In 1992, when I was in the middle of a booksigning in LA, a guy said came up to me and said, “Hey, if you’re not doing anything tonight, do you want to check out the set for Jurassic Park?”
His name, it turns out, was Mike Trcic, one of the hottest creature sculptors in the business. He worked at Stan Winston Studio and helped develop the look of the animatronic T.rex that attacks the car in the rainy night sequence.
When we arrived on set, the night crew was wielding blow driers on the inert dinosaur, trying to dry out the heavy water that the foam rubber skin had absorbed from the rain machines.
The T.rexes didn’t have legs. The bodies rested on sophisticated (and potentially dangerous) motion bases that could quickly move the upper body around. The feet were built as separate pieces used for close-ups. The digital effects get a lot of credit in Jurassic Park, but the animatronics were equally groundbreaking.
Some of the artists told me that they anticipated that much of the work they were doing would be superceded by CGI. As it turns out, animatronics have held their place in the industry, a necessity for close-ups and interactive shots.
Thanks, Mike! More about Trcic Studio.
Wiki on Stan Winston.
"How Stuff Works" about the Jurassic Park animatronics, link.
GJ post on interactivity.