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Stan Winston Studio – Jurassic Park: Not All Digital

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Stan Winston Studio - Jurassic Park: Not All DigitalThough the digital dinosaurs were a significant part of the appeal of the original Jurassic Park as that level of realism had never before been reached in cinema, many of the shots to feature dinosaurs were actually full-scale practical robotic creations, conceived and produced at Stan Winston Studio.

Two key artists at Stan Winston’s side from the early 1980s until his death in 2008 are Shane Mahan and John Rosengrant. Now, the pair of craftspeople is together in a new company called Legacy Effects, but 20 years ago, they were ready to release their most ambitious film to that point – Jurassic Park.

The team at Stan Winston Studio spent a year building all of the practical dinosaurs which would shoot live on the set of the film, directed by Steven Spielberg and photographed by Dean Cundey. After production wrapped, Industrial Light and Magic matched their computer-generated dinosaurs to SWS’ designs and emulated their movements which were all achieved during principal photography. In this exclusive interview with each man, they discuss how they created the dinosaurs and reflect on the project which is now being released in a new 3D version for the film’s 20th anniversary.

Shane Mahan

How did you first hear about Jurassic Park when you were working as an artistic director at Stan Winston Studios?

Mahan: “Jurassic Park” was first a weird term that didn’t mean what it means today. There was a galley of a Michael Crichton book that was unpublished. Someone had read and known about the book that was coming out. It was described as Westworld meets dinosaurs – robot replicas. Then, we got deeper into the process. An early draft of the book was submitted by someone to Stan. There was excitement about the potential development of this property. When we found out that it was an island with a mad genius who recreates flesh and blood dinosaurs from fossils, it became very exciting. Stan became aware and started to pursue it heavily. At the time, there wasn’t a huge digital component. There were rudimentary beginnings of CG, and stop/go-motion, and practical. Because we had done a large creature with the queen alien [from Aliens], Spielberg’s people came to us. Stan had missed the E.T. mark at some point in his career. We had done the Amazing Stories television show; Stan had always wanted to do something with [Spielberg]. It was a personal calling to Stan to fill what he didn’t get to be a part of – E.T. We pursued hard with Crash McCreery’s concept drawings, and we did some fifth scale sculptures just to prove what we could do. This was before there was an award of the show. Everything kind of fell into place.

Was Stan Winston Studio given the show based on the drawings and sculptures right away or did it take time?

SM: Stan was eventually awarded the full show. We had no idea in the world how to do it. But it’s key to be given the opportunity to figure it out. It had never been done to that scale til then. We studied everything possible that could be done – The Land that Time Forgot, Godzilla. John Rosengrant and Crash were in raptor costumes for some of the effects. The script wasn’t complete, but Steven knew exactly what dinosaurs in which sequence would be shot: the spitter, Brachiosaur, Gallimimus, etc. We were able to start doing designs and maquettes back and forth.

Did you build the dinosaurs well in advance because they were full-scale?

SM: We were building certain dinosaurs before the script was complete. The sequences would get fleshed out and we had storyboard meetings over what was real and what was animation. Phil Tippett was going to do go-motion animation. Phil was going to do his animation tests. The fifth scale rex was going to be a large size for certain shots. It was about that time that Dennis Muren at ILM did a walking test of a T-Rex that blew everybody away. Once the commitment was made to do the animation in that style, we decided which shots would be real, a physical shot, with a stationary dinosaur with the illusion of movement. The only dinosaur that didn’t have a digital component was the spitter. No animation on that one; sick triceratops was also just lying there, done purely with animatronics. The baby raptors that come out of the eggs were purely puppets.

Did ILM design any dinosaurs or did your studio originate their artistic appearance?

SM: We developed all the sculptures and physical looks of the dinosaurs. Stan Winston Studios created every species look. They were replicated by ILM. From Crash’s early work to the end of the work there is a transformation. It was a real backbreaker of large-scale things which are really phenomenal. The T-Rex development set the tone of what Crash would ultimately sketch. He was doing pencil sketches. No one was using Photoshop or ZBrush. Computer modeling programs – a whole global industry was created by Jurassic Park. It just sprung – pierced the veil of everything and the world changed after that film.

