Classic Scene – “It’s…it’s a dinosaur…”


“It’s…it’s a dinosaur…”

Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993)

The Scene
John Hammond (Attenborough) has done the impossible on the Ilsa Nubla, but he’s making his lawyers nervous. To gain support for his project he’s brought in a group of scientists – Dr. Alan Grant (Neil), Dr. Ellie Satler (Dern) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) – who are about to see the one thing they never expected to see in their lives.

"Is that...the chance to get another good movie offer after this one?!"

The Deconstruction
Everyone went through a childhood dinosaur phase (and if you didn’t, I’d ask for my money back) where they were captivated by the mystery of these thunder lizards. Many people still hold a soft spot for the story of dinosaurs and it’s one that the film industry has prodded quite a few times over the decades. And whilst the effects produced by claymation and animatronics were nifty, we always knew we were watching a movie trickery.

This scene, on the other hand, reignited that sense of wonder that we hadn’t felt since childhood when we see the most convincing looking recreation of a brachiosaurus we could’ve ever imagined appear on our screens. There wasn’t a person in the cinema on opening night who didn’t feel a warm glow as they joined Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler in staring in amazement at what Spielberg had created.

Spielberg understood that he needed to engage the viewer in more ways that just visually for this to work. In addition to the ground-breaking work by ILM is creating one of the first completely convincing living creatures on the screen, the soundscape created by the foley artist (actors who deal in creating sound effects) filled our ears with the heavy footsteps, gentle calls and rasping breath of the bohemoth, giving audiences possibly their first taste of surrond sound. The performers all put in the films best moment by creating realistic shock and awe while looking at what was most likely a tennis ball on a stick. And, or course, that score by John Williams, which ranks as among his best work.

It may have been a long time since you last saw this blockbuster – I can tell you right now that now matter how many times you see this scene it’ll have the same effect. Good film-making isn’t just about special effects, but involving the audience in the moment.

Random Fact – the brachiosuarus rearing up on it’s hind legs is a visual reference to ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’, the first animated film. Youtube it!

Best Bit: The music swells, the audience stares open mouthed, and the world-renowned expert in paleantology says what everyone is thinking: “It’s a dinosaur.”