by Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY
T. rex and the velociraptor are back on the hunt. Twenty years after Steven Spielberg brought dinosaur fear into the nation's multiplexes with Jurassic Park, the classic film returns in 3-D on Friday.
After two sequels and with Jurassic Park 4 in the works (due June 2014), the original still maintains a dinosaur-sized footprint on pop culture and filmmaking.
"Jurassic Park was a game-changer. These dinosaurs shook people up 20 years ago," says Randy Haberkamp, film historian for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "And now they have gone a dimension further."
Here's how the film version of Michael Crichton's 1990 novel about a bio-engineered dinosaur theme park still roars today.
Dinosaur-mania. Kids have always been obsessed. But Jurassic Park's real-life portrayal turned the prehistoric creatures into an adult obsession.
"This was the first time adults got really interested to the level that the kids have always been," says paleontologist Jack Horner, who served as dinosaur adviser for the film. "It completely raised the interest level for adults."
New stars were created, such as the dilophosaurus (also known as "the spitter"), as well as the film's breakout star, the menacing velociraptor.
"Jurassic Park created the velociraptor," Horner says of the previously little-known dinosaur, rarely found in North America. With their small but deadly presence, the creatures became such a sensation that basketball fans voted Toronto's fledgling team the Raptors in 1994.
As for the tyrannosaur, Spielberg wisely changed his mind about killing off the fan fave.
"The T. rex was supposed to die in the movie," says producer Kathleen Kennedy. "But Steven realized what kind of a star he was. We made a decision very late in the shooting to have him return."
Horner still feels the original movie love when fielding assistance at Montana State University.
"Almost all of my graduate students say that they got interested in dinosaurs because of Jurassic Park," says Horner.
Computer graphic revolution. Jurassic Park made the existing dinosaur filming process, an enhanced version of stop-motion known as go-motion, extinct. Spielberg switched to then-revolutionary computer graphic technology after Dennis Muren from Industrial Light & Magic showed off six seconds of a roaring tyrannosaur walking in daylight.
"Spielberg was wowed, we were all wowed," says Muren. "It was perfectly fluid like how a real animal moves."
The film would feature a groundbreaking 92 computer graphic shots, as well full- sized, live-action dinosaurs for close-ups, and win the Academy Award for visual special effects. Audiences were wowed watching gallimimus dinosaurs stampede courtesy of the computer imagery, and filmmakers were inspired.
The film academy paid respect to Jurassic Park'simpact, showing the 3-D version as part of its Visual Effects Game-Changers film series Tuesday night in Beverly Hills, Calif.
"Jurassic Park was really the tipping point when computer-generated effects really took on a whole new life," says Haberkamp. "It made the entire effects industry, not to mention the movie-going public, sit up and take notice."
Spielberg convinced. Spielberg held out on his first 3-D conversion until he was satisfied that the technology had fully arrived.
"And he felt it was now time to do Jurassic Park," says Kennedy, adding that the director was hands-on for the nine-month process taking place before and after he shot Lincoln in 2011.
Spielberg was especially impressed with the scene where the jeep falls down a tree away from a T. rex, which now features the image of splinters headed toward viewers' eyes.
Sequel hype. Details are scarce about Jurassic Park 4, which Spielberg will executive-produce and Colin Trevorrow will direct. But count on a new, previously extinct creature rising to stardom.
"I can't actually tell you who that will be," says Horner, who will consult on the new film. "But you'll want to keep the lights on after you see this movie."
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