How long of a period did you have to create everything at SWS?

SM: It was a two-year process of construction and shooting. Avatar was the only other film that’s been longer. That’s been rare. Two years was luxurious. It still didn’t feel like enough time. Nothing had ever been done to that size and sophistication – hydraulic engineers and motion bases – and that was 20 years ago. There were people that we met that were specialists from the theme park arena – they had an understanding of physics and hydraulics. You couldn’t move something of that size without hydraulics. There was a large component of big rigs. Everything was built in-house. You outsource materials.

Were their different groups of people at SWS to create the various dinosaurs?

SM: At that point, we had divided up teams who worked on an aspect from start to finish. We supervised the teams. It was like the guys here at Legacy: myself, John, Alan Scott and Lindsay McGowan. I was in charge of the spitter and I went onto the T-Rex body portion artistically with Richard Landon and the mechanical team. Chris Swift was doing the raptors with Greg Figiel. Andy Schoneberg was doing the Brachiosaur on the art side. Shannon Shea was doing a baby triceratops. Joey Orosco did the sick triceratops. We were on our own course and those teams were on set to operate them. I was supposed to go on set for the T-Rex, but I missed out on operation and went back to finish the spitter – one of the last things to shoot. It was towards the end of the movie. I was in the studio sending it to set. There were repairs to do at night. I spent more time on set on the second film.

Where did you shoot the spitter towards the end of production?

SM: At Universal on Stage 27 in the water tank stage for eight days of shooting for the spitter. Spielberg cut a bunch of stuff just to end it – the end of a long grueling show. He was ready to go to Poland to do Schindler’s List. Sequences were cut out.

Was there a sense that you were breaking new ground by mixing your animatronic characters with the computer-generated animation?

SM: There was no contingency to fail. Everybody worked really hard to get the animation correct. It was a new application for what [ILM] were doing. A lot of care went into the movement they way things were animated.

How do you feel about the mixing of those techniques now, 20 years later?

SM: People will be really shocked at how visceral both techniques work together onscreen. I was pleasantly surprised at how great and alive the animatronic dinosaurs feel. The digital sequences were groundbreaking. The T-Rex attack scene is one of the best things done as a whole scene – it’s scary and I could watch that over and over again. I hope it’s well received 20 years later and that 3D adds an element.

In the end, isn’t it true that the dinosaurs are not ultimately on screen very much for how big of a statement that film made?

SM: If you were to add up all the dinosaur shots – there are only 14 minutes of dinosaurs in the movie. The proportion of live action to animation was 70-30. Today it would be sadly enough 97% animation and a mere 3% of animatronics. Steven was very well prepared and knew how to shoot things, and shot the shots and it was done. The budget was $65 million for the whole movie. Back then, it seemed huge. Now, that’s a medium-level film. It was one of Stan’s proudest moments. It never got any better for him.

John Rosengrant

How did you first come into the project, as you were one of Stan’s key operatives at the time?

John Rosengrant: I was running point. It was exciting when Stan came down and gathered the key guys and told us that we were starting to work on Jurassic Park. As kids, we were huge dinosaur fans. It was super exciting. Everybody wanted to get involved on every level. I helped oversee all of them, but my involvement became heavy in the raptors as I wore a raptor suit. I didn’t have much to do with the spitter character – Shane was that guy.

Did you feel as though you had adequate prep time to create those characters?

JR: We had a year to build everything. Now, we’re lucky to get four months. Back then, it was quite the prep. All of that prep made it such a groundbreaking movie. It was planned well. It was an amazing experience. What we were doing animatronic-wise was quite amazing. Stan got called into the part because of the queen alien who was pretty large, but it didn’t really prepare us for the bigger characters. A whole new method had to be created.

How did you develop the size and movement of these huge characters?

JR: The T-Rex can go from zero to 60 in a millisecond and stop on a dime. When you are creating big animatronic characters, that’s a problem. It comes to a stop and shakes or misses it’s mark – it’s not precise. We had to write programs in the computer-control system of these hydraulic dinosaurs to stop on a dime and not wiggle. It was a 36-foot long T-Rex 18-feet tall on a motion base. We had to raise the roof because he was too tall. It was a 20-foot ceiling so it ended up going up quite a few more feet to have space when we sculpted him in clay. Today, what we would do and what we did on Jurassic Park III when we created the Spinosaur, we would sculpt it digitally, mill it out in a big foam, and put it together on blocks of foam and detail it. The technology has gotten much better.

