Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jurassic Park Set Visit

In 1992, when I was in the middle of a booksigning in LA, a guy said came up to me and said, “Hey, if you’re not doing anything tonight, do you want to check out the set for Jurassic Park?”

His name, it turns out, was Mike Trcic, one of the hottest creature sculptors in the business. He worked at Stan Winston Studio and helped develop the look of the animatronic T.rex that attacks the car in the rainy night sequence.

When we arrived on set, the night crew was wielding blow driers on the inert dinosaur, trying to dry out the heavy water that the foam rubber skin had absorbed from the rain machines.

The T.rexes didn’t have legs. The bodies rested on sophisticated (and potentially dangerous) motion bases that could quickly move the upper body around. The feet were built as separate pieces used for close-ups. The digital effects get a lot of credit in Jurassic Park, but the animatronics were equally groundbreaking.

Some of the artists told me that they anticipated that much of the work they were doing would be superceded by CGI. As it turns out, animatronics have held their place in the industry, a necessity for close-ups and interactive shots.
Thanks, Mike! More about Trcic Studio.
Wiki on Stan Winston.
"How Stuff Works" about the Jurassic Park animatronics, link.
GJ post on interactivity.


Victor said...

Holy carp, that's awesome! I was obsessed with Jurassic Park when I was a kid. I just about wore out my copy of "The Making of Jurassic Park", with all the fantastic concept designs and production art it had. JP was hugely influential in nurturing my interest in art.

It's amazing that you got access to the set during filming, because secrecy was supposedly of the highest priority.

Unknown said...

Yeah, my buddy built the baby T.Rex and puppeteered it in I think the sequel if I'm not mistaken. He's a whiz with the real-world stuff.

I'm glad to see the blending of the two.


James Gurney said...

Victor, yes. Well, I kept it a secret for 17 years. I suppose by now it's OK to tell about it.

eric said...

any chance you met speilburg on that visit? haha

what an awsome experiance that must have been! did you get a chance to sculpt or sketch on that visit?

that would be a nice maquette to work from!! awsome movie! i would have loved to check out what was going on, but i guess you had no way of knowing you were on the set of one of the biggest films of all time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steve said...

You seem to be having a calming effect on Mr. Rex by applying pressure above his nose. Seems like he's smiling.

K. W. Broad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K. W. Broad said...

Haha, at first he looks a lot like David Krentz. My friend and I were watching his Gnomon dvd on drawing dinosaurs last night and your name popped up quite a bit, so that seemed like an interesting coincidence. Different artist it seems, though :)

Unknown said...


Wow! What a blast from the past. Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, like Victor said, the project was supposed to be real "hush hush", but when I came to see your fantastic artwork at the LA Museum of Natural History, and met you, well, I knew you'd get a kick out of seeing our toys. We had sooooooo many celebrities come by to see the big rex on that stage, my favorite of which was Fay Wray.
Keep up the great work Jim, hope to get together with you again soon.


Victor said...

Wow, so I guess James Gurney was a celebrity even back in 1993!

Matt said...

amazing trip. thanks for sharing

Stephen James. said...

Cool story.

Jurrasic Park blew my little dinosaur loving mind as a kid. It was like finally, a movie that gets it.