JP3′S EVOLVING DINOS: AN INTERVIEW WITH STAN WINSTON (part 2)

“Jurassic Park 3″ introduces a couple new dinosaurs, one of them being the pteranodon. What exactly was the discussion in making the pteranodons? ^ Each movie has been about which dinosaurs people are missing because there is always a dinosaur fan upset because we were missing a particular dinosaur. The pteranodon was always one of the dinosaurs we were missing, although it was introduced and designed for “The Lost World.” As it turns out, virtually all of the sequences with the pteranodon came out of the movie, but it was still introduced at the end of the film. It was that last shot– a completely CG shot– where the pteranodon came in, flew and landed. That was the last thing you saw in “The Lost World.” Obviously it was a precursor to ‘I’ll be back.’ It was just always one of the dinosaurs we talked about and it was time to bring it into the fray with Jurassic Park 3.
Was the reason the pteranodon wasn’t in the first “Jurassic Park” because technology wasn’t at the level it needed to be at to create it? ^ No, it just wasn’t written into the story. Let’s face it– the first one was a major groundbreaking movie just with the concept that we did what we did. Not that Hollywood hasn’t been doing dinosaur movies, because they have been since 1950, they’ve just been done with animation and what you could do live, which was very little at that time since robotics didn’t exist back then. “Jurassic Park” was a breakthrough for CG animation and it was also a breakthrough for robotics, but we never went into it with the concept that we’d do it because we could do it. The concept in “Jurassic Park” was Steven (Spielberg) said he wanted to do as much live as we possibly could and what we couldn’t do live we’d animate. Now, at that time, he didn’t even know that there would be a chance at doing it in CG animation because there wasn’t a proven, organic CG animation at that time. That concept came to be during the production of “Jurassic Park.” Had there been a pteranodon written into “Jurassic Park” we would have figured out a way to do it. We would have done it the way we did it today, only not with the advanced technology we have. We would have done what we could live, we would have made puppets and what we couldn’t do live we would do with animation, which would have been stop-motion animation if CG hadn’t broken through. There have been no limitations, I feel, on any of the “Jurassic Park” movies based on the thought that we could not do it. We have always gone into it with the thought that we were going to do it. I remember Steven saying to me in the first “Jurassic Park” movie, ‘Okay, build a full-size Tyrannosaurus Rex and we want a live one on the set to do this and that. Can you do it?’ and I said, “Yeah, yeah, we can do it.” He asked how we were going to do it and I just said, ‘I don’t know, I’ve never done it before. I have no idea how we will do it, but we’ll figure out a way to do it and we’ll do it.’ And that’s what we’ve done here with Jurassic Park 3, the only difference here being that we have so much now in our knowledge bank of what we can do live and with animatronics, and just an understanding of how much we can do with digital animation. What we are doing now is blending these technologies in ways that they have never been blended before. We are doing stuff in Jurassic Park 3 that we haven’t done before. We are putting live animals in the same shot with CG creations. We are putting animals in the same shot that are part live and part CG. So there have been huge advances in our imagination to let us do what we haven’t done before and just go, ‘Oh let’s do that. That’s cool.’ Like building a full-size spinosaurus, which weighs 25,000 pounds, and only doing the first ¾ of the body full-size and putting a CG tail on him.
When you say live do you mean animatronics? ^ Yeah, I mean full-size robotics– stuff that is actually there. So when you see the credits and it says ‘live action dinosaurs created by Stan Winston,’ live action means that there are no miniatures in this movie. They are either live, full-size robotics and animatronic dinosaurs, or they are CG. Or they are a combination of the two technologies.
