Written by: Bryant Dillon, Special to CC2K
Fanboy Comics President Bryant Dillon looks back at Michael Crichton’s bleeding-edge science thriller.
As is the case with many young children, I was fairly obsessed with dinosaurs at a young age. I was so obsessed, in fact, that Tyrannosaurus Rex quickly became my personal hero and could do no wrong. T-Rex killed a herbivore? A guy’s gotta eat! T-Rex has small arms? That’s the way he wants it! T-Rex is fighting Triceratops? Ain’t no Triceratops walking away from this battle! Understandably, I was extremely upset upon my first viewing of King Kong (1933) when my boy, T-Rex, was brutally killed by the big, dumb ape. That day of my youth forever cemented both my distrust of large apes and my undying loyalty to the Tyrant Lizard. So, of course, it was a given that when my hero returned to the silver screen in 1993 (sans his big, hairy murderer), I was sold before he (She, actually, given that all the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are female. I DID go around and lift up the dinosaur’s skirts!) crushed his first Ford Explorer. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one enamored with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, considering the massive box office numbers it pulled in ($914,691,118 worldwide), the two sequels it spawned, and the fact that it bares sole credit for making Velociraptor a household name.
Based on the novel of the same name by the always entertaining and late Michael Crichton (If you haven’t read the book, DO IT!!! In fact, read any of Crichton’s work!!!), Jurassic Park was also groundbreaking for a number of reasons. Spielberg was insistent that the dinosaurs in his film be seen as animals, not monsters, and did not even allow his film crew to call them creatures or other such terms. Along with master of visual effect Stan Winston (Aliens, The Terminator, and much more!), Spielberg used this philosophy and the advice of the top paleontologists in the field to create the most accurate representation of living dinosaurs ever seen up until that point and possibly still to this day. No tails dragging here, folks! Jurassic Park can also be credited with helping spread the theory that dinosaurs are most closely related to birds, not lizards, to the general public. At the time, this was a newer, emerging idea in the paleontological field, and, while it could have taken years and years to be completely accepted by the average citizen, Jurassic Park conveyed the idea to the masses with the break-neck speed of a raptor attack!
Spielberg’s dino-epic was also responsible for ushering in the age of CGI-effects in filmmaking. While many films that proceeded Jurassic Park dabbled in CGI, most notably James Cameron’s Terminator 2 which ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) also worked on and which actually inspired Spielberg to consider CGI for his dinosaur effects, Jurassic Park pushed the technology to new leaps and bounds. Depicting living, breathing animals believably in multiple real environments had never been done to this extent before, but ILM excelled at the challenge and it is amazing. The CGI-effects of Jurassic Park still stand up to the test of time today, even surpassing some of today’s less then stellar CGI (I’m looking at you, I Am Legend, but don’t worry… you’re not the only one.). Some credit for this benchmark in visual effects must be shared with Stan Winston and his team which created multiple life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, including my old friend, Tyrannosaurus Rex, who gave both a terrifying and heroic performance worthy of the thunder lizards!
As stated before, Jurassic Park was a massive hit, spawning sequels (Even causing Crichton to write a second book in the series, something he had never done before!), video games, amusement park rides, a fairly scientifically accurate dino toy line, an excellent comic book series from Topps Comics (Skip the IDW run), and a new army of dino-fanatics! While this is all most impressive, an even more amazing payoff from Jurassic Park is now coming to fruition over a decade after the film first opened.
This is probably where most are eagerly waiting for me to reveal that scientists have successfully cloned a dinosaur from the blood inside some ancient mosquito. Unfortunately, that is not the case (We don’t have access to blood samples that old, but there are some out there that are trying the same idea with Wooly Mammoths!), but there have been a number of advancements in the field of paleontology. In a recent story by Sanden Totten featured on The Madeleine Brand Show (89.3 KPCC), some of these new dino ideas were featured, including the revelation that most dinosaurs, especially the predators, were probably nocturnal. This was discovered by comparing the similarities in the eye socket bones of dinosaurs, called scleral rings, to the eye bones of nocturnal birds. This kind of study, where one compares the similarities in dinosaurs to those in current, living animals for clues is apparently a fairly new phenomenon in the field of paleontology. During Totten’s story, he spoke with Donald Prothero of Occidental College, a professor of Physical and Historical Geology, Sedimentary Geology, and Paleontology, who attributes this new development in paleontology to the influx of new, younger minds in the field. Dubbed by Prothero as the Jurassic Park generation, many of these newer paleontologists were young kids twenty years ago, inspired by Spielberg’s dino-film and its hero paleontologist, Alan Grant. Now a days, these Jurassic Park fans are now at the age to be publishing papers and influencing the field of study. According to Prothero, the Jurassic Park generation is also more media savvy and up more current with social media trends, a trait that is producing better results in both study and informing the public of new findings. Mirroring Tim and Lex Murphy, the grandchildren of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond, who were enamored and inspired by Alan Grant, yet perplexed and eventually saved the paleontologist with their knowledge of computers, the once young fans of Jurassic Park became the new face of the science behind dinosaurs. Mr. DNA would be so proud!
While I’m overjoyed that one of my favorite films is still making waves and I am always thrilled by new advancements in the field of paleontology (Go T-Rex!!!), the most exciting element of Totten’s story for me is that Jurassic Park has ceased being mere popcorn movie entertainment or even just an important milestone in filmmaking, but has been elevated to the status of inspiring real world advancements in an important scientific field. Jurassic Park is a perfect example of how entertainment can and should be more than just a good time for a couple of hours. Since the days of cave men, stories have both entertained AND inspired. This is what good stories should do! This idea has always been a cornerstone goal at Fanboy Comics and is something we hope to promote and encourage as long as our company exists. Sure, we like to have fun here, but there’s also a real world component to what we do. While we may not be scientists, doctors, astronauts, or one of the many other truly significant jobs in this world, as creators, writers, and artists we still have an important role to play in society: to inspire. Jurassic Park wasn’t the first film to inspire people in a real sense and it won’t be the last. That’s the power of good entertainment. There are so many obstacles to overcome in this world, so many issues to take up, and as much as these causes need champions, those champions will need inspiration. There’s a purpose beyond entertaining, beyond making money, and it is something all true creators should aspire to. Jurassic Park, like many films, books, and comics before it, has reached this goal, and if my hero, Tyrannosaurus Rex, can inspire others even with those tiny little arms, then so can we! Now, get out there and create something inspiring (Hopefully, cloned dinosaur, guys. I’m still waiting on that one.)!
Bryant Dillon is the President of Fanboy Comics, an independent comic book publishing company based in Los Angeles, Calif. He has produced numerous short films including Something Animal and Batman of Suburbia, and served as Legal Adviser for the film Walken on Sunshine. For more interviews, blogs, and reviews by Bryant and the FBC staff, check out the Fanboy Comics website at FanboyComics.net or sign up for the e-newsletter, The Fanboy Scoop, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.