technology and enhanced the dino puppets with CGI technology. They even built raptor suits and squeezed men inside them, like they had been swallowed whole by a giant Velociraptor puppet.

    Even though the movie is called Jurassic Park, dinosaurs only take up fourteen minutes of the two-hour film. So what else were they doing? Well, there's the classic T. rex roar for one thing, a sound effect composed of tiger, elephant, and alligator noises.

    All of these towering beasts are impressive, but perhaps the effect people remember most is a simple cup of water. The surface of the water ripples as the stomps of the T. rex get closer and closer. You see the water rippling before you see the dinosaur, which only adds to the suspense.

    This effect was actually one of the hardest to produce. Effects supervisor Michael Lanteri discovered that the water would ripple in perfect concentric circles if a certain note was played on a guitar string below the cup. So if you're making your own movie, you don't need millions of dollars in your special effects budget—you just need a musical instrument and some H2O. Although the special effects budget certain wouldn't hurt.


  • Music (Score)

    John Williams

    Has anyone ever seen Steven Spielberg and John Williams in the same room together? They might be the same person, because these two work together a lot.

    Williams has scored over two dozen Spielberg flicks, including Jaws, Schindler's List, all three good Indiana Jones films, and the other Indiana Jones. Williams also scored the first three Harry Potter films, so he knows how to create movie music magic.

    Williams is known for his sweeping orchestral scores, and the iconic "Theme from Jurassic Park" is one of them, despite the unoriginal name. This stunning theme plays when the first dinosaur appears on camera. It creates a sense of majesty, which is hard to do when there's a brachiosaurus taking up the entire frame. But Williams's score stands up even to the largest of these lizards.

  • Fandoms

    Make it a Dino Double—Actually, a Triple

    In case you somehow missed the fact that Jurassic Park spawned three sequels over the course of twelve years, we're here to remind you that this movie was really, really popular. But it wasn't just the movie; it was also the merchandising. Jurassic Park-branded clothing, video games, and action figures did some serious dino damage to parents' wallets.

    Seriously, a child of the 90s could don a Jurassic Park hat while playing Jurassic Park on the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo and then call their friends over to play the Jurassic Park board game. You could basically eat, sleep, and breathe Jurassic Park.

    If you somehow got sick of Jurassic Park, the movie inspired a variety of knockoffs, like Carnosaur, in which a woman literally gives birth to a dinosaur. And Jurassic Park references persist in pop culture today, like the parody Geriatric Park from Naked Gun III, or the Velociraptors in the mobile game Disco Zoo, which prompt your zoo's visitors to remark, "Can it open doors?" and "Clever girl." At least they don't meet the same fate as Muldoon.