How did that motion base give the T-Rex all of his movement capabilities?

JR: We repurposed an aircraft motion base to fit our needs. We built a telemetry device to control the T-Rex. It was a mechanical bone structure representation in 1/5 scale. He was still almost six-feet long. One person was in control of the tail, another the midsection and hips and another guy in the head-neck area. Someone was wearing a telemetry suit to control the T-Rex arms with his own arms. This information is being translated to this hydraulically controlled T-Rex in real time. We really had a very organic control over this puppet – this giant puppet.

Did every bit of dinosaur work occur in the SWS building on Valjean in Van Nuys?

JR: It was all done in the Valjean and Hart Street building which piggybacked into the Valjean building – it all felt like one – every inch of that place was covered in some type of dinosaur – sick triceratops, spitter, raptor, a section of the Brachiosaur and other models in various scales that were going to be scanned in by ILM which would serve as the prototype. They would be scanned in and tuned up. The technology has come a long way but is the foundation for the way things are done today. The CG stuff was a gigantic game changer. Even the way we were making molds: we cured parts in the oven that couldn’t warp. We tried different molding materials and epoxies with syntactic backing so that they could be lightweight. Fiberglass molds can warp and there are inherent dangers there.

Of all the characters, was the T-Rex the clear “hero” dinosaur for the show?

JR: The T-Rex had a huge influence. A year before we were designing, that was the marching order – to be the most realistic dinosaurs that had ever been onscreen and incorporate the paleontology information. The T-Rex wasn’t upright and dragging his tail. We didn’t want to stray from what science is. The raptor is based on a velociraptor. Those animals were smaller than the ones we were putting in the movie. Oddly enough, life imitates art, but they found right before or during Jurassic Park that was dubbed the Utah raptor which was the same size as the one in Jurassic Park. We tried to make them as real as possible. The dilophosaur was a bigger animal than what we actually made but his anatomy was true to what it really was. It was based on what the real thing was. Like any of these animals, they could be any size. The T-Rex was a moderate size one.

How do you feel about your work on the film now, 20 years onward?

JR: I was very proud and it holds up. I have no worries that it will look sharp in 3D. I did the press day a year ago when it came out on Blu-ray. I watched it again and relived the experience. I’m very proud of that work. It holds up and is one of the amazing things that I’ve been involved with. My son was born and one of the nurses found out and was flooding me with questions. That was all you hear people talking about around you. It was a game-changer in pop culture.

Jurassic Park 3D

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New Insidious: The Last Key Trailer Speaks Softly But Carries a Big Whistle

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The last word we brought you guys on the fourth installment in the Insidious franchise was when we let you know the new film had snagged a PG-13 rating from the MPAA for “disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, and brief strong language”.

Today we have a new trailer/TV spot for Insidious: The Last Key, and if you aren’t already on board for a fourth round of spooky shite courtesy of screenwriter Leigh Whannel, maybe this quick trailer will do the trick.

You can check out the new trailer below; then let us know how excited you are for Insidious: The Last Key!

I’m digging what I’ve seen from the new film thus far, and this new trailer only strengthens that. Plus I’m excited to see what director Adam Robitel can do with this series after his fucking terrifying previous film The Taking of Deborah Logan.

The film is directed by Adam Robitel from a script by Leigh Whannell and stars Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard, Kirk Acevedo, Javier Botet, Bruce Davison, Spencer Locke, Tessa Ferrer, Ava Kolker, and Marcus Henderson.

Insidious: The Last Key hits theaters January 5, 2018.

Synopsis:

Parapsychologist Elise Rainier and her team travel to Five Keys, N.M., to investigate a man’s claim of a haunting. Terror soon strikes when Rainier realizes that the house he lives in was her family’s old home.

