These 10 Amazing Effects From Jurassic Park Stand The Test of Time

Hold on to your butts - these scenes are still impressive thirty years later.

By Steph Cannon · @SCannonWrites · June 9, 2023, 5:31 PM EDT
Image Credit: Universal Pictures

It's been thirty years since Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park roared into theaters, where it captivated audiences with its seamless mixture of Stan Winston's state-of-the-art animatronics and Industrial Light and Magic's CGI effects.

We live in an age where CGI reigns supreme, and practical effects have all but… well… gone the way of the dinosaur. What Jurassic Park did, however, was show us how both methods could be utilized in unity - something that continues to hold up surprisingly well three decades later. In this article, we'll take a look at ten eye-popping moments from the film where the special effects still stand strong, even when compared to today's newer, flashier releases.

1. Welcome To Jurassic Park

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures

This scene is our first introduction to what is really hidden behind those giant doors. The wide shot of various dinos grazing peacefully together in a field, as John Williams' famous score swells to a crescendo, hits all the right emotional spots, both for the characters and the audience. CGI was mainly used for larger-scale shots such as this one, where the dinosaurs were further away in the background, and finer details could be overlooked. This scene also relies on the actors to do the heavy lifting because their reactions in those moments make you disregard any veil of disbelief.

2. The Sick Triceratops


Image Credit: Universal Pictures

The Triceratops used here is full animatronic, a painstaking undertaking for Winston and his team. It helped that the Triceratops blends into the dirt and dust of the scene. Eight puppeteers were needed to operate the beast in order to create its labored breathing. The end result of the practical effects in this scene is still impressive and remarkably lifelike.

3. Baby Raptor Hatchling


Image Credit: Universal Pictures

This heartwarming moment with a baby raptor breaking through its shell as it enters the world is another example of a full animatronic, though much smaller in scale than the Triceratops. A tiny rod inside the puppet controlled the arms, legs, and head, while automated robotics created the simulated breathing as Dr. Grant held it. The egg itself even looks incredibly realistic, and was made from a wax mold and plastic wrap.

4. That's One Big Pile Of…

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Let's face it, most movies today would use digital effects to create a gigantic pile of dung. This scene, where Dr. Sattler plunges elbow-deep into the animal's droppings to further investigate its illness, uses real components to create the putrid pile. A mixture of mud, clay, and straw, the heap was then smeared with honey to ensure flies would be properly buzzing around it. You gotta admit, it really does look like the real thing, without any of that green screen dubiousness.

5. The Water Ripple Effect

jurassic park water ripple

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Who knew such a simple moment in the movie was one of the most difficult to achieve? The cups of water sitting in cup holders, and those perfect ripples are the first signal to the car's occupants that something really big is stomping around outside. Visual Effects Supervisor Michael Lantieri had to cut a hole in the vehicle's floorboard, feed guitar strings into the cups, then have a crew member lie underneath the car. They then plucked away at the strings until finding the exact rhythm Spielberg wanted to capture. It's another example of how much more work went into doing something the "old-fashioned way" but conveys exactly the intended feel.

6. T-Rex Attack


Image Credit: Universal Pictures

This scene was one of the most difficult to achieve for various reasons. A very large animatronic composed of latex and robotics was used for the T-Rex, weighing in at over 7 tons. Spielberg wanted to shoot outside, at night, in the rain, not only to add to the tense mood of the scene but also to cut down on the need for post-production fine-tuning. The torrential downpour of water weighed down the Tyrannosaurus so much that it would randomly get the shakes, and Winston's team resorted to blow dryers to keep it from becoming completely ruined. A small amount of CGI was ultimately used for a few wider shots, but the close-ups were all hand-made practically. No matter how many times you've watched this scene, the intensity and believability is still spectacular.

7. The Flocking Gallimimus

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures

As Grant, Tim, and Lex are trudging through the park towards safety, they come across a herd of Gallimimus, which allows them to marvel at the dinos' similarity to birds…that is, until the T-Rex comes lumbering through to attack and kill one of the flocking Gallimimus. It's one of the first scenes created using CGI, and ILM used digitized testing of how the dinos ran - first with rudimentary skeletons, then covered in skin. The T-Rex in this scene is also CGI, and although mere moments before we're treated to scenes of the animatronic Tyrannosaurus, the one we see here perfectly mirrors its predecessor in both look and movement.

8. The Spitting Dilophosaurus…


Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Dennis Nedry's ultimate demise is undeniably gruesome, as he's blinded by the poisonous spit of the Dilophosaurus playfully stalking him. This dino is also the work of puppeteering, and the full-scale design was laborious to construct. The mechanism used for the spit was devised from paintball gun parts and tubing, with the actual venom itself made from a concoction of K-Y Jelly and food coloring. Most of the puppet was radio-controlled, and cables were placed into the legs to generate hops and jumps. When taking into consideration how close-up the puppet appears on screen, and how terrifying the scene is, it's another example of how adept the film's puppeteers were.

9. …And The Sneezing Brachiosaurus


Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Bodily functions are a running theme in Jurassic Park, but that's to be expected when dealing with gigantic prehistoric beasts. This scene, where a curious Brachiosaurus suddenly visits Tim, Lex, and Grant in the tree they're seeking refuge in, results from another enormous animatronic. The head and neck, which were around eight feet tall, were controlled by a dolly, including the moment when the herbivore snaps backward to violently sneeze a mixture of K-Y Jelly and food thickener all over poor Lex. The desired effect is accomplished, though, as the legitimacy of the animatronic conveys a moment of levity amidst the chaos during the rest of the movie.

10. Raptors In The Kitchen

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures

One of the most iconic sequences in the entire movie is also one of the most impressively executed. The duo of raptors that stalk Tim and Lex in the industrial kitchen are not only puppets, but are controlled by stunt actors actually wearing suits and performing the movements themselves. The performers worked with a personal trainer to learn how to move with realistic fluidity that would mimic how scientists believe raptors walked, jumped, and ran. The next time you watch this scene, keep in mind that there are humans wearing raptor suits, and see if it changes how you view the realism.

If you're thirsty for more Jurassic Park dino celebrations, check out not one but TWO issues of FANGORIA Volume 1 featuring our favorite dinos on the cover. Issue #124 and #126.