"A movie like this needs at least a year to 18 months of prep time," says Spielberg. "You can't just throw this together in a normal four-month prep for a drama or a comedy. It takes 18 months to build the animals. We began sketching and designing some of the sequences about two years ago."
In the spring of 1995, production on The Lost World: Jurassic Park started to come together. Producers Gerald R. Molen and Colin Wilson, both longtime Spielberg collaborators who were veterans of the first movie, began to focus their substantial producing skills on the project. Molen roughed out a schedule and budget as Michael Crichton was concluding his novel and Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp were developing ideas for the screenplay. Colin Wilson, who oversaw the visual effects work and was largely responsible for the post-production on Jurassic Park while Spielberg was in Poland making Schindler's List, reassembled the visual effects team from the first film and began to address the dimensions of the new project. Dennis Muren at ILM, Stan Winston and Michael Lantieri were all eager to apply newly-developed technologies to better what they accomplished with stunning effect on the first film.
Production designer Rick Carter, who also designed the look for Jurassic Park and has been associated with Spielberg and his production company since the Amazing Stories television series, began his work on The Lost World when he and storyboard artist Dave Lowery met over dinner with Spielberg that spring. "We just started storyboarding one of the scenes from the book and it evolved from there. By the fall, we had a full crew of set designers, art directors and illustrators," Carter recalls.
"It's my job to find a lost world and then create The Lost World," Carter continues. "In this particular film, we are coming back to the same type of place where we were in the first film but it's a lot rougher." That this more natural, wild environment is less hospitable to the dinosaur population than the safe containment of the man-made park of the first movie can be seen in the battle-scarred head of the male T-Rex.
Carter and his team constructed various environments based upon what they knew as the outline of the movie. "We would show Steven our ideas for sets and when he approved them, that would often spark ideas - right on the spot we'd come up with more and more scenes, and those would be storyboarded and become part of the actual story."
The preliminary visualization phase continued as Carter, his art directors, draftsmen and illustrators refined the ideas into models. Carter also turned to the computer for help in determining the look of many of the visual effects sequences. He made rough 3-D animations, called animatics, which show characters moving within an approximation of the set.
"In this kind of movie, so much is being constructed visually," notes Carter, contrasting the open, organic process of creating The Lost World with other projects where the look is strictly determined by "a narrative we absolutely adhere to at all times."
The storyboards, animatics, illustrations and models created by Carter's art department provided the foundation for the entire production. The storyboards gave every member of the growing production team a clear idea of Spielberg's vision - information they would use to prepare their portions of the picture. They were constant throughout production with filmmakers using them as a guide from the earliest days of prep right through post-production. On the set, for instance, storyboards for each day's work were posted on a large display board. As pieces of the sequence were shot, the corresponding storyboard was marked as complete.
Storyboards for the big set piece action sequences were released to the visual effects teams early to give them as much time as possible to complete the intricate task of flawlessly interlacing digital, physical and robotic effects. There was no question that the visual effects for The Lost World would be every bit as challenging as they were on the first film. Perhaps even more so because audiences that had modest expectations for the first film's dinosaurs would now expect greatness.
Stan Winston was already well on his way to creating an entire new set of dinosaurs at his studio in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. New technology and such seemingly simple things as improved hydraulic systems were developed in the years between Jurassic Park and The Lost World. As dazzled as audiences were with Winston's brilliant work on the first film, he knew that he could do even better and was determined to prove the point.
"People are very aware of the advancements in the computer world since Jurassic Park," Winston comments, "but they tend to forget that the animatronic world has also made some incredible advances, producing characters in which the technology is virtually undetectable. In large part, that is due to the tremendous advances we made in Jurassic Park and in the time since then."
"There were tremendous developments in hydraulic technology - developments that allowed us to manufacture twice the number of creatures in half the amount of time and for slightly less money," Colin Wilson elaborates. "That was quite amazing. We got a lot of improvements in performance and technology. We got double the number of characters, and we paid less for it. But the most important part of the equation was how much better the character performances would be for this movie."
