It wasn't that the dinosaurs just looked real, it was that they were real, at least for a few moments in my mind. Reflecting back on this movie, I am convinced it was one of the three movies released in the 1990's that changed cinematic visual effects forever, the other two being James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgement Day and James Cameron's Titanic. (As I mentioned in the 2009 movie forecast, I'm hopeful that Cameron will once again deliver an unprecedented sight with Avatar; no, I will not watch a trailer.)
The visual effects in Jurassic Park were so awe-inspiring that they weren't even shown in the trailers - a strategy that studios would be wise to consider to help build word of mouth advertising these days. Interesting to consider, isn't it - a massive budget and not even a money shot to get people excited? In the teaser trailer you saw in late 1992, and in the theatrical trailer that whet your appetite prior to the film's June 1993 release, you didn't see a single dinosaur. Watch them below- just a glimpse of T-Rex's foot, a silhouette, snout and claw of a Velociraptor, the back of a Triceratops, and side view of the head of a Brontosaurus (or maybe it's a Brachiosaurus; my elementary school education is fading), but never a full-on dino shot. The theatrical version might have been the best trailer of the decade in that sense that it showed a lot of facial reactions, but no sense of what these characters were reacting to.
Sixteen years later it all looks fake, of course, but that's beside the point. The point is that I will never forget the experience in that theater of seeing dinosaurs for the first time. As I said, I didn't observe a similar reaction in a movie theater audience until the breathtaking sinking scene in Titanic (coincidentally another one profiled in this series). These days seeing a dinosaur on screen isn't awe-inspiring but yawn-inspiring, and that's if it makes any impression at all. For example, I know there were a bunch of dinosaurs in Land of the Lost last summer but I can barely remember them (I'm sure I could just watch the trailer and they would be on full display, because, you know, that's how it is with trailers these days).
Do you have any memories of seeing Jurassic Park in the theater? Was there a similar reaction from the audience? It's a little sad we can't be wowed by CGI and animation as much any more these days.
Welcome to Jurassic Park, indeed.