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JURASSIC PARK's Spitter - Building the animatronic Dilophosaurus dinosaur puppet

JURASSIC PARK's Spitter - Building the animatronic Dilophosaurus dinosaur puppet

BRINGING JP'S SPITTER TO LIFE

An interview with Mechanical FX Designer Rick Galinson

Click on the player above to watch the JURASSIC PARK behind-the-scenes video 

WHO WANTS TO WORK ON THE SPITTER?

I remember when we finished BATMAN RETURNS [at Stan Winston Studio] we sat in a room. They called us in because we knew we had JURASSIC PARK and all the mechanics came in to be assigned characters and they said, “Okay, well, who’s read the book?”, and we all pretty much had. “Well, who wants to work on the T-Rex?” and a bunch of people raised their hands and they wrote their names down. “Who wants to work on the Triceratops?” People raised their hands. “Who wants to work on the Spitter?”

Pictured above: Concept designs for the Spitter by SWS concept artist Mark "Crash" McCreery.

GREEN MECHANIC - GREEN DINOSAUR

Well, I had just been in this industry maybe a year, very green, very naïve to a lot of the techniques we’d be using and I raised my hand thinking I was going to be the assistant mechanic to Richard Landon or one of the guys who had been there for a long time.

Pictured above: JURASSIC PARK's Spitter mechanical designer, Rick Galinson, at SWS.

SCARED TO DEATH

Well, I was the only person who raised my hand [for the Spitter job] so they wrote my name down and that was it. That was how quickly the decisions were made, that this is your character, you’re fully responsible for it, go ahead and build it. I kept quiet and I was scared to death, but I didn’t know how much I had bitten off here. If they knew how little I knew, they would never have given me the assignment, but it turned out well. I was a fast learner, watched the other guys build things and took cues from them and it turned out great.

THE COOLEST TONGUE

This was one of the coolest tongues I’ve ever done. It’s a two-stage tentacle mechanism and the third section was the base of it which would also rotate up and down. So, the tongue would go left and right, up and down, each section of the tongue. And then underneath are those two giant holes which led to tubing running down through the neck of the [Spitter] and that’s where we pumped the high pressure air which would spit [the venom] out of its mouth.

Pictured above: The Spitter's 2-stage tongue mechanism allowed for a wide-range of organic movement. 

SPITTING VENOM - HUMIDITY HURTS

We used a paintball mechanism to get the Spitter to actually spit its venom out at Nedry (Wayne Knight). I believe the spit was made out of methacyl and K-Y® Jelly with some food coloring mixed in and it would actually spit from the mouth of the dinosaur. It wasn’t a trick. At Stan Winston Studio, when we practiced it, there was no moisture in the air to speak of, and so compressed air shooting out of the mouth looked like nothing. It was invisible. Looked great. But when we got on the stage and there was rain and water everywhere, high humidity, as the compressed air came out, it became a cloud, and it gave away the gag.

FINE-TUNING THE PERFORMANCE

We spent a lot of time practicing discrete moves, controlling the arm movements, fingers, tail and head. It’s important to fine-tune the performance and not just move back and forth really quickly to see that it can actually move, but to be able to follow another character around, to make eye contact with somebody to size them up. 

Pictured above: SWS dinosaur mechanics Rick Galinson (hands only), Rich Haugen and Craig Caton-Largent puppeteer the animatronic Spitter puppet.

Pictured above: Steven Spielberg, Stan Winston, Michael Lantieri and Colin Wilson review the JURASSIC PARK spitter puppet's progress at Stan Winston Studio.

Pictured above: JURASSIC PARK Spitter "hopping rig" rehearsal at SWS, with Rick Galinson, Shane Mahan and Mark Jurinko.

THE SPITTER "HOPPING RIG"

We had to do a lot of practice with Shane Mahan carrying the weight of the creature. [SWS artist] Mark Jurinko is in the back holding the cables coming out the back of the rig. Those cables would go to controllers and would have to travel with the Spitter as she walks across the scene. The leg mechanisms had a lot of free movement in the hip, knee, ankle. Shane would operate them with the handles on the bottom so he can make the left and right legs move as he wants to while he actually takes a step with his body. The Spitter would have the same gait as the puppeteer below. We had some issues with momentum and inertia as the creature tried to walk - as the mass of the Spitter moved left and right - it kind of torqued the puppeteer down below a little bit and could tip him over if we wasn't careful.

THE SPITTER MAKES HER DEBUT

There was a trench in the floor of the set for the Spitter and Shane would walk underneath the set supporting the creature and then the rest of us would be upstairs operating the hands, and the tail, and the head movements.

Pictured above: SWS dinosaur mechanic Alan Scott adjusts the Spitter on the set of JURASSIC PARK.

Pictured above: JURASSIC PARK's Spitter waits on its track while her head is switched out.

AN EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME

The Spitter was my favorite character to date. Working on JURASSIC PARK at Stan Winston Studio was the experience of a lifetime. I couldn’t have gotten a luckier break. The film was fantastic. The people we worked with were great, and this is one of those films that will last forever. I hope you’ve enjoyed this exclusive look behind the scenes.

- Rick Galinson

To watch the Spitter behind-the-scenes video, simply CLICK on the player at the top of the page.

 

More JURASSIC PARK Behind-the-Scenes Stuff from SWSCA:

JURASSIC PARK's Dilophosaurus (aka Spitter) Attacks Nedry

JURASSIC PARK - The Evolution of a Raptor Suit

JURASSIC PARK's T-REX - Sculpting a Full-Size Dinosaur

 

Related Lessons:

MAKE A DINOSAUR: T-Rex Foam Fabrication Part 1

MAKE A DINOSAUR: T-Rex Foam Fabrication Part 2

CABLE MECHANISM BASICS - Tentacles

HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER PUPPET - Rod & Cables

GARAGE MONSTERS 2 - Creating a Creature Puppet