The sequel gave Winston the opportunity to make dinosaurs that were even more lifelike. But it wasn't just a matter of refitting the creatures from the first film with new movements and armatures. To begin with, there are more dinosaurs in The Lost World. So while the retooled T-rex from the first film joins Goldblum and Attenborough as a returning cast member, Winston and his crew built a second adult T-rex from scratch and fabricated nearly 40 creatures in all. The Stan Winston Studio, located in an industrial section of Van Nuys, utilized the talents of more than 100 artists and technicians during the year and a half that it took to design, draw, sculpt, mold, frame, mount and paint the different dinosaurs. There was diversity, too: from the tiny chicken-sized Compsognathus ("compy") to the two-story-tall T-rexes.
The work also involved careful coordination with the other two captains of the visual effects squad. Lantieri, who heads up the mechanical effects team, worked closely with the Winston shop to fabricate the giant T-rex frames and movements, as well as several other design issues. The Winston Studio's maquettes, scale models of the finished dinosaurs, were shared with Muren and his team at ILM, where they matched the colors, textures and movements of the digital creatures so that they would mesh seamlessly with Winston's live-action dinosaurs.
Part of what makes Winston and his creatures so magnificent is his approach. He doesn't think of them in a mechanical sense, and he couldn't tell you exactly how to build them. He doesn't look at his creations as inanimate robots. Instead, he thinks of them as characters, performers and stars. "We give them personalities. They have expressions," he says.
In fact, it is Winston's own background - first as an actor, then as a make-up artist and more recently as a director - that helps him keep his crew focused with this idea. On the set, as he stands next to Spielberg, he speaks to his puppeteers through headsets, intoning cues and direction for their "performance."
The animal characters created by Winston proved to be a benefit for the human actors, as well. It gave them a real representation - an actor, so to speak - to play against.
To add to the authenticity of the dinosaur fabrications, Spielberg once again enlisted noted paleontologist Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies, who had served as an advisor on Jurassic Park. This noted scholar, who is one of the world's foremost fossil hunters, worked very closely with Spielberg and Winston in creating lifelike representations of these long extinct creatures. Although much of our dinosaur knowledge is based on speculation, Horner revealed that there is much that can be deduced by putting knowledge of today's skeletal science together with the fossilized bones. Like a detective, Horner and other researchers like him are able to develop detailed ideas of what dinosaurs looked like and how they behaved - knowledge that Spielberg and Winston readily applied to their work in The Lost World .
Horner's work with Winston was especially important because the look and movement of the Winston dinosaurs would become the basis, most notably in terms of appearance and texture, for the digitally created dinosaurs that Muren would produce.
In San Rafael, California, Muren was gathering his legion of digital artists at Industrial Light & Magic. Since Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg has relied upon the collective talent at ILM, and one way or another Muren has been a part of it all.
Digital technology is moving with such velocity that techniques painstakingly developed at the beginning of Jurassic Park were surpassed by improvements before production was over. There was tremendous desire on the part of many who worked on the original film to finesse the visual effects to an even higher level. "This show is a lot different from Jurassic Park in that we were sort of timid on the first one because we didn't know if we could do it," says Muren. "Now we figured out we could do it and have had three years to think about it."
Like Winston, Muren wanted to improve on what he did with the first movie. This time he wanted to give Spielberg something else: freedom. "At the beginning of the show I mentioned to Spielberg that we can do just about anything," Muren relates.
The idea and overarching philosophy driving Muren and ILM is that filmmakers shouldn't have to think about the technology so that they can be free with the images. So, for over 20 years, we've been building up tools to give these directors what they want without restraint.
Examples of this independence include the ability to shoot visual effects shots with complete freedom of movement for the camera and a greater degree of interactivity between the CG creatures and live action actors. Visual effects shots used to mean locked-off cameras and rigid procedures. But technology has advanced to the point where the visual effects camera can be mounted on a steadicam and moved about with total fluidity.
No matter how wonderful and real the work of Winston and Muren appears to be, it wouldn't play as well without the third element of the visual effects team - Lantieri's physical effects. Lantieri, one of Hollywood's most skilled effects men and another longtime member of the Spielberg team, remarked that he had more work to do in the final weeks of the 14-week shoot on The Lost World than he did throughout Jurassic Park. "Everything about this show is big," says Lantieri. "On the last show, we crashed an explorer. This time we dangle a 60-foot-long double trailer off a cliff."
