SKINNING THE BEAST
Beyond the groundbreaking design, sculpture, mold-making and mechanical steps required to create JURASSIC PARK's full-size animatronic T-rex, Stan Winston's team had to contend with finally SKINNING the mechanical beast - a huge challenge in and of itself. Watch this 2 Part Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes footage from the Stan Winston Studio Archive.
WATCH PART 1
WATCH PART 2
Narrated by Alan Scott and Lindsay MacGowan
SWS JP Dinosaur Team Members & Co-Founders of Legacy Effects
AN INNOVATIVE SPIRAL
First of all, due to the sheer size of the character, the SWS team had to adopt an innovative approach to creating the mechanical core. Alan Scott recalled developing the core structure for the necks and tails on the T-Rex and the Velociraptors, "When we were developing the core technology on this, everyone had traditionally been using rings to try and create cores that moved sequentially and we realized that it was going to be hard to organize all those and make them all work. While I was working on the Raptors, I came up with this idea of just cutting [the cores] in a continuous spiral so that it could expand and contract but never lose its shape."
Pictured Above: The exposed, spiral-cut neck core on the JP Velociraptor suit.
"It wouldn’t just fall apart with 40 different rings on it. They would all stay integrated," pointed out Scott. "So the tail and the neck for both the Raptors and the T-Rex were done as a spiral and then reinforced so that they didn’t become too weak, but that way we could keep the shape and the look of everything very continuously."
Pictured above: The spiral-cut T-rex core held the skin shape while still allowing freedom of movement.
FIXING GAPS AND PATCHING SKIN
The T-rex team also had to get creative when it came to making all the skin pieces work together when they didn't always fit perfectly. MacGowan recalled the shrinkage issues with the foam latex skins, "You can see there, on the tail, and it happened on the neck area too... foam actually shrinks quite a lot."
Pictured above: SWS mechanical designer, Evan Brainard, tests the T-Rex tail movement. Notice the yet-to-be-patched section of missing skin.
"[The T-rex skin] shrank quite considerably and we’d have to put like two or three foot sections of skin back in - basically re-sculpting areas with these patches," added MacGowan, in a nod of appreciation to the expert fabrication team who worked on the project at Stan Winston Studio.
Pictured above: SWS Fabricator, Marilyn Dozer-Chaney works on patching the gap in the T-Rex tail.
Alan Scott emphasized the high-stakes game the SWS crew was playing in bringing the T-rex to life, "Everything was so big. You couldn’t risk running [the latex skins] three and four times. It was gallons and gallons and gallons of foam so you only had one or two shots at it. But it’s a testament to the artistry too," marveled Scott, "to take this amazing sculpture and then cut 3 one-foot sections out of the middle of it and then have to re-fabricate it out of foam latex and patch it back in and make the lines work and the wrinkles work, make everything flow again even though you’ve cut a big piece out."
Pictured above: The T-Rex head skin loosely draped on the mechanical structure before final glue-down.
CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING
There was another problem to solve, according to Scott, "The sinew in the corner of the mouth was tricky, because [when T-rex] closed her mouth you didn’t want to have it bunching out... It needed to look like a thin membrane, but in reality it was six to eight inches thick. So they were very inventive with elastic inside of it so that it would want to collapse and then move to the inside of the mouth instead of the outside of the mouth."
Pictured above: SWS crew add an elastic membrane to the corner of the T-Rex's mouth.
THE THICK-SKINNED T-REX
"The skins were tremendously heavy, two inches thick in a lot of places, because we wanted to make sure that they didn’t give away the mechanisms inside," revealed Scott, "and that’s kind of the wonder of the fabrication and the coring of it because inside you’ve got hard mechanical moves. On the outside it needed to look like smooth, organic, realistic movement so a thicker skin always helps with that, but as we learned later on, a thicker skin takes on more water. So, finding the perfect amount of tension and stress on the skin that wouldn’t tear itself apart, but would still look organic was tricky on something of this scale."
Pictured Above: The fully-skinned and completed T-rex makes her debut on set.