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Luke Genton’s The Bone Box Trailer Proves Not All Graves Are Quiet

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Sometimes a fright flick comes along that sells me on the logline itself. And writer-director Luke Genton’s upcoming supernatural horror movie The Bone Box has just such a premise.

The film follows the story of a grave robber who comes to believe he’s being haunted by those he stole from. And if that premise doesn’t sell you on at least checking out the film’s trailer, I don’t know what to do for you.

Speaking of the trailer, you can check it out below. Then let us know what you think below!

The film stars Gareth Koorzen (The Black That Follows), Michelle Krusiec (The Invitation), and Maria Olsen (Starry Eyes), Jamie Bernadette (I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu), David Chokachi (Baywatch), Aaron Schwartz (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), and Tess Bellomo (Liked).

Look for updates on Facebook HERE and the Director’s Instagram: @lukegenton.

The Bone Box is currently in post-production. It is scheduled to be completed by November 2017 and is seeking distribution.

Synopsis:

Depressed and reeling from the recent death of his wife, Tom (Koorzen) has built up quite a gambling debt. He goes to stay with his wealthy Aunt Florence (Olsen) in hopes that she will write him into her will. When a nasty creditor makes it clear that Tom is out of time, he devises a plan with Elodie (Krusiec), the undertaker’s daughter, to rob the graves of the rich townspeople buried in the cemetery across the road. After plundering the graves, Tom begins hearing and seeing strange things that seem to coincide with the deaths of the people he robbed. Even more disconcerting… he appears to be the only one sensing the occurrences. One question lingers: Is Tom’s conscience playing a trick on him… or is he really being haunted by those he stole from?

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H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game, Overview and Review – Last Meeple Standing

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Yeah, I know. I’ve said it before, and I will scream it to the heavens again: There is an abysmal glut of Lovecraft Mythos games out there (and still streaming into the market). For a while there, it was vampire games (wanna take a sparkly guess why?). Then, it was zombie games (only Robert Kirkman knows why). Now it is Lovecraft games, and it is a LOT of them. Shambling, fish-headed masses of them, weighing down the game shop shelves like heavily laden buckets of freshly shorn tentacles (calm down, hentai fans). It’s true, and a lot of them seem to be sad doppelgangers of other games, just skinned with a rotting coat of Elder God goo.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

For that reason, it is nice to run across a Lovecraft-themed game that is GOOD. H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game is one of those… it’s good, but it’s not great (for ONE painful reason). But, for our nefarious purposes today, that’s good enough. The stars are PARTIALLY in alignment. There is one little detail to get out of the way before we wade into the spawn-infested miasma of this game: it is the hellish offspring of an earlier, more complex game called (you guessed it) H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival the board game. Much has been said about the relationship between these two games and many comparisons have been made, but since I neither own the board game nor have I played it, let’s leave it to fester in cold, barren space all by its lonesome for now. I’m sure its time will come…when the stars are right (rolling his eyes).

COMPONENTS:
It is RARE (like fresh Deep One filets) that the components of a game are as nice as the gameplay, but there are two elements of Kingsport Festival: TCG that really make it shine. The first is the titular cards that make up the bulk of the game. The artwork on the tarot-sized cards depicting the various gods, lesser gods, demons, and evil corgis (I kid) from the Mythos is dark and shows off the creatures to good/evil effect. I have to admit that these are some of my favorite depictions of the creatures from Lovecraft’s mind I’ve seen. They really look threatening here. The portraits on the cards presenting the investigators/evil cultists look dignified, a little creepy, and mysterious, as is only right for nogoodniks taking on Cthulhu’s worst. The graphic design is really classy with easily interpreted iconography and border artwork. Equal care has been taken with the backs of the cards, which have appropriately aged and Victorian elements. The only parts to this game are the cards and the dice. Wait, this is a card game, right?

Well, yes and no.

Although cards make up the lion’s share of the game, there is a heavy dice aspect as well, and these are some NICE dice. I’m a SUCKER for custom dice, and Kingsport Festival: TCG comes loaded with them. There are three types of dice: a white d10 with a clock icon on one face, brain-pink (a nice touch) d12 dice representing the player’s sanity with a Sanity icon on one face, and grey Domain d6 dice with three types of domain faces: purple Evil, black Death, and red Destruction. All of the dice are high-quality and engraved, not printed, with easily recognizable faces for ease of play and match up nicely with the icons on the game’s cards. Squee! Wonderfully evil custom dice!