The largest set piece that Lantieri had to create involved the massive field systems trailer, which was designed to provide a base of operations for Dr. Malcolm and his travelers. To begin, there was not one but five trailer sections - all modified Fleetwood motor homes. There were literally hundreds of moving parts both inside and out and all of which had to be rigged by the special effects unit. Before the end of the movie, all manner of damage is inflicted upon the trailer and its human occupants, and Lantieri had to figure out how to make it all happen. The sequence, spread across almost a month of the shooting schedule, was filmed on two soundstages and the side of a parking structure dressed to look like a cliff wall.
Simultaneous to the visual effects development, Carter began a real-life search for a Lost World. He traveled extensively, looking in the Caribbean, Central America and as far away as New Zealand for places that visually conveyed the idea of a Lost World - a place forgotten by time and humanity.
He found his Lost World closer to home - in the Redwood Forests near Eureka, California, about six hours north of San Francisco on California's aptly named Lost Coast. With tremendous cooperation between the filmmakers and the California State Parks, the company was allowed to shoot in the midst of some of California's most spectacular scenery in Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek and Patrick's Point State Parks.
In a film defined by its scope and scale, the tall and massive trees, known as the Coast Redwood, were about the only thing that could dwarf this production. The Redwood settings were interesting for another reason: the trees have an ancient history dating back more than 160 million years. According to John B. Dewitt of the Save-the-Redwoods League, "Redwood Forests, as we know them today, have been present in California for about 20 million years. They represent a unique and beautiful relic flora from the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth."
For the film's opening sequence, Spielberg returned to Kauai, Hawaii, where he previously shot portions of Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark .
While Eureka and Kauai provided most of the rich and forested Isla Sorna exteriors, much of the film was shot within Southern California and on the Universal Studios stages and backlot where all of the sets were constructed.
With the project now increasingly defined, Gerald R. Molen and Colin Wilson, joined by associate producer Bonnie Curtis, spent several months lining up the crew and a multitude of production elements. "My job is to provide the director with the tools necessary to do what he wants to do," says Molen. "The most important thing is to find the right people."
By April 1996, a year after Spielberg began to seriously plan the picture, most of the locations were picked, sets designed and the crew was largely in place to prepare for a start date of September 5 - still five months away. While the visual effects teams were already well into their work, others were just getting started, and some were not to start until the end of summer.
In June, construction coordinator John Villarino opened up his office on Universal's Stage 12, the second largest sound stage in the world, and started a job that would ultimately fill six of Universal's biggest sound stages wall-to-wall with sets.
Villarino worked mainly from models, illustrations and prints provided by the art department. By the end of the show, Villarino figured that his crew of 120 actually constructed 80 of the total 100 different sets. "There wasn't enough stage space in Hollywood to do this movie. It would have taken another four stages," he says, but they just didn't exist.
Carter addressed the stage space issue by devising a way to change over the stages from one set to another throughout the show. For instance, on Stage 12 Villarino changed over the set three times. The company would shoot on the stage, leave to shoot on another stage for several days and then return to a completely different set configuration. "It was kind of hectic," Villarino allows.
The massive T-rexes also presented a challenge to the production. Stars in their own right, they required special handling.
The T-rexes, which each weighed 19,000 pounds and ran on tracks, could not be moved from their home on Stage 24. Instead, sets were built around the T-rexes. This occurred regularly throughout production.
One of the largest sets constructed for The Lost World was the workers village on Site B which was left intact after filming to become a part of Universal Studios Hollywood theme park tour. The operational center, where at one time InGen scientists performed feats of genetic engineering that ultimately led to the cloning of dinosaurs for Hammond's Jurassic Park, was built from the ground up to look as if it had been destroyed by a hurricane and abandoned by the company.
So much of The Lost World takes place on this isolated island, and it is a very green world. One of the busiest greens crews ever to work a film feverishly dressed and maintained each stage. Greens coordinator Danny Ondrejko led a team of 14 greensmen, five of whom would normally be completely in charge of a full production. Instead, Ondrejko put each in charge of a stage or a group of sets.
When you're shooting in a forest, like the Redwood Forest, you don't think about having to dress in with greens. "It's like bringing coal to Newcastle," laughs Carter.
But the truth is that lots of greens carefully screened by the supervising park rangers to avoid contaminating the ecological balance were brought into the forest and removed. The reason: only certain kinds of plants were available in Southern California, and since most of the film was shooting in Hollywood, those were the most practical plants to choose. So the greens department brought supplies of Southern California greenery to Northern California so that close-up shots would match.