A look back at the original Jurassic Park

Recent reports claim there may be a reboot or sequel to Jurassic Park.

Who knows if there enough nostalgia or demand for it today, but good, bad, or indifferent, the original Jurassic Park was definitely a game changer, especially with it blowing the door open for CGI.

The late Michael Crichton was a best-selling author for most of his career, but Jurassic Park took him up to an even bigger level.

He was now one of the “mega authors” in the league with Stephen King, Tom Clancy, and John Grisham.

Indeed, by the mid nineties, there were reportedly more than 100 million copies of Crichton’s books in print, and according to Playboy, at one point he may have been the highest paid writer in America. Of course, Crichton is arguably best remembered for Jurassic Park than any of his other novels.


In late 1989, Crichton and Steven Spielberg were working on what became the TV show ER when Crichton told Spielberg about Jurassic Park, which was being proofed by his publisher.

Crichton started working on the novel in 1984, and was finally wrapping it up. As reported in Joseph McBride’s biography of Spielberg, the director knew it would spark a bidding war, but being close to Crichton, Spielberg had the inside track.


The rights for Jurassic Park went for “a non-negotiable” asking price of $1.5 million, plus a big chunk of the gross. The rights were up for three days in May 1990, and there were offers from Warner Brothers for Tim Burton to direct, Columbia for Richard Donner, and Fox for Joe Dante, but Spielberg would not be denied. (It would be interesting to see what a director like Burton would have come up with.)


Again, Jurassic Park was the movie that cemented CGI, and once special effects artist Phil Tippet saw the computer animated dinosaurs, he told Spielberg, “I think I’m extinct.” (The line was even worked into the film.)

In the past, it was obvious that actors were screaming and running from rear-screen projection dinosaurs, or that there was considerable distance between the actors and the dinosaurs because the live action and animation shots were blended and processed together, but with Jurassic Park, they were right there in the thick of the action, and audiences were blown away.


There was a big game of chicken at the box office with Jurassic Park and the big Ah-nold blockbuster that wasn’t, The Last Action Hero, and the dinos stomped everything in their path, grossing over $900 million domestic. J

urassic Park alone made Spielberg a very wealthy man and his deal gave him 20% of the gross until break even, then it was a 50/50 split once the film was in the black. (It was reportedly the most a director had made for a single movie at the time.)


As with Jaws and Indiana Jones, the first Jurassic Park was the best in the series, with the sequels unable to recapture the magic of the original, although perhaps the current talk of a possible sequel / reboot is Spielberg’s hope the franchise can be reinvented for today’s generation. 

As the director recalled in the book Blockbuster, “I have no embarrassment in saying that with Jurassic I was really just trying to make a good sequel to Jaws. On land.”