Behind The Scenes

JURASSIC PARK TRICERATOPS - Puppeteering an Animatronic Dinosaur

Creating Jurassic Park's Triceratops. Behind-the-scenes footage showing the animatronic techniques and rehearsal process behind JP's sick dino.

Apr 16, 2013

Featuring JURASSIC PARK Triceratops Team Members Al Souza and Shannon Shea


To bring to life JURASSIC PARK’s sick Triceratops, Stan Winston Studio designed and built a full-size puppet that performed alongside the actors on location in Hawaii. SWS Triceratops mechanical designer, Al Sousa, recalled the mech design process: “We built a small-scale version of the character before the full-scale so we could show Stan how everything was going to work. The breathing mechanism was basically a post underneath that pushed a lever up and down [to move] the skin up and down… the tail mechanism had movement from side to side and also up and down.
 There were no hydraulics in this character. It was all just mechanical.”




Pictured above: SWS Triceratops mechanic, Al Sousa, puppeteers the small-scale prototype.


Since the Triceratops was the first dinosaur on the shooting schedule and was the only one that would be shot on location in Hawaii, “We had to have it ready a month before they wanted to shoot it, to give it time [to be shipped via boat]," recalled Sousa.

Pictured above: SWS dino team members Paul Mejias, Al Sousa & Rob Ramsdell load the Triceratops for her journey to Hawaii.


When the SWS Triceratops team finally made it to Hawaii they immediately began setting up the dinosaur puppet for its big debut. “They dug [a big hole] in the ground with a platform over the top, so that all the puppeteers could be underneath… The only one that was outside was the guy doing the eyes with the remote control,” explained Sousa. “Everyone else was underground working the breathing mechanism, working the mouth, and the tongue. Working the forearms and the legs. Those were all cable controlled.”

Pictured above: SWS Triceratops team member Paul Mejias checks the RC eye movement on the giant puppet.


“We set up a camera and had a monitor underneath in our little pit down there. Stan was kind of conducting us like an orchestra… He was really, really about smooth movements in your performance. He didn’t want any of what he called 'herky jerky' movements,” said Sousa.

Shannon Shea elaborated on Winston's direction, “What Stan really wanted to do was to coordinate the movements to make this Triceratops look sick… He wanted to coordinate the mouth movement, the tongue movement, with the rising and falling of the chest. Really slow and deliberate. The dinosaur has been drugged, you know?”

Pictured above: The sick Triceratops rests in the shade before her JURASSIC PARK debut.


Shannon Shea recalled his fun if unglamourous task on the day of shooting, “While most of the guys were in the pit moving the dinosaur around, I was outside. The radio controls [for the eyes] were handed off to me because I was responsible for doing all of the cosmetics on the dinosaur for the shoot. I had to do all of the pus and the spit and the rheumy eyes and all that stuff. In fact when Laura Dern pops the microvesicle on the tongue, that was a little gag that I figured out. I was actually running in with a syringe and refilling the cavity.”

Pictured above: Stan Winston, Steven Spielberg and Shannon Shea discuss the scene before the (human) actors arrive on set.


“I remember when the actors first showed up,” recalled Sousa. “Laura Dern saw [the Triceratops] and saw it moving. I just remember the look on her face like, ‘Wow, this thing really looks like it’s alive.’ That was really something. I think that helped her performance. Like she was helping this…living thing.

Pictured above: Surrounded by set dressing, final artistic touches complete, the Triceratops gets into character for her unforgettable scene with the cast of JURASSIC PARK.


Al Sousa counts his time on JURASSIC PARK as a career highlight. “At the time, I think we all knew that this was going to be something really big and spectacular… I don’t think I realized HOW big,” said Sousa, adding, “I felt like I was really privileged to be a part of it.” 

And for Shannon Shea, working on JURASSIC PARK was a boyhood dream come true. “The really wonderful thing about working on JURASSIC PARK and being involved with a film like this, is that I was and still am a lifelong dinosaur fanatic,” said Shea. “I’ve been a fan of dinosaurs since I was three years old and saw the original KING KONG. While we were test puppeteering all these dinosaurs, the sculptor of the T-rex, Mike Trcic, turned to me - he also was a lifelong dinosaur fan - and he said, ‘We get to play with the greatest dinosaur toys ever made.’ Seriously, no truer words were ever spoken.”

Pictured above: (left to right) Joey Orosco, Paul Mejias, Shannon Shea, Steven Spielberg, Sam Neill, Stan Winston, Dave Grasso, Al Sousa, Joe Reader.

To Watch the Never-Before-Seen JURASSIC PARK Triceratops video, simply CLICK on the player at the top of the page.


More JURASSIC PARK behind-the-scenes from Stan Winston School:

JURASSIC PARK T-REX - Sculpting a Full-Size Dinosaur

JURASSIC PARK T-REX - Building an Animatronic Dinosaur

JURASSIC PARK - Animatronic T-Rex Rehearsal - On Set with Stan Winston

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

JURASSIC PARK Spitter - Building the Animatronic Dilophosaurus Dinosaur Puppet

JURASSIC PARK Brachiosaurus - Animatronic Puppet Chewing Test