“This is exactly the way the Statue of Liberty was built”: Steven Spielberg’s Method for Bringing Dinosaurs to Life Left Jackie Chan Speechless

Jurassic Park has stretched all filmmaking boundaries. Through outstanding visual effects and artistry, the director has incorporated some of the best vintage approaches, instilling a sense of awe in the movie. Steven Spielberg, a significant character of the New Hollywood era and a pioneer of the modern blockbuster, directed the Jurassic Park films, which is why they are so popular. However, Spielberg’s contribution is not the only one. Stan Winston, one of film history’s most prominent and influential special effects artists, assisted the filmmaker in making Jurassic Park a reality. Since Jurassic Park was in the works, Winston has worked as a makeup and visual effects artist on films such as Terminator, Predator, Aliens, and Edward Scissorhands. It was his first experience working on a picture such as Jurassic Park. To bring the dinosaurs to life, he and his colleagues employed a combination of hands-on models and complicated mechanics.

The dinosaurs were first designed on paper to demonstrate Spielberg their appearance, and the final representation was done by concept artist Mark “Crash” McCreary. The crew then sculpted these sketches into miniature sculptures that were around one-fifth the size of the genuine beasts. These sculptures served as models for full-scale animatronics and computer-generated effects created by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Winston’s team’s next essential challenge was to make these models into moving dinosaurs. In an article published in American Cinematographer magazine, the artist described the entire process: “We covered the wooden patterns with fiberglass to create a smooth solid surface, then started putting clay on it to make our finished sculpture, and that became our sculpting armature. It ended up looking exactly like a very large version of those wooden dinosaur skeleton toys you can buy! “The form of the dinosaur was done virtually by mechanical drawing, so our full-scale creations were identical to our 1/5th-scale maquettes.

All we had to do then was to sculpt the skin and the detail. Later, I learned this was exactly the way the Statue of Liberty was built!” Creating live dinosaurs on film was a difficult task, but the artists, sculptors, puppeteers, and mechanical engineers persevered and brought Spielberg’s vision to life. Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, which was released 30 years ago, forever reshaped the cinematic landscape of Hollywood, but the film’s production was not child’s play. On The Steve Harvey Show, Jackie Chan revealed an incident with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park that had left him perplexed. Despite being a top-tier action star, Chan was completely taken aback when he met Spielberg. He was rendered speechless, but soon mustered the guts to question the director about how he shot the people and dinosaurs so perfectly together. “I remember the first time I met Steven Spielberg…’Wow! Steven Spielberg!’ You know…’What should I talk to him?’ So exciting, and as soon as I see him, ‘Oh! I just see, you know, the dinosaur…how can you make that movie…human dinosaur jumping together?’ [Spielberg answered] ‘So easy, Jackie I just pushed the computer.” Of course, many logistics go into making a film like Jurassic Park, but Spielberg thought Chan’s captivating reaction was worth witnessing.

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