RoboFist Goes Universal: I Did, Indeed, Feel Welcome to Jurassic Park
When I was but a wee little lad, the extent of my long-term life goals were “Beat the flying carpet stage in the Aladdin Sega Genesis game” and “Eat Dunkaroos”. It was a simpler time, many would argue a better time. I didn’t have to worry about bills or thesis papers or whether or not my dreams would be able to pay for a mortgage of any kind. I wasn’t even thinking about careers, either. How could I when I was so busy doing such delightfully-childish activities as shoving dimes up my nose?
All of that changed when I snuck over to a friend’s house and saw the original Jurassic Park on glorious VHS.
This movie had a bigger impact on my life than the meteor that killed off the dinosaurs. I was the perfect age for this film, equal parts wide-eyed at the impossibly lifelike spectacles and hiding behind my fingers at those same lifelike spectacles killing characters with teeth and claws. Not only did Jurassic Park spark a dinosaur obsession within my soul (as it did with almost every other child in the mid-‘90s), but it also was the first time a movie legitimately captured my curiosity. How did the filmmakers make the dinosaurs look so realistic? Which dinosaurs were created by using practical effects, and which were completely digital? Why did some scenes make my jaw drop in awe, while others made me run into the closet screaming?
After Jurassic Park, it was as if my brain had made up its mind: I was going to be a filmmaker.
Fast-forward over twenty years later, and I’m typing thousand-word articles on a platform specifically designed for photos of outdated memes and porn, so I’m not exactly living the dream. But I did go to Universal Studios’ version of the infamous theme park, and I’m here to tell you that this die-hard fanatic felt they spared no expense.
After leaving Hogsmeade, you can walk right through the legendary gates and into the steamy forests of Jurassic Park. Giant exotic plants surround the path, along with fog and the sounds of distant roars for effect. The iconic electric fences are seen everywhere, probably to keep visitors out of the employee areas, but they still add so much to the vibe of this part of the park. John Williams’s magical score is played almost on a continuous loop, and while I can imagine that becoming too annoying for some park-goers, my ears felt like they were in heaven.
Of course, giant stationary replicas of the film’s dinosaurs are carefully placed throughout the footpaths, and they all look stunning. I can’t tell if they’re film accurate in terms of size, but I definitely felt dwarfed when taking a photo of that almighty T-rex.
And as much as the Tyrannosaurus was the unquestionable star of the first flick, I was infinitely happier to see that Universal continues to keep the Spinosaurus lurking about. Personally, if I had to make a list of my top five favorite dinosaurs, ol’ Spiney would be at least number three. He has such a great look to him, and he looks far more menacing than the T-rex. If the Tyrannosaurus was the brawn, the Spinosaurus was the brains, like a supervillain who only got his hands dirty if he absolutely needed to.
I know that Jurassic Park 3 isn’t exactly remembered with much fondness (still a much better flick than The Lost World by a Gallimimus mile), so I really appreciate the fact that Universal hasn’t yet replaced this unsung hero with the fucking Indominus Rex.
As much as I loved Superhero Island and the Wizarding World, Jurassic Park worked the absolute most for me because it’s specifically designed to be a theme park. Universal fully embraces this by using the film as a template for their own park, and that shines brightest once you hit the Discovery Center.
While it’s not an exact brick-for-brick recreation, it’s one of the cooler buildings to explore in the entire park. The stores range from touristy and chock full of plastic toys for kids to high end shops where adults can purchase semi-legitimate fossils as decorations. There’s a small little cafeteria, a dozen interactive learning modules, and three enormous replicas of legitimate dinosaur skeletons.
For a few hot seconds, you feel as if you’re actually in there. Like some son of a bitch actually did it, and now you’re taking a break from a long, hot day at Jurassic freaking Park to look at the science behind it all.
And that’s the second cool thing about the Discovery Center: while it does dabble in some of the pseudoscience used in the films, a lot of the building acts as a legitimate science center and museum. One station will teach you exactly how dinosaur fossils are discovered, while others show you what scientists think the enormous lizards could’ve sounded like. It’s really damn cool for dino-nuts like myself, and I know I would’ve had a fan boy freakout if I went there as an eight-year-old.
My personal ridiculous favorite part of the entire park, however, was the Velociraptor. This thing was incredible, and if you’re going to Universal, I urge you to check it out. It’s created using a combination of puppetry and animatronics, and the result is actually eerily lifelike. It helps that a Universal employee is constantly “in-character” whenever the raptor is out, screaming and yelling at the monster like a lion tamer who isn’t getting paid nearly enough for this shit.
Naturally, I ate it up. I want to meet this Velociraptor at least twelve more times before I die.
All in all, Universal was a damn blast. But now I’m exhausted, and I’m struggling to resist making an “I’m extinct” joke. Dinosaurs rule.
(Oh, and the new King Kong/Skull Island ride wasn’t yet open, but damn did it look incredible from the outside looking in. Someone tell me how it is ASAP!)