Behind the Magic of Jurassic Park

A team of Hollywood techno-wizards set out to bring 'em back alive

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But the model T. was a dinosaur in another sense; it may represent a vanishing craft. "A model can never be a full, performing creature," says Mark Dippe, a visual-effects supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic. "But computer-generated creatures can run, hop, do anything." To bone up on dinosaurs, Dippe and his colleagues studied the movements of live elephants, rhinos and giraffes and watched footage of alligators tearing meat apart. Ace animator Steve Williams even kept an iguana in his office -- for research, not company.

ILM created its dinosaurs inside out: a simplified skeleton, then skin covering, then coloration, then the fine tuning with wrinkles, scales, dirt. "You see skin moving over bones and over muscles," says ILM's Dennis Muren, who directed the project. "When the brachiosaurus walks, the weight of its chest makes it swing back and forth." Dippe believes the process is so adroit that, "if we had real dinosaurs, we'd probably still do it this way. Our animals don't get tired or hungry."

Audiences will be the judge of whether Jurassic Park lives up to its makers' hopes and boasts. They will be looking not for a museum exhibit but for a good movie -- one that spurs childlike terror and wonder by fooling the eye 24 times a second. They want to be convinced that the artful fraud on the screen is real. The prehistoric creatures from The Lost World (1925), One Million B.C. (1940), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and Godzilla (1954) dwelt in kids' nightmares, not because they were realistic -- scientists knew so much less about dinosaurs back then, and film budgets were so much smaller -- but because they were persuasive.

The folks at Jurassic Park are banking that all their expertise will evoke those age-old giggles and screams -- that scientific fact will be alchemized into sublime fakery.

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