50 Things I Learned On The Set Of Jurassic World

In July 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting the set of Jurassic World. After the jump you will find a roundup of over 50 things I learned on the Jurassic World set visit, ranging from cool bits of trivia (for instance: a neat suggestion Steven Spielberg made to vastly improve an idea Colin Trevorrow pitched) to interesting information about the theme park world of the film. This is probably one of the coolest sets I've ever visited. We will be featuring interviews from the set elsewhere on the site, so look out for those as well.

Jurassic World Set Visit

The Theme Park

Jurassic World takes place on Isla Nublar, the island from the original Jurassic Park.

The movie is set 22 years after the first Steven Spielberg film.

In the film, the park Jurassic World has been in operation for 8 years, and sees more than 20,000 visitors every day. Visitors arrive by ferry from Costa Rica. The location has elements of a biological preserve, a safari, a zoo, and a theme park. There is a luxury resort with hotels, restaurants, nightlife and a golf course. But the main attraction is, of course, the dinosaurs. Jurassic World has a spotless safety track record so far, too.

The theme park has been up and running for almost a decade, but declining attendance has resulted in a corporate mandate for something bigger, louder and with more teeth. One new dinosaur was created by the park's geneticists. The gaps in her DNA sequence were filled with DNA from other species, much like the genome in the first film was completed with frog DNA.

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All the fences in the park are electrified, so if the dinosaurs get too close they will get shocked.

Everything on the island is branded by some corporation. The Visitor's Center is presented by Samsung, and Claire has just closed a sponsorship deal for "Verizon Wireless Presents the Indominus Rex".

Unlike the real Sea World, there are no protesters decrying the park's administration, as it is believed they are not mistreating the animals.

Jurassic World Robinson Simpkins

Producer Frank Marshall told us that Universal Studios theme park is developing stuff that should be current with the movie when it's finally released. The theme park was really curious about what they were doing; Marshall thinks they might be making a ride version of the gyrosphere for one of the theme parks as the theme park guys were very excited when they saw them on set.

We saw one of the gyrospheres, which is basically two seats in a circular glass bubble that rolls on its own and is controlled by a joystick in the center console. There is a screen in the front of the sphere displaying information about the Dinos riders encounter. The practically-built version we saw was attached to a gimbals from behind and were used for green screen filming. Some of the gyrosphere scenes were filmed in Hawaii, with the vehicles rigged on a track system.

Storywise, the dinosaurs have microchips and the gyrospheres are programmed to avoid them. The gyrospheres can roam a huge multi-acre area called Gyrosphere Valley, which features (of course) only non-dangerous animals. The gyrospheres are also remotely monitored and can be controlled and called back to base. The Gyrosphere ride closes down at sundown.

Jurassic World behind the scenes

The Story and Characters

Chris Pratt's character Owen Grady is an ex-military guy doing behavioral research on the raptors.

Bryce Dallas Howard's character Claire Dearing is the operations manager of the park. She sees the dinosaurs as assets and "she is sort of Malcolm's worst nightmare. Like, you stood on the shoulders of the giants and now you just want to sell it." Claire is a workaholic. She's not here to make friends or have a good time, she is completely focused on her job. She is very type-A but not really connected to her real humanity. When she took the job she was inspired, but she has lost the awe for the park as she's been there for eight years. She's described as akin to an amazing hotel manager in Dubai.

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Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson play Gray and Zach, Claire's nephews who came from Wisconsin at the beginning of the movie. Her sister, while mediating her divorce, has sent them to be with Claire in Jurassic World. The boys meet their aunt, who is very busy and gives them a bunch of fast passes and sends them off. (These are Raptor Pass bracelets, like the Magic bands at Disney World.) Of course things go wrong and the middle of the story is essentially Owen and Claire out in the jungle looking for these two boys.

Vincent D'Onofrio's character Vic Hoskins is the villain of the story.

jurassic world BD Wong

BD Wong reprises his role as Henry Wu from the original Jurassic Park. The actor shot the week before we were on set, in a scene with Irrfan Khan's character Simon Masrani about the ethics of this park.

Irrfan Khan plays Simon Masrani, who is like the Richard Branson-like character who wants bigger and better without thinking if he should.

Jurassic World is about why we repeat our mistakes and how money drives us to do so. Unlike the other sequels, Jurassic World is aiming to feature the wonder and joy of the original for the first 45 minutes before it shoots you into terror.

Jake Johnson Jurassic World

Jake Johnson plays Lowery, one of the Jurassic World employees stationed in the park's control center hub.

In the scene we saw being filmed, Johnson's character is wearing one of the old Jurassic Park t-shirts from the original park gift shop, which he bought for $150 off eBay. Mint condition t-shirts apparently go for upwards of $300.

