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The Academy Originals series on YouTube has only five videos on its official channel, and in those five videos the governing body of the Academy Awards has proven that while they may not always get the awards right, they surely know what makes film such a transcendent and special medium that reaches everyone. Their latest video is probably one of my personal favorites, considering it not only covers Jurassic Park, a film that has always been destined for classics status, but it covers a field that's always been fascinating to the general movie going public at large: visual effects. While there have been countless featurettes dictating how innovative the film was for its time, to hear the oral history being told by the people responsible for said innovations is an even more rewarding experience.
The video, courtesy of Academy Originals on YouTube, starts the story in 1991, when Jurassic Park was in the early stages of production. Legendary special effects wizards Phil Tippett and Stan Winston were working on the film's animatronic effects at their respective studios. Before the idea to use computer generated visual effects even crossed anyone's minds, the film was going to feature a completely practical approach to the dinosaurs roaming around the park. Steve 'Spaz' Williams (who would go on to craft some of the visual effects in The Mask) and Mark Dippe at Industrial Light and Magic were asked if they would add some CG motion blur to the stop motion effects planned for the film. Williams and Dippe, being the hot shots they were, suggested that a full on CGI build would be the best way to go. After some after hours sessions of blood, sweat, and tears, the first visual tests were completed, and in 1991 history turned a corner.
Watch the full clip below:
The progression of the history is the stuff you could probably make a movie about. With the criticisms of how CGI has become omnipresent in our modern films, and how inferior it still looks in some cases to effects generated for Jurassic Park back in the early 1990's, the story of how it all came along puts things into perspective. Without people actually daring to push the technology of the 90's in a new direction, the film might not have been the box office powerhouse it became. Without those effects, Steven Spielberg would have never given the public the famous Tyrannosaur versus The Raptors scene that you just flashed back to in your mind when I mentioned it. Without all of this hard work, we would never have had two of the best damned shots in the film: the initial reaction to the park's dinosaurs, and the Tyrannosaur's triumphant roar.
While I have no doubts that I would have loved the film that lacked the combination of visual and special effects that the finished product that is Jurassic Park ended up with, I can't help but wonder just what type of film we would have ended up with. Thankfully, this is one of those cases where actual history is on the right side of the lens of speculation. Jurassic Park is, and always will be, a hell of a movie – and part of that is thanks to the countless innovators and dreamers at Amblin Entertainment, Industrial Light and Magic, Tippett Studio, and Stan Winston Studio. Not to mention, Steven Spielberg himself, who would have never had the movie he had on his hands if he didn't ride the wave of progress like everyone else.
Jurassic Park is probably sitting in your movie collection, in front of your copy of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Give it a rewatch before heading back to The Academy Originals channel, where other awesome videos are available for viewing at this very moment.