By Drew Taylor | The Playlist June 11, 2013 at 12:04PM
The Version Without Ian Malcolm
The tangled pre-production phase of "Jurassic Park" would ultimately span the entirety of both Spielberg’s middling Peter Pan riff “Hook” and Spielberg confederate Robert Zemeckis’ pitch-black comedy “Death Becomes Her” (which would utilize many of the same artistic principles as “Jurassic Park,” including production designer Rick Carter, cinematographer Dean Cundey, and the visual effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic). It was during the notoriously torturous production of “Hook” that Spielberg met Malia Scotch Marmo, a screenwriter from New Jersey that Dustin Hoffman had brought onto “Hook” to beef up what he considered a tragically underwritten role. (This is the same production where Hoffman supposedly had Spielberg locked out of the set every once in a while – this is the reason why “Jurassic Park” is completely free of movie stars.) Spielberg and Scotch Marmo got along well enough that Kathleen Kennedy, a producer on both films and executive at Spielberg’s Amblin, offered her the job on “Jurassic Park.” Scotch Marmo gathered much of the preproduction artwork, Crichton’s initial draft, and even a copy of the novel that Spielberg had marked and annotated with his favorite passages and character moments, and went to work on an entirely new script. “I think the structure of Michael’s script was pretty close to the final movie. It was, after all, the structure of the book. The only differences were the streamlining that one writer might do as opposed to the other,” Scotch Marmo said. “I felt my job was to build up the characters, to give them more life and more purpose in the screenplay.”
Crichton admitted that both the original novel and his initial draft of the screenplay were light on characterization because he felt that more emphasis needed to be paid to the science actually being believable (“The first thing was to make compelling dinosaurs… That was my overriding concern”). Scotch Marmo worked on the screenplay for five months, sending Spielberg chunks of pages, getting notes back from him, tweaking her preexisting work, and then soldiering forth. The most dramatic (and, looking back on it, baffling) change Scotch Marmo made to the screenplay was the deletion of the Ian Malcolm character played by Jeff Goldblum, who serves as the cynical voice of reason amongst the band of scientific idealists and capitalist entrepreneurs. (The intent was to combine elements of Malcolm into the paleontologist Alan Grant character, played by Sam Neill.) “I tried to incorporate a lot of Malcolm into Grant, who was kind of underdeveloped,” Scotch Marmo said. “I wanted Grant to be completely opposed to the commercialization of science – which is a big biotechnology issue. And I felt we needed to find something with Ellie and Grant and the children that made sense, so at the end of this incredible journey there was something about the experience that made them different from when they went in.” This was never a feasible plan, though, considering that Malcolm was a stand in for both the audience and Crichton himself, who admitted that, “I don’t know if I would express myself exactly in his words… But the general sentiment, I think, is completely correct, that science is many ways over the top, particularly in its arrogance.”
After working for five months on the screenplay, Spielberg called Scotch Marmo and said, “I’ve read it twice and I think it’s a miss.” After the dismissal of Scotch Marmo, Spielberg turned to another member of the “Death Becomes Her” team – screenwriter David Koepp. Koepp didn’t read the Crichton or Scotch Marmo drafts and instead fashioned an entirely new script, removing at least one key sequence that both previous screenplays had incorporated from the novel – one in which Grant and the two kids are pursued down a river (and over a waterfall) by the T-rex, with the feeling that after the initial T-rex attack, “there should be total chaos.” “I thought the raft trip was rather redundant,” Koepp said. “It was an easy cut to make, especially since it would have been so monstrously expensive.” Koepp also created the tram-tour sequence, which streamlined much of the book’s tireless exposition, and resurrected the Ian Malcolm character, now embellished with some much-needed humor. After he delivered his script to Spielberg, he also received 12 pages of notes from Scotch Marmo that were "very useful." Koepp’s version of the Ian Malcolm character was such a success that when Crichton set about writing the second book, he made Malcolm the central character… Even though he had been killed in the first novel.
