By Drew Taylor | The Playlist June 11, 2013 at 12:04PM
The Version With The Baby Triceratops
On a movie as vast and complex as "Jurassic Park," when things are deleted from the screenplay, they can have an outward ripple effect on the rest of the production. One such ripple was an eleventh-hour deletion of a sequence involving the kids riding a baby triceratops. This was something that the team at Stan Winston's studio had been working on for months, and at the time of the scene's removal were days away from finishing a fully mechanical version that the kids could actually get on and ride. Previous requirements for the dinosaur to run were no longer necessary when the production shifted to utilize more of the digitally created dinosaurs, even though Winston and his crew had prepared for a more active sequence using a chain-rig system developed for a previous project. Seven sculptors worked on the design of the five-foot-long baby triceratops. Project coordinator Shannon Shea said that, "We worked on it for more than a year… when the whole sequence was cut." How close they came to filming the sequence is a matter of debate.
When we asked Joe Mazzello, who played young Tim in the movie, if he rehearsed the scene or got to see the dinosaur, he said, "This is the first I'm hearing about it." Koepp said that the sequence went the way of the dinosaur when, late in the process, Spielberg became increasingly concerned with the film's running time and the narrative's internal logic. "Steven was very concerned about narrowing the focus of the script and tightening it down to two hours," Koepp said. "We were always looking for cuts. So the triceratops ride was vulnerable from that perspective." There was also the problem about where to put the sequence – if it happened before the T-rex attack, then it would slow down the pace of a movie that already took more than a half hour to really get going; if it came after the attack, well, according to Koepp: "why would this kid who had just been attacked by a giant lizard go and ride one?"
The reason why the sequence was so important in the first place was to show, for lack of a better word, the humanity in the dinosaurs and that they could elicit a real sense of awe instead of just blood-chilling terror. "We didn't want this to just be another slasher movie where the slasher happens to be a dinosaur. We wanted the animals to be really innocent," Koepp said. The basic intent of the sequence was transferred to another sequence: one in which Grant and the kids feed a kindly brachiosaurus in the tree. "I just hope it comes off as lyrical as it sounded when we wrote it," Koepp said. Less clear is what happened to the back half of that sequence when Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) investigates a sick triceratops (she sees it, looks at its poop, decides to try and figure out what's wrong with it, and we never hear about it again), although Mazzello said that he vaguely remembered them shooting another sequence with, "Laura Dern and the doctor guy."
The Version With The Raptor Finale
In the final version of "Jurassic Park," after the wonderfully terrifying kitchen sequence, where the two kids are menaced by a pair of cunning raptors, the survivors (among them: Laura Dern and Sam Neill) ascend into the visitor center's air ducts and out into the main veranda, where they have to climb down a T-rex skeleton while the raptors are still in pursuit. (It's worth noting a major change from the novel evident in this sequence, which is that the park isn't as finished as it is in the book. Rick Carter theorized that the film takes place about a year before the book does, where the investigation into the park's safeness is spurred not by a workman's death but by tiny dinosaurs getting off the island and eating human babies on the mainland – yum!) In the finished version the T-rex steps in and ostensibly saves the day, killing the raptors and letting the human survivors flee to safety. But this wasn't always the case, and until very late in the game an alternate ending, focusing solely on the raptors, was in place.
In this version, the raptors actually clamored up the skeleton along with the humans and Grant somehow maneuvered them into the skull of the T-rex. When its moorings come apart, the skull crashes down and kills the raptor (another one was impaled by an oversized rib bone). "Jurassic Park" was meticulously storyboarded (Spielberg says he followed them "religiously"), mostly so that nothing was wasted in terms of the on-set utilization of Stan Winston's robotic characters, but it was well into production that Spielberg decided to alter the ending. "When I saw how wonderful and commanding the T-rex was, I began to feel that the audience would be disappointed if she didn't make a return visit. And it seemed fitting to me, since this movie is really about nature succeeding and man failing, that it is the T-rex that saves the day." Kennedy said, "The T-rex is our star." The decision was also prompted by the early tests of the computer-generated T-rex that Muren and his team had devised, and the nature of the sequence made it impossible to utilize Winston's full-sized version. "Stan's T-rex weighed several thousand pounds," Kennedy said. "So it was not something that we could easily move around. Also, the visitors' center was not designed to accommodate the T-rex. Al of the T-rex shots at the end had to be CGI."
Both Kennedy and Spielberg were slightly nervous about turning over the climax to the movie to such unproven technology. "It was kind of a scary, seat-of-the-pants decision, but he had about a month to prepare for it," Kennedy said, diplomatically. Spielberg was more open about his fears: "I didn't know if it would work, but ILM displayed confidence that they could do it. All I had was their word – but I had relied very heavily on ILM's word throughout the entire production." Rick Carter asked Spielberg how the T-rex got into the building, especially considering the visitors' center as pretty finished and nobody saw or heard the giant beast coming. "I was thinking, How did the T-rex get in the building but he had described how the T-rex had got into his movie, not now it got into the building – from the top of the frame." The movie was also, at one point, furnished with a haunting moment that punctuated the survivors' escape: the image of Hammond (Richard Attenborough), as he's left behind on the savage island, with the helicopter ascending into the sky without him.
Extra credit: There were a number of tweaks that the movie went through, including one in which the older child character was a boy (just like in the novel), which was changed because Spielberg wanted to work with Mazzello and Koepp wanted to add an element of Lex (Ariana Richards) having a crush on the much older Grant. There were design elements that came and went, too, like a chromed-out nursery for the baby dinosaurs and the raptors featuring fierce, tiger-like stripes. And at least once during the actual production it was proposed that Ian Malcolm die like in the novel, which would have been a bummer for a number of reasons, and made the sequel make much less sense, with Goldblum claiming that he gave the character some of his more selfless, heroic shading.
But none of the proposed versions of "Jurassic Park" even come close to what was being conceived for the fourth film. Based on an idea of Steven Spielberg's, the fourth movie, which had a script initially by "The Departed" screenwriter William Monahan (with later work done by John Sayles, who has a creature feature background thanks to his terrific scripts for "Piranha" and "Alligator"). This version of the story saw a team of genetically engineered dinosaurs, whose molecular makeup included both human and dinosaur DNA (they could talk and conceivably curse), who were sent on various missions by human authorities to, say, thwart kidnappings or bring down drug cartels. They used guns and stuff, too. No. This is not some flight of fancy, this was actually being worked on – and at least got to the design/model phase. How any of this would have translated is really beyond us, but it sounds so insane that it just might have worked. Don't expect any of these elements to be involved in the fourth movie, currently being worked on by "Planet of the Apes" writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver and directed by Colin Trevorrow from "Safety Not Guaranteed." Roar!