During an ILM presentation I saw on how you brought these dinosaurs to life, they talked a little bit about how they added texture under the skin and muscles to the CG dinosaurs this time around so that they appeared even more lifelike. How did you have to adapt the animatronics to this so that there were no visual differences between the CG creatures and the live ones? ^ It’s interesting if you look at the technology of CG, or computer generated animation. Robotics have gone forward in a parallel fashion. We have been advancing in a parallel way. Our robotics are as good as they are and our animatronics are as organic as they are because they were all designed on a computer. We control the computer and these are computer-generated creations. Every organic move that a CG creation makes goes through the computer and is translated to the full-size dinosaur, and that organic move happens because of the computer. The things that we advanced on as far as Jurassic Park 3 with where we have gone with robotics and animatronics can be described in a very simple word– hot-rodded. The spinosaurus is basically a dinosaur that has been hot-rodded. We pumped this puppy up. If the T-Rex is 300-horse power, the spinosaurus is 1,000-horse power. The spinosaurus has taken so much pressure, so much hydraulic pressure, that it is the fastest, most amazingly cool machine you will ever see. It is has a greater range of motion than the T-Rex had, it’s stronger and, because of our advances in electronics and signal– signal from puppeteer to actor, being dinosaur actor– all of the moves are much more exact, so that you get a very subtle move. Look at what happens to the raptors in this movie. They have such a huge part now. People always ask me what my favorite new dinosaur is. We created the spinosaurus, where as the T-Rex was 18,000 pounds or 9 tons, the spinosaurus is 25,000 pounds or 12 and a half tons, and it’s meaner and faster and I will never build a bigger animal as long as I am alive– I tell you, I am done building big animals– but the raptors, which we had in all three movies, is my favorite new dinosaur. They have basically evolved. They are better than they have ever been. They are central to this story. They perform better. They are beautiful. The color schemes on them evolved. There is an obvious difference between the male and female raptor since we added quills to the look of the male raptor. We have extended the snout slightly. We have simply evolved it to being more velociraptor than ever before. The wonderful thing is that, when you hear ILM talk about doing all this, there is this pride of ownership because the perfection that they put into these CG dinosaurs allows them to be in the same shot as a real-life dinosaur. We have all that texture there; we have sculpted it and created it, and now ILM has taken it and perfectly replicated it. It’s just one of the wonderful things about marrying two technologies, where it’s not all CG and it’s not all puppets. Each element raises the bar on the other element. What we did was create more movement, faster movement, more articulated movement within the dinosaur and the things that we can’t do– the bigger, broader moves– the CG world has done, totally replicated what we could do and then taken it all further. They have taken certain muscle movement even further than we could do, so in bigger, broader shots when you see things happening that you may not notice, that wouldn’t necessarily happen in the live world– that happens in the CG world. So there is this wonderful mix and we have each taken it that much further. There are motors inside the raptors now, which gives you a more direct relationship of point of movement to point of control. In “The Lost World” there were 15 motors outside of the body that were cable driven to the interior of the raptor, and now we have put all of the motors inside a tighter machine. It’s a Porsche now and it started off as a Chevy.
Will CG ever replace animatronics? ^ No, because viewers would never allow that. It’s a wonderful question and people always ask it, but no technology will ever replace live anything. Technology is something we should embrace and want to see. I adore full CG movies. I love “Toy Story” and Shrek and I want to see perfect humans done with CG. I want to see wonderful CG works like Disney’s Dinosaur that is exquisite. But you don’t want to go into a movie and think that everything you are going to see is animated. You want to know that you are going into that theater and what you are going to see is real. The more that I can give you, the happier you are going to be. You will never allow Al Pacino to be replaced by a digital actor though. You will want to see a digital actor, but you will always want to see the live thing as well. It’s the same question that was there when film competed with theater, and there is more theater now than ever. Or when TV began to compete with film. People thought that no one would go out to see a movie because they could just stay inside and watch TV, but now there are more movies than ever before. Every time there is a new technology people sit back afraid. My animatronics– my puppets– are completely organic. Do you think they are going to replace the Muppets? I don’t think so. I mean, who would want to see an organic Kermit? Sock-puppets will always live. They will never be replaced. We want to see stories told in different ways– CG, cell animation– but because something is CG or cell animation it doesn’t mean it’s the end of live action either. So a very good question and a very long-winded answer to no, CG will not replace live-action animatronics, it will just continue to inspire us to do more. And that is what everyone does– they always want to do more. It’s important for us to ask what the next level is that we can go to in animatronics. Go see “A.I.” and you will know what I mean.
One last question. You mentioned how the raptors evolved in Jurassic Park 3, in part because of recent paleontologist findings. The average audience probably doesn’t know the latest discoveries on the Raptor species though, so why did you feel it was necessary to change the Raptor? ^ The audience does notice. They may not know what they notice, but it’s what they don’t see that is what they remember. It’s the subtle things– the attention to detail, paint schemes, color schemes– that the audience does notice, they just don’t realize that is what they notice. They go in and say, ‘Wow, that’s cool. Look how great the Raptor looks. It always looked great but it looks greater for some reason,’ and what you don’t realize is it’s because you aren’t looking at the same thing. Every movie I get into I say I won’t do something the same way I did it in the last film EVER. It would be boring to me and it would be boring to the audience. The minute you think the audience won’t know a difference, they notice a difference.
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Posted on July 17, 2001 in Interviews by
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