Jurassic Park ushered in a new era of digital visual effects in Hollywood, but did you know the filmmakers originally planned to bring the movie’s dinosaurs to life using stop-motion animation? Twenty-seven years after the film’s release, some of the incredibly rare puppets used to create Jurassic Park’s earliest dino screen tests are going up for auction.
Norman Chan from Adam Savage’s Tested visited the Prop Store in Los Angeles ahead of its upcoming auction next week, when thousands of pieces of memorabilia from films including Starship Troopers and Star Wars will be hitting the auction block. However, some of the rarest pieces finally available are from Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park and include items that never actually made it into the final film.
When Jurassic Park was in pre-production, digital visual effects were still a burgeoning technology in Hollywood. Films like Terminator 2 and The Abyss used computer graphics to bring characters like the T-1000 and the saltwater pseudopod to life, but those were fantasy characters that behaved and looked like nothing we’d seen before. To realise the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, a combination of full-scale animatronics and costumes were going to be paired with miniature stop-motion puppets, courtesy of Phil Tippett and his Tippett Studios, who were masters of the craft.
Tippett Studios built a stop-motion puppet (technically a go-motion puppet, which could be moved while filming to create realistic looking motion blur) for Jurassic Park’s T-rex — and even shot test sequences so the animators could perfect the dino’s movements. But ultimately Spielberg chose to realise full body shots of the film’s dinosaurs using computer graphics after tests at Industrial Light & Magic proved the technology could finally be used to recreate living, breathing creatures.
Although Tippett Studios’ dinosaurs never actually made it onto the big screen, the story behind them makes these incredibly sought after collectibles that Phil Tippett is finally making available to private collectors. As a result, the T-rex stop motion puppet along with a mock-up of the overturned Jurassic Park tour vehicle are expected to go for somewhere between $US30,000 ($41,970) and $US50,000 ($69,950) at auction, while a pair of velociraptor stop motion puppets are expected to fetch even more, upwards of $US60,000 ($83,940).
Tippett Studios wasn’t completely off Jurassic Park when the decision was made to take advantage of digital visual effects. The studio’s talented stop-motion animators were able to continue to work with the animators at ILM through the use of a unique device developed for the film’s production. The Dinosaur Input Device — or D.I.D. — looks like a miniature T-rex skeleton, but features digital encoders on every joint so that when an animator moves the physical puppet, its digital equivalent in animation software moves too, allowing CG dinosaurs to be animated using older stop-motion techniques. The Prop Store auction also includes both the D.I.D. built for the T-rex up for grabs, which is expected to go for between $US25,000 ($34,975) and $US35,000 ($48,965), as well as a velociraptor D.I.D. which is expected to go for the same amount.