When Steven Spielberg signed on to direct Jurassic Park, his original plan was to hire award-winning stop-motion animator Phil Tippett to bring the film’s dinosaurs to life. The stop-motion technique had been used in film for decades, but by the time Jurassic Park was entering pre-production, digital technology had started to change the way films were made.
Tippett began animating test scenes for Jurassic Park using traditional methods, and the results were underwhelming. Spielberg suggested improving on the animation using digital motion-blur, but instead the artists at Industrial Light & Magic wondered, “why don’t we just build the whole thing in CG?” Fully digitally rendered creatures had never been done before, and many doubted that it was even possible.
While the film went ahead with Phil Tippett’s stop-motion animation plan, CG animator Steve Williams secretly began building a digital Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on the side. The initial tests looked fantastic, so Williams left it playing on a monitor during a studio visit from Jurassic Park’s producer Kathleen Kennedy.
Kennedy was extremely impressed, and instantly recognized the potential of digital animation. They shared the footage with the rest of the production team, and right away they changed their plan. For the first time ever, they were going to use fully computer-animated dinosaurs in the film.
Combined with the use of practical effects and animatronic puppets, the result was a completely realistic and unprecedented experience for film audiences. Jurassic Park had just ushered in a new era of filmmaking using computers, greatly expanding the possibilities of the medium. The film became the highest-grossing film released worldwide up to that time, raking in $914 million worldwide. It quickly became a cultural sensation, with countless video games, comic books and theme park rides. In 1994, it even lead to Toronto naming their newly acquired NBA franchise the Raptors. Jurassic Park has spawned 4 sequels, with a fifth premiering in 2021.