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PART 1: The Making of the Jurassic Park Trilogy

Next week Universal will release the Jurassic Park trilogy on Blu-ray for the first time, and to commemorate the event Earth's Mightiest is taking a comprehensive, multi-part
In May of 1990, Universal obtained the galleys of best-selling author Michael Crichton's upcoming book Jurassic Park, and within a matter of hours, the studio was intently negotiating to purchase the book on behalf of Steven Spielberg.

"It was one of those projects that was so obviously a Spielberg film," says producer Kathleen Kennedy, who has closely collaborated with the filmmaker for 14 years. "If you look at the body of Steven's work, he very often is interested in the theme of extraordinary things happening to ordinary people."

"What's interesting to me about this particular project is there is as much science as there is adventure and thrills," says Spielberg. "Jurassic Park is a cross between a zoo and a theme park. It's about the idea that man has been able to bring dinosaurs back to earth millions and millions of years later, and what happens when we come together."

Author Michael Crichton, who spent two years writing the book, witnessed a flurry of bids and negotiations from four major studio contenders, but was pleased to learn of Spielberg's interest in directing the film. In less than a week, Universal announced that "Jurassic Park" would be directed by the filmmaker who had so successfully blended art and science in the making of such films as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial."

Crichton's remarkable background as a graduate of Harvard Medical School, novelist, screenwriter and film director had led to his distinct flair for techno-thrillers such as "The Andromeda Strain" and "The Terminal Man." The story that had been percolating about a theme park for genetically engineered dinosaurs grew out of his concern for the rise of "scientism." "I believe that science is a wonderfully powerful, but distinctly limited tool," says Crichton.

Envisioning the park's billionaire developer, John Hammond, as a sort of "dark Walt Disney," Crichton's story ventured into an area of growing controversy--biogenetics for the sake of profit.

"There's a big moral question in this story," says Spielberg. "DNA cloning may be viable, but is it acceptable? Is it right for man to do this, or did dinosaurs have their shot a million years ago?"

A self-professed dinosaur fan since childhood, Spielberg recalls, "The first big words I ever learned were different dinosaur species, and when my son Max was two years old, he could not only identify but pronounce 'Iguanadon.'

"I think one of the things that interests kids is that they're so mysterious....there's a quote from a Harvard psychologist who was asked why kids love dinosaurs so much. He said, 'That's easy. They're big, they're fierce...and they're dead."

"But now they're back," chuckles Spielberg. Both Crichton and Spielberg view paleontology as detective work, a Sherlock-Holmes-like deductive existence.

"When I first saw a dinosaur dig, it looked just like the scene of a crime," recalls Spielberg. "It had ribbons around it, with people working as if they were forensic scientists brushing for fingerprints. I'd love to spend a summer in Montana doing that."

It was the summer of 1990 that Kennedy and Spielberg first began to recruit the "dream team" that would lay the creative foundation for "Jurassic Park." First on board was talented production designer Rick Carter, who did "Back to the Future Part II" and "III." His first association with Amblin began when he designed 42 episodes of "Amazing Stories."

As Michael Crichton began adapting his complex book into a feature-length screenplay, Carter started work with a group of illustrators and storyboard artists who could help translate Crichton's words into cinematic images. Carter's goal was to find a convincing blend of science, fantasy and reality that he likened to "Close Encounters of a Prehistoric Kind."

One of the movie's challenges would be narrowing Crichton's 15 dinosaur species down to a more practical six. Next, there was research to be done as to how the dinosaurs would move on film. Associate producer Lata Ryan joined the company in September of 1990 with the challenge of helping to build an all-star effects team that would bring the dinosaurs to life. In the months ahead, Ryan became a choreographer whose formidable task was to serve as a source of communication and clarification for the four separate effects units.

Historically, the action of large creatures had been best achieved with old fashioned stop-motion photography, but Spielberg had hopes of pushing the effects envelope and developing technologies that had not been used before. After a thorough interview process with every effects shop in town, the producers selected a cadre of effects people who were literally challenged to go where no man had gone before.

Kennedy recalls, "It was a dream come true to land Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren and Michael Lantieri all on one movie."

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