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JURASSIC PARK - The Evolution of a Raptor Suit with John Rosengrant

THE ULTIMATE MONSTER SUIT CHALLENGE

(CLICK on the video above to watch the NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN Raptor Suit footage from JURASSIC PARK)

Although Stan Winston Studio created multiple raptors for JURASSIC PARK, including full-size cable-controlled puppets, half-puppets and insert legs, some Raptor shots were most efficiently captured with a man in a suit. SWS supervisor John Rosengrant was pegged as the main Raptor suit performer, with SWS concept designer Mark “Crash” McCreery also pitching in when the shot required two raptors.

FITTING A MAN INSIDE A RAPTOR

To determine the suit’s configuration, the Winston team overlaid Raptor drawings on images of Rosengrant in various positions. The crew then did a body cast on him, and sculpted the Raptor form around that cast.


Pictured above: The 1/5th scale raptor maquette sculpted by SWS artist Christopher Swift.

Pictured above: A miniature John Rosengrant revealed inside the raptor suit maquette.

Pictured above: SWS fabricator Marilyn Dozer-Chaney constructs the foam raptor "Garbage Bag Test" over a life-cast of John Rosengrant.

A HIGH-PRESSURE ACTING DEBUT

For weeks prior to shooting his scenes, Rosengrant rehearsed in the suit, imitating the Raptor behaviors illustrated in Phil Tippett’s animatics. This Raptor performance was Rosengrant’s first major ‘acting’ role as a suit performer. “I had always wanted to perform in suits. I think to do it well, you have to be a bit of an actor — although, the characters we play usually have a singular mission, which is to kill something. ‘Must eat. Must destroy.’ There isn’t a lot of deep psychological acting going on there! But I do think it requires some very good physical acting to do this work, especially at the level Stan Winston demands. Stan pays a lot of attention to the detail, to making a character move dynamically and accurately. He has always raised the bar very high for us in terms of performance.”

Pictured above: John Rosengrant (inside suit) and SWS artists Beth Hathaway, Patrick Shearn & Greg Figiel put the foam "Garbage Bag Test" raptor through its paces.

Pictured above: John Rosengrant (inside suit) and SWS artists Greg Figiel & Beth Hathaway rehearse at Stan Winston Studio.

Pictured above: John Rosengrant (inside the foam test suit) practices walking like a raptor.

Pictured above: Rosengrant terrorizes fellow SWS supervisor, Shane Mahan, during the raptor "Garbage Bag Test".

THE RAPTOR-IN-TRAINING

To simulate Raptor anatomy, Rosengrant assumed a skiing pose inside the suit — bending at the waist and squatting with his legs at ninety-degree angles — having worked with a physical trainer prior to the shoot to ensure that he could hold the position for long periods of time. During filming, he could be in the suit for as long as four hours at a stretch, hung from a framework in between takes to relieve the considerable strain on his back. “My back would go out after about thirty minutes,” Rosengrant said, “and that was after having trained a couple of hours a day for weeks. That training wasn’t just to protect my back, though; it was also to make sure I could do the job once we were on the set. When you do suit work, everybody is counting on you. The producers, the director, the other actors are all counting on the fact that you’ll be able to perform, and they’ll be able to get their shots.”

Pictured above: The final JURASSIC PARK raptor suit sculpture at Stan Winston Studio.

Pictured above: Beth Hathway patches & seams a foam latex raptor skin at Stan Winston Studio.

Pictured above: SWS dinosaur mechanic, Patrick Shearn, tests the raptor suit neck mechanism.

COMMITMENT TO THE TEAM

No one counts on the performer inside the suit more than the artists and technicians who have spent weeks or months designing and building that character. “All of their work can be for nothing if you can’t bring that character to life inside the suit,” Rosengrant noted. “In the past, there have been times when a character we put a lot of care into was not as good as it could have been because the performance just wasn’t there. That’s why people who do this work are so often driven to perform in the suits themselves. It is a way to maintain some level of control over what you’ve created. Being in those suits is so difficult, is such a pain in the ass, you have to be really motivated to do it. You have to have a vested interest in the character; and no one has more of a vested interest than the people who created it. Performers who aren’t that motivated are going to get fed up with the physical discomfort and the heat and the inability to breathe. They’re likely to say: ‘Get me out of this stupid thing. It’s not working.’ Of course, it could work — you just have to have someone in there who has a higher commitment to making it work.”

Pictured above: Stan Winston talks Rosengrant through an early raptor suit rehearsal for JURASSIC PARK.

Pictured above: Stan Winston goofs around during raptor suit rehearsal with John Rosengrant (inside suit).

Pictured above: John Rosengrant (inside suit) rehearses in the raptor suit. Latex 'test skins' replace the crude foam of the "garbage bag tests"

Pictured above: Fellow raptor performer, SWS concept designer Mark "Crash" McCreery wrestles with a raptor (John Rosengrant).

SHOOTING THE RAPTOR ‘KITCHEN ATTACK’

The first scene shot with Rosengrant in the suit was one in which a Raptor enters the open doorway of the kitchen where John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) grandchildren, Alexa (Ariana Richards) and her brother Tim (Joseph Mazzello) are hiding. The Raptor stands in the doorway, raises up on its hind legs, looks around, and hoots.

Pictured above: The high-heeled raptor feet extensions Rosengrant wore for JURASSIC PARK's raptor suit.

Pictured above: John Rosengrant prepares to suit up for a final raptor suit test at Stan Winston Studio.

Pictured above: John Rosengrant rehearses inside the final JURASSIC PARK raptor suit.

Pictured above: The rehearsal has paid off as John Rosengrant transforms into a raptor at Stan Winston Studio.

Pictured above: John Rosengrant (in suit) rears up, hooting for his fellow raptor to come join the hunt.

Pictured above: The "Kitchen Attack" scene in Jurassic Park combined practical raptor puppets, suits & digital imagery to create one of the most memorable sequences in film history.

“That was my first big scene," said Rosengrant, "and as I was getting ready to do it, it occurred to me that it was a big deal. I didn’t have stage fright, really, because I had rehearsed that moment over and over again. I’d practiced so much, I could have done it in my sleep. But suddenly, as I was about to do the scene, I realized that I had to be prepared to do whatever Steven asked of me, not just those specific moves. Fortunately, it all worked out fine. That was my
big starring moment — my fifteen seconds of fame!”

-Jody Duncan

Excerpted from THE WINSTON EFFECT: THE ART AND HISTORY OF STAN WINSTON STUDIO

To watch the NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN footage from the making of JURASSIC PARK, click on the video player at the top of the page!