Study Guide

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park Introduction


Release Year: 1993

Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Michael Crichton and David Koepp

Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum


Once upon a time, dinosaurs weren't tiny little feathered creatures. Back in 1993, little feathered things were called chickens and you'd have to be chicken to be scared of them. Dinosaurs in the 90s were giant lizards that would tear you limb from limb. Even the so-called gentle ones, like the Brontosaurus (which means thunder lizard, not cuddly chicken) could stomp you flat.

Steven Spielberg, who directed E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) understood the awe-inspiring power of the giant lizard-dinosaur, so when he read Michael Crichton's 1990 sci-fi novel Jurassic Park, he just had to make it into a movie and bring those dinosaurs to life…or at least bust out a killer combo of animatronics and state-of-the-art, computer-enhanced visual effects to make it look like dinosaurs had been brought to life.

Produced by director Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and distributed by movie monster masters Universal Pictures, Jurassic Park stomped into theaters in the summer of 1993. And what a summer it was: Dinosaurs had invaded the silver screen before, like when a Pterodactyl carried away Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. (1966), but Spielberg made the dinosaurs look so real you could touch them.

  

Thing is, you wouldn't want these dinosaurs to touch you. Illustrating the dangers of what happens when you play god and toy with science, the dinosaurs escape and hunt for fresh meat. Unfortunately for the visitors to Jurassic Park, that meat is them. The them in question includes Sam Neill (Event Horizon), Laura Dern (Citizen Ruth), Sir Richard Attenborough—who came out of retirement for Jurassic Park—and the one and only Jeff Goldblum.

Jurassic Park
was the number one movie of 1993, raking in over a billion (yes, with a B) dollars worldwide. With that kind of money, we're surprised Spielberg didn't bring dinosaurs back for real. Pretty much everyone took a trip to Jurassic Park in 1993 and collected enough Jurassic Park loot to outweigh a T. rex, from action figures to video games to "dino-sized" meals at McDonald's with drinks in dinosaur-emblazoned cups.

Being a worldwide blockbuster made Jurassic Park into a bona fide franchise. Spielberg went on to direct The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997, and two non-Spielberg-directed sequels followed—Jurassic Park III (2001) and Jurassic World (2015). At the end of Jurassic Park, the original (and arguably the best) of the series, a banner falls that says "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth." That time wasn't just billions of years ago—that time is now.

What is Jurassic Park About and Why Should I Care?

Who doesn't love a good out-of-control-scientific-creation-tries-to-destroy-the-world story? Jurassic Park is like the dinosaur version of Frankenstein. But this seems like too obvious a reason to care about the movie, so we're gonna take it in a different direction.

The man, the myth, the legend: Steven Spielberg.

You could do a lot worse than studying a Spielberg film, especially when it comes to blockbuster cinema. Not only has he done serious film work, like The Color Purple (1985) and Schindler's List (1993), he also makes movies tailored to put butts in theater seats. Spielberg creates worlds that blend fantasy and reality in a way that sticks with audiences for years. As characters, E.T., Jaws, and Indiana Jones are all imaginative Spielberg creations that have pervaded pop culture for decades.

Jurassic Park is in a class of its own, however. Spielberg took something everyone is fond of—dinosaurs—and combined the scaly beasts with jaw-dropping special effects and breakneck adventure scenes. When Jurassic Park was made, it took up to six hours per frame of special effects. Six hours. As a result of time and expense, Spielberg used computer effects to enhance his visuals, not to create them entirely.

After Jurassic Park came loads of computer-generated failures of film, like Godzilla with Matthew Broderick (1998) and Deep Blue Sea (1999), another movie in which Samuel L. Jackson gets eaten by a sharp-toothed creature. The problem with those films is their reliance on special effects. Because Spielberg understood that less is more with Jurassic Park, his movie created a legacy that still lasts today while those other films are pretty much extinct.

Trivia

John Hammond brags that he has the voice of Richard Kiley on the interactive CD-ROM inside the transport jeeps. Who the heck is Richard Kiley? He was a stage actor in the 1950s and an actor in a variety of TV movies in the 80s, but to ten-year-olds everywhere, he's that guy on the videos in Jurassic Park. (Source.)

Spielberg filmed Jurassic Park and Schindler's List the same year. Eager to move from dinos to Nazis, Spielberg left Jurassic Park early, leaving post-production in the hands of friend and fellow director George Lucas. So anything you don't like about Jurassic Park, just blame on Lucas. (Source.)

What happened to the goat leg? Why can't Jurassic Park scientists spell Stegosaurus? Why did a moat suddenly appear in the T. rex paddock? MovieMistakes.com has page after page of Jurassic Park continuity errors to keep you entertained/frustrated. (Source.)

Want to feel like you're inside of Jurassic Park? There are dozens of video games that let you immerse yourself in this world, and some even let you play as dinosaurs. Jurassic Park games are still being made decades after the movie. Telltale Games, creators of the hit Walking Dead game, has their own Jurassic Park game, too. (Source.)

Jurassic Park Resources

Websites

Prehistory
Jurassic Park is almost as old as the dinosaurs inside it. As it was made before the Internet, there is no official website. But the fan-made Jurassic Park Wiki can get you up to speed.

Like Disneyland to Disneyworld
In 2015, Jurassic Park was updated to Jurassic World. Plan your visit today.

Books

Digging up the Source
Michael Crichton (may he rest in peace) has a website that shows all the wild international covers for his hit novel, which inspired the movie.

Jurassic Park Junior
For the Tims and Lexes in your life, there's a series of books called Jurassic Park Adventures, which will keep them occupied until they grow up into Grants and Sattlers.

Articles and Interviews

Ancient History
In this yellowed old review from the Times, Janet Maslin is awe-struck by Spielberg's dinosaurs.

One Claw Up
Roger Ebert reluctantly gives the film a thumbs-up, but was hoping for more.

Jurassic Merch
Entertainment Weekly discusses all the merchandise hyping the Park, from cereal to sleeping bags.

From Hacker to Artist
Ariana Richards, who plays Lex, talks about her experience on the set, painting a picture of Jell-O, and meeting another nice dinosaur: Betty White.

A Few Highlights
What are readers' favorite parts of the books? With Kindle, you can see what other people are highlighting.

Video

Good Morning, Dinosaurs
Sam Neill does the promo circuit, talking about Jurassic Park with Joan Lunden and her 90s hair.

Jurassic Block
A father-daughter duo recreates Jurassic Park…with legos. Ian Malcolm's lego hair is the best.

Inside Jurassic Park
Before she was on Inside Edition, Deborah Norville talked to Michael Crichton about Jurassic Park (which she pronounces "Your-assic Park") on the Today show in 1990.

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right, But What About Three Dozen Wrongs?
Can't be bothered to read an article about movie mistakes? The CinemaSins YouTube channel explains everything wrong with Jurassic Park in three minutes.

Author and Director Behind the Scenes
Steven Spielberg's half-denim jacket looks pretty prehistoric in this behind-the-scenes footage of him directing Jurassic Park. Oh yeah, Michael Crichton is there, too.

Audio

What Does the T. rex Say?
Like figuring out what a fox sounds like, sound designers had to decide what a T. rex sounds like, too. And by doing so, Jurassic Park changed sound design in movies.

All Dinos Considered
Even in an age of video and Internet, radio isn't extinct. NPR's All Things Considered considers what things have changed in dinosaur science since 1993.

Jurassic Sounds
Need to make Jeff Goldblum or a dinosaur growl on command? The Jurassic Park soundboard has you covered.

Images

Ode to Goldblum
Jurassic Park has inspired many masterpieces of modern art. This is the master-est.