Lowery serves as the voice of the audience on screen. He is concerned about the irresponsibility of the parks creators and the evolution of the capitalistic measures adopted by the park. The character is based off a screenwriter friend who is skeptical. Lowery has an story arc which hopefully will please audiences. His tech character doesn't get to leave the Jurassic World control center. Johnson started shooting the same day Chris Pratt wrapped production.

Lowery is a fan of the original park and thinks its dumb that they have made a sequel. In one take the character says "The first park was legit, it didn't need genetic hybrids, it was real." Claire says the t-shirt is in poor taste since people died at that park.

Lowery complains about park's corporate sponsorship, saying why don't they just start allowing the corporations to name the dinosaurs: "Pepsi-saurus"

Jurassic World

The Sets

We got a tour of the raptor arena set, a Dino paddock where Chris Pratt's character Owen houses the raptors and conducts behavioral research. The steel cage entrance has two holes in the wall where practically-built maquette raptor heads are sticking through with steel muzzles, allowing the actors to interact with the dinosaurs. Steel catwalks are constructed above the pen, which has a bunch of greenery in the middle. The paddock is surrounded by 20-foot-high metal walls on three sides, with the fourth side opening into what looks like an enclosed forrest. In reality the opening is to a real New Orleans swamp land not constructed for the movie.

We witnessed some filming on Stage 7, a scene from the beginning of the movie where Bryce Dallas Howard's character checks into the master control center of the park in the morning of her day. The master control center set has rows of slanted computer desks in front of a huge display monitor. It's fitting that a set like this was built at a NASA facility. Bryce is looking at a huge wall with multiple scenes projected including a huge park map showing system information, camera feeds from around the park, every visitor is tracked using RFid tags and more.

Jurassic World

The Jurassic World control center set was created after doing research at Universal Studios theme park in Orlando Florida. Production designers also based some of the set on the NASA control room. Colin Trevorrow was actually disappointed that the control room at Universal Studios was just a few guys and some small old monitors.

The big screen display features a variety of information, including: weather information maps, various bar graphs and charts monitoring attendance. Each of the dinosaurs have tracking devices, which display a location on the big park map, so park workers know where all of them are at any time. The display also features a bunch of cycling security camera feeds: they shot footage in Hawaii, at NASA and even obtained some footage from Universal Orlando to make it feel like the park was a living, breathing place with lots of backstage space and visitor areas. The top of the map has a restricted area that is where they do the research and development; we will see the area in the film.

There is a wall of blinking audio equipment and servers in a glass enclosed room in the back of the control center. Small plush Dinosaur toys sit on some of the work stations. In the scene, Jake Johnson's character lists off some statistics about the day at the park: 6 kids are in lost in found, 28 people got heat stroke, and a kid tried to feed a triceratops ice cream.

New Jurassic World Photo Reveals Richard Attenborough Tribute John Hammond Statue

We got to walk through the new visitors center, which is not as cool as the old center if you ask me. It features displays of dinosaur bones and educational displays. Jack Horner helped design the educational display, and some of it was designed in his museum in Montana. There are a bunch of pods with hologram displays of actual dinosaurs (no need to display the real bones anymore) which will be added in post using CG. The new visitors center is multi-leveled, with a beautiful glass spiral staircase. The coolest thing is the statue of John Hammond out front with his cane, a tribute reminiscent of the Walt Disney founders statue at Disneyland.

Beyond the visitors center is the new DNA and research lab, a very high tech looking laboratory which you have seen in the viral marketing. Desks with advanced science equipment, walls of glass. They rented real scientific sequencing equipment for this set.

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Doctor Wu's office features incubating dinosaur eggs, and each egg has a QR code so they can be "tracked". After the eggs hatch the small Dinosaurs are put into stainless steel cage units on the wall. A wall in the back has shelves upon shelves of large chunks of lighted amber from samples all over the world. The chunks are much bigger than what we've seen before, sometimes almost eight inches thick.

Doctor Wu has been asked to ramp up one new genetically-engineered species. He has something going on that people don't know about. At the back of his office a secret door leads to more equipment and a ton of aquarium tanks filled with rare reptiles which he uses to sequence DNA. They had a two-headed snake and albino snake in some of the cages. Pipes cover us above. The room is darker, concrete, less futuristic looking but more real and functional. There is a refrigerator unit with trays of DNA sample tubes. There are four circular tubes with spines in a clear fluid. The hidden genetics lab is in a back room so that tourists won't see it when touring the facility.

We visited another set which is the remains of the old visitors center from the original Jurassic Park. This was probably the coolest set we saw as it felt like I was stepping into the same location from the first film. Years have gone by, and the visitors set has been completely abandoned. Greenery has completely taken over, and the bones of the T-Rex lay on the floor as do the dirty scraps of the banner, which we were told play into this story. Vines are growing around a piece of the scaffolding we saw in the first film. The stairs are overgrown with tree branches, vines and grass. The iconic doors are rusted and vines have taken over the archway entrance. The old visitors center is located in a part of the park which has dinosaurs roaming free. The boys stumble upon this location somewhere in the middle of the movie.