The Version With Stop-Motion Dinosaurs
"Jurassic Park" will always be remembered for its photo-realistic visual effects, which brought centuries-old creatures back to life with a sophisticated marriage of computer generated visual effects and robotic puppets, but the road to get to this seemingly seamless combination was a long and bumpy one indeed. Spielberg was initially inspired by the King Kong attraction that had just opened up at Universal Studios in Florida, which featured a huge, room-sized Kong replica that shook the passing tramcar like it was Fay Wray. Spielberg actually contacted the manufacturer of the Kong robot, a man named Bob Gurr, who together with Spielberg thought that they could construct a 20-foot tall ambulatory T-rex. This proved, however, beyond the capabilities of Gurr and his team and so Spielberg instead employed Stan Winston and his talented team of artists (many of whom began producing work before being officially hired for the project), based largely on the success of his Queen Alien creature from James Cameron's "Aliens." Spielberg wanted as much of the dinosaur effects to be captured in camera as possible, so that the actors would have something to play against, conveying the believability of the animals (they were never referred to as "monsters" or "creatures," at Spielberg's insistence) to the audience more readily. As Winston and his team began designing and constructing the physical versions of the half-dozen dinosaur species in the movie (whittled down from the book's thirteen), using technology partially developed for use within the Disneyland and Walt Disney World theme parks, a more pressing issue arose: how to depict the full-scale dinosaurs.
From the outset, the creatures were going to be accomplished using stop-motion animation, a process used since the days of the original "King Kong," wherein miniature puppets or models are painstakingly moved, 24-frames-per-second, in an effort to simulate a living, breathing character. "[It] was always going to be the old fashioned way," Spielberg said in a retrospective documentary on the film's Blu-ray release. This might have been how it was "always" going to be, but that didn't necessarily mean that Spielberg was happy with the process. "Steven was not enthusiastic about using miniature puppets," Rick Carter said, which was part of the reason why so much of what he wanted to do was being accomplished on-set. The team at Industrial Light & Magic, led by Dennis Muren, had come off of complex computer-generated visual effects on both "Death Becomes Her" and Cameron's breakthrough "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," and Muren thought he could at least give some of the dinosaur effects a shot using this new technology. Initially Muren and his team were just going to provide computer generated dinosaurs for a single sequence, one in which the T-rex chases a herd of galloping dinosaurs. "Creating herds of animals with puppets would be very difficult, so I thought maybe that was something we might be able to do with computer graphics," Muren said. The team, at the time, was mostly there to clean up the stop motion effects that legendary artist Phil Tippett ("the best in the business," according to Spielberg) and his studio were preparing for the movie (removing rods, smoothing out shots, etc.) Muren created a skeletal version of the long, ostrich-like dinosaur and created a run cycle for the skeletons, shooting a background plate and having the herd of dinosaurs careen through a valley. The results blew everyone away. But two members of Muren's team, Mark Dippe and Steve "Spaz" Williams, thought even bigger: in secret they designed and animated a T-rex. The results were breathtaking. When Muren (and later Spielberg) saw the results, the entire nature of the visual effects changed.
Gone was the work that Tippett and his crew were slavishly toiling away on, replaced with an entirely new way of visualizing these animals. "At that point in time it was a big emotional moment. It was like when your dog dies," Tippett explained on the same documentary. "You know your dog is going to die but when your dog dies, it hits you real hard." Producer Kennedy said it succinctly: "We were onto a whole new way of looking at 'Jurassic Park.'" But Tippett wasn't quite extinct. Not yet. He and his team were utilized in two key aspects of the film's production that cannot be overlooked or understated.
For one, Tippett and his team created two fully realized stop motion sequences for a pair of major scenes in the movie, used as what we would now refer to as "pre-visualization," that give you a pretty good idea about what that original stop motion version of "Jurassic Park" would have looked like. (It also lets you see a couple of abandoned ideas, like the snakelike tongue on the raptors that would flick in and out of their mouths; and the fact that the T-rex attack was originally staged without rain.) The other way in which Tippett and his team were utilized was in the creation of a system called DID – or Dinosaur Input Device. It looked like a robotic skeleton version of the puppets that Tippett usually used, and when Tippett would move it, the movements would translate to the computer animators. So the animators at ILM were given the performance that Tippett would have delivered if the stop motion version had been given the go ahead, creating a seamless transition from the old to new school approaches to visual effects and created a seamlessness to the performances in both Stan Winston's camp (since they had referenced Tippett's pre-visualizations) and ILM (who would provide the final animation). In the end, there are only 15 minutes total of dinosaur effects in the film, with 9 minutes belonging to Stan Winston's robotic creations and the other 6 utilizing ILM and Tippett's computer-generated marvels.