SETUP:
Set up is pretty basic. All of the cards depicting the horrid gods are displayed in order of their power in six rows within reach of all of the players. The total number of copies of each type of god card is dictated by how many people are playing, so the number varies. Each player gets one of the brain-ilicious d12s with which to track their sanity and sets it to 10. All players white timer die, with the high roller taking the role of the starting player. Then each player sets their Sanity die to 10 (yes, the value can be increased up to 12 through game effects. That player takes the white d10 and sets it to the clock face. Players can pick an investigator card, but I suggest dealing them out at random to each player to liven things up (before they get driven insane, of course).

GAMEPLAY:
Gameplay is equally simple, yet strangely engaging. The first player takes the white timer d10, passes it to the next player to their left, who turns it to the number 1, effectively creating a timer that will count up from 1 to 10, ending the game. That player becomes the starting player. Once the white die is passed, the passing player increases their Sanity by one, as will be the mechanic throughout the rest of the game.

At the start of a game, the players will have no cards in their hands. They acquire them throughout the game, but we’ll talk about a general turn. The starting player rolls one of the domain dice and notes the resultant face. If they have cards to play, now is when they would play them. The card effects are varied. They might instruct the player to roll more dice, add specified domains to their pool of domains, change rolled die faces, etc. There are many possibilities. After the player has played all the cards they wish to and resolved the card effects, the player may spend the resources/domains gained through the dice they’ve rolled and the cards they have played to buy ONE god from the displayed cards and add it to their hand. It should be noted that players are limited to one and only one copy of each available god.

Once the player has completed their turn, they check to see if the round indicator on the white d10 matches one of the Raid rounds shown on the investigator card at the very bottom. If the numbers match, the player must compare the Gun icons on his cards to the strength of the raid indicated on his character card. If the Cultist’s strength is greater, he gains the difference in Sanity points. If the Cultist’s strength matches the Raid strength, they neither gain nor lose Sanity. If the Cultist’s strength is less than the Raid strength, they lose the difference in Sanity points. After this, the next player to the left will take their turn.

WINNING:
The game ends at the end of the ninth round, unless a Cultist is able to invoke the Elder God Azathoth, which results in dogs and cats sleeping together (no, not really). The cultists look at all of their god cards and add up the Elder God symbols at the bottom of each card. The Cultist with the most Elder God symbols/points at the end of the game WINS!

FINAL THOUGHTS:
So, there you have it: an epic battle between creepy Cultists and ghoulish Gods in one rather small box. I’ll get to the point. I really like H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game. I happen to be fond of little filler games like this. The box lists the playtime for this game as 30 min, but once the players know the rules, you can cut playtime down to 20 min, easy. It lists the age limit at 13+, which I think is absurd. There is nothing in the theme or artwork that would preclude players 10 and up from playing, other than rule complexity. Between the awesome art, the devilish dice, and the rad rules (ugh…), there is not much to dislike about this game… other than the hellish rules. You may be asking what I mean. The rules seem easy. They ARE. It’s the rulebook that is a pain in the neck. For some reason, the graphic designer (I’m looking at you, Savini -no, not Tom-) decided to print all of the rule examples in the book in a nearly unreadable “old-timey” font that is TINY. I think they thought they were adding flavor. If so, that flavor is YUCKY. When learning a new game, you want crystal-clear rules, not something you have to squint and struggle over, like this sad, arcane tome. The same hellish font appears on the cards in places, as well, making me one unhappy game collector. You may look past it, but I had a hard time doing so. Other than that, though, the game is great fun, a nice way to fill in time between bigger games, and beautiful to look at. You make your own judgement.

PRODUCT DETAILS:
Designer: Gianluca Santopietro
Artist: Maichol Quinto and Demis Savini
Publisher: Passport Games/ Giochi Uniti
Published: 2016
Players/Playtime/Age Rating: 3 -5 players/30 min/13+ (seriously?)

RATING:
3/5


Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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