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The Dinosaurs

Most of the dinosaurs will be created using CG but they did create animatronic raptor heads for the squeeze cage in Owen's raptor paddock. A practically-built animatronic dinosaur was created for a sequence filmed in Hawaii, but we were not told much about that scene as its a spoiler. (Thus, we probably also won't see it in the marketing of the film.)

The dinosaurs in Jurassic World will be created using performance capture. Humans are playing the T-rex dinos. Colin Trevorrow went to ILM before production and conducted a ton of tests. They found that when a human is behind the movements you can feel the weight and it feels unlike what we've seen before.

They have actors on set who wear lifesize models of the dinosaur heads for the actors to respond to on set.

Jurassic World Poster raptors header

The film features four key raptors, each of which will be played by a different person to keep the movements consistent from scene to scene.

No dinosaurs in the movie do anything that the closest real animal equivalents can't do.

One of the themes in the movie is that all of the dinosaurs are organic and the synthetic must die.

All of the issues of the first Jurassic Park have been supposedly "fixed". The dinosaurs in Jurassic World can mate in the wild but all of the dinosaurs are monitored and tracked at all times. Even the surviving dinosaurs in the closed off section of the island have microchips and are tracked. However those areas of the park like the old visitors center don't have the security camera monitoring systems of the new areas.

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The T-rex from the original Jurassic Park will make an appearance in Jurassic World. She looks a bit older now, and Trevorrow describes her as having a bit of Burt Lancaster thing going on.

Jurassic World will not feature weaponized dinosaurs from the infamous abandoned Jurassic Park 4 script. Screenwriter Derek Connolly actually never read that script.

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Colin Trevorrow came up with the idea of featuring Mosasaurus, the film's main water dino which you see in the trailer. He pitched the idea to Spielberg of having the Mosasaurus feed on a shark in front of bleachers filled with park guests. Spielberg loved the idea of the Mosasaurus eating the shark but suggested that when the animal grabs the shark that the whole bleacher section submerge underwater using a hydraulic system so that the audience will be able to see the Mosasaurus feeding underwater. 200 extras sat in the bleacher section. The dino jumps out of the water and soaks the crowd. This was Colin's favorite moment of shooting.

Gyrosphere Jurassic World Chris PRatt

Film Production

I visited the set of Jurassic World on July 21st 2014. It was day 67 of 78 days of principal photography. To give you some perspective, I visited the set two days before Comic Con 2014 and a week after the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

The film shot under the secret working production title Ebb Tide. That working title was chosen by Steven Spielberg way before Trevorrow was involved. No one on set seemed to know a reason for the working title.

Jurassic World is the first Jurassic Park movie not to shoot in Los Angeles. They shot at Universal studios for the previous three films, but the tax breaks in Louisiana were too attractive.

NASA Michoud assembly facility

The set we visited was at the NASA Michoud assembly facility in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jurassic World was the latest in a bunch of Hollywood productions shooting in New Orleans due to tax incentives. The production rented out the huge buildings at the NASA facility which use to be used to construct space shuttles. I first visited the facility a week earlier when visiting the set of Terminator Genisys.

We were on set at NASA exactly 45 years from when they were first walking on the moon. The NASA engineers who are building the rocket to Mars visited the set and they were said to have left amazed.

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New Orleans has an abandoned Six Flags theme park which has been used for other film productions in the past. Jurassic World created a 300-foot by 200-foot Main Street and Boardwalk in the amusement park's abandoned parking lot. They shot on the set for two and a half weeks.

Fuel boosters from a space shuttle sit abandoned in the grass next to the stages. While I was on set, NASA was currently in the process of building a rocket to go to Mars at this facility.

Jurassic World shot mostly on 35mm film. They filmed a lot of the big exteriors on 65mm in Hawaii. They used one of the 65mm cameras used for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Jurassic World will be post-converted to 3D by the same company that did the wonderful 3D conversion of the original Jurassic Park.

Steven Spielberg Directing on the set of Jurassic Park

The original script was written in three weeks and the studio was pushing for a quick June start. Steven Spielberg decided that they needed some more time to make the movie good, and he had the pull to shut the production down before it started prematurely. Spielberg approved the screenplay in September 2013, and filming finally began in April 2014.

Steven Spielberg was very hands-on in the development of the project, but now that production is in full gear, he is fairly hands-off. Spielberg watches the dailies every day but has said he wants Trevorrow to make his own movie. Spielberg hasn't even had time to visit the set as he's been very busy working on two other films.

They've been editing while they are shooting so they can turn over shots to ILM, especially for the finished shots for the teaser trailer and trailer.