Universal Studios Hollywood
Jurassic Park: The Ride (1996 - present)
The ultimate chance to "Ride the Movies" - Jurassic Park: The Ride started out as a book by Michael Crichton. It became a movie, featuring a theme park called Jurassic Park. During the pre-production of the movie, work started on the most faithful translation of movie to theme park ride ever.
The Jurassic Park
River Adventure (as it was originally known) first set sail Summer 1996 at a cost
of $110 million. It remains the most expensive amusement
ride of all time, and actually cost twice as much
as Jurassic Park the movie.
Design and development work on the ride first began in November 1990 – six years before the ride was opened, and incredibly over three years before the movie Jurassic Park was released (1993). Landmark Entertainment started work on the project in early 1991. Although a River ride features in the book Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, it was cut from the film during production. By this point, the decision had been taken to use a water-based ride at Universal Studios, so it went ahead, and the River Adventure had to wait until the third movie in the series.
Length of ride: 5.5 minutes
Ride vehicles: Sixteen 25-passenger free-floating boats which are the largest amusement ride watercraft ever built.
Riders per hour: 3,000
Time interval between dispatches of each boat: 30 seconds (at peak capacity)
Volume of water making up the river: 1.4 million gallons
Number of ride “scenes”: 12
Minimum height to ride: 46 inches
After winding along a path through the dense jungle landscaping (where a park attendant may stop you if you appear to be under the 46” required to ride) you will arrive at the main queue area. Here, your host Connie introduces John Hammond (portrayed by Sir Richard Attenborough, as in the films) who proudly welcomes you to Jurassic Park. Steven Spielberg makes a cameo appearance in the preshow video.
The whole ride experience is structured into 12 distinct “scenes”.
The ride begins peacefully enough. You climb onboard the boat – 5 rows of 5 people. The first signal that this may not be all plain sailing is the heavy restraining bar you have to pull down. I’m sure this is just a precaution though…
Once the boat leaves the dock, it’s lifted up a ramp by a conveyor belt ("lift one"), and then gently released into the waters of the Jurassic Park river.
“Time, the ever-flowing river…. Come with us now to a time before man… when the river flowed through a new-born world... and giants walked the earth… welcome to Jurassic Park”
The narration welcomes us warmly, and as John William’s music swells, the huge wooden gates in front of us open and, through the mist, we catch our first glimpse of the beasts.
3 - Ultrasaur Lagoon
The whole area is bathed in a swirling mist out of which a Ultrasaur lifts its head up so that it towers above the raft, gazing over the Jurassic Park jungle surrounding the river. “The Ultrasaurs in this lagoon are the largest creatures to ever live on the earth. Despite their awesome these gentle giants pose no threat ”
A baby Ultrasaur quizzically rears it’s head and squirts water from it’s eyes. It’s a thrilling opening to the adventure. A pair of psittacosaurases are foraging on the rocks.
We pass under a misty rocky outcrop into…
4 – Stegosaur Springs
“Ahead in Stegosaur Springs our journey continues. Heavy armour-plating protects these great beasts from savage predators of the period.”
Geysers erupt showering the raft with droplets of water as a stegosaur stares at the raft. Another larger stegosaur paddles the water in the river with it’s tail as we pass.
5 – Hadrosaur Cove
A pair of compys playfully tear at a Universal Studios popcorn box as the narration guarantees the strict control of the dino diets.
"Jurassic Park scientists provide our animal friends with a strictly controlled diet".
This contradiction doesn’t seem to be causing any problems until the bottom of the boat is knocked by a Parasaur lurching out of the water, sending the raft off course into uncharted waters.
6 – Carnivore Canyon
“Station 6 to dispatch.. the boat is off course!!”
The raft doesn’t even make it as far as Carnivore Canyon – we head into the “backstage” area, where we can see the rear of the rocky formations for what it actually is – a movie set. "Unauthorised entry!"
The velociraptor compound seems strangely peaceful except for the arcing of a shredded electric fence that isn’t much protection any more. Signs of destruction are all around.
7 – Abandoned boat
A spitter pops up after snacking on what looks like the passengers of the last boat to pass this point. A water bottle and a golden Mickey Mouse cap (in celebration of Disneyland's 50th Anniversary) lies abandoned in teh water.
8 – Jeep fall & spitters
A metallic screech attracts our attention to the top of the building overlooking the boat's path. A jeep is teetering on the very edge of the building. It looks as though it's about to fall on us.
With a massive roar and showers of sparks the jeep finally falls over the edge of the building and lands in the water with it's horn blasting. A wave of water splashes those on the right of the boat.
Just as we think we're out of trouble, two more spitters attack, one from each side.
9 – Evacuation
"Oh God, Ladies and Gentlemen we are going to attempt to evacuate you on the level platform ahead. Please remain seated!". The boat is heading up a steep ramp (lift two) as red warning lights flash. A series of metallic bangs heralds the arrival of a raptor which springs up at the left of the boat from the underside of the ramp.
Just at the top of the ramp, another raptor bursts through the ceiling.
10 - Pipes burst overhead & T Rex attacks
At the top of the ramp we plunge into darkness briefly. Warning sirens and flashing lights signal that we're not out of the woods yet. "Attention - This is an emergency. Toxic gases are present in this area. Life support failure is imminent. Evacuate Immediately!"
A roar from overhead means only one thing - there's a T Rex on the roof - he smashes through the ceiling as sparks fly and overhead pipes crumple under the pressure.
11 “Life Support Systems will terminate in 15 seconds…
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1”
Ahead, a waterfall cascades from the roof of the power station. All around, flashing lights warn of the impending shutdown. The control desk has been abandoned some time ago. An emergency announcement counts down from 10 to 1 as the boat approaches the waterfall. With an eardrum-shattering roar, a massive T Rex lunges forward towards the boat from behind the waterfall.
Scene 12 – T Rex Attack - finale
as the T Rex lunges forward from behind a waterfall
to attack the raft, the vessel lurches forward and
down 84 feet in pitch blackness straight into the
lagoon at the base of the Jurassic Park building
with an almighty splash. The raft slows down and
as we round the corner towards the unload dock we
hear an announcement:
“This concludes your tranquil journey through the world of the dinosaurs. Please join us again soon on your next visit to Universal Studios Hollywood”
Video and Audio Clips
Official promotional video (1996)
The 16 dinosaurs that populate the Jurassic Park world are a massive part of the ride's success. All were designed and built by Sarcos in their facility in Utah before being painstakingly installed in the ride environment at Universal.
- 1) ULTRASAUR 1 - as tall as a five storey building (50 feet)
- 2) ULTRASAUR 2 - Baby
- 3) PSITTACOSAURUS 1 - on rocks
- 4) PSITTACOSAURUS 2 - on rocks
- 5) STEGOSAURUS 1 