Since Jurassic Park premiered in 1993, the practical effects that were used to bring the film to life have all but gone extinct. Computer technology has made enormous leaps in the past few decades, allowing filmmakers to create everything from violent explosions to adorable alien sidekicks from the comfort of an animation lab.
Despite CGI’s undeniable success, plenty of film geeks are still nostalgic for the look and feel of animatronics. J.A. Bayona is one of them, and according to The Hollywood Reporter he plans to revive the lost special effects art when directing the upcoming sequel to Jurassic World. He said in a recent interview:
"It's complicated because the audience now is so used to seeing CGI that they're sometimes reluctant toward animatronics. But at the same time, I think animatronics bring soul and reality to it. We're trying to find the balance between animatronics and CGI in order to cheat the audience so they don't know what they're seeing."
That blending of different effects is what makes the original Jurassic Park so watchable 23 years later. The movie is known for featuring some of the most impressive animatronic puppets captured on film, but at the time, it broke ground with its use of computer technology. That iconic scene where the park guests are introduced to a towering Brachiosaurus marked the first time physically-textured (photo-realistic) CGI was used to create characters that could seamlessly appear alongside live actors.
Rather than showing off this new technology at every opportunity, Steven Spielberg wisely chose to be conservative with it. Only four of the 14 minutes of dinosaur footage in the film are computer generated. These scenes mostly consist of full-body shots where the dinosaurs are moving around, while the animatronics were used for intimate close-ups.
By only using CGI when absolutely necessary, the film was able to achieve this audience-cheating effect that Bayona mentions. It also allowed for more authentic interactions between the dinosaurs and the actors. When the characters meet the sick triceratops in Jurassic Park, their amazement is genuine: Spielberg made sure that scene was shot the first day of filming so the cast and crew could get used to working with animatronics. Jurassic Park also includes some instances of authentic fear, like when the T.Rex puppet broke through the roof of Tim and Lex’s car unplanned.
The animatronics technology in use today is, not surprisingly, even more impressive than the tech used back in 1993. Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow was aware of some of the advantages of animatronics while filming, which is why he had an Apatosaurus puppet made for Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard to interact with. Audiences will have to wait until 2018 to see what dinos receive the animatronic treatment in the next installment.
[h/t Movie Pilot]