One of Steven Spielberg’s most ambitious projects, this 1993 sci-fi action thriller had a seminal impact on the discourse of popular culture during the ’90s. Jurassic Park is Spielberg’s unforgettable attempt to illustrate how dangerous it is to mess with the natural order. The film documents the disastrous consequences of bringing dinosaurs back to life in order to amplify the machinations of commercialism.
“I really believe that when I read Michael Crichton’s book, I flashed back to Jaws and I flashed back to Duel… I’d wanted to make a dinosaur picture all my life because I was a huge fan of Ray Harryhausen,” Spielberg admitted. “Jurassic Park was the first movie where the entire success or failure of the story was dependent on these digital characters.”
A major reason behind the unprecedented success of Jurassic Park was its efficient use of special effects, ranging from computer software that animated the dinosaurs as if they were stop-motion puppets to a great sound design. Spielberg wanted this to be the first film with digital sound, funding the development of the Digital Theatre System. In addition, the sound effects team worked under the supervision of George Lucas.
Throughout the film, a significant part is played by the velociraptors who assert their terrifying presence on the screen as well as in the minds of the audience. Their on-screen depiction is unique, evoking fear even though their design deviated from the physical characteristics of the genus in question. Discoveries that were made after the release of Jurassic Park led experts to believe that dinosaurs from this specific genetic family were probably covered in feathers, a fact that was taken into account in the sequels.
As for the sound of the velociraptors, the sound crew went to great extents to get it just right. According to sound designer Gary Rydstrom, a mixture of various animal sounds was formulated to simulate the hypothesised vocal features of a velociraptor. Those individual soundbites included the hissing of geese, the bellowing of walruses, dolphin screams, mating calls of birds and even human voices. However, one of the sources of the sounds definitely stands out: tortoise sex!
“It’s somewhat embarrassing, but when the raptors bark at each other to communicate, it’s a tortoise having sex,” Rydstrom explained. “It’s a mating tortoise! I recorded that at Marine World…the people there said, ‘Would you like to record these two tortoises that are mating?’ It sounded like a joke, because tortoises mating can take a long time. You’ve got to have plenty of time to sit around and watch and record them.”
Adding, “The bark that (the velociraptor) makes. When it comes in the kitchen and it barks. ‘Arp! Arp!’ That’s the sound of a tortoise that is mating. The male tortoise would go up, and then fall off, and then go back again. It’s riding on the back of the female tortoise. So it’s climbing up her shell basically, and then it falls off. It’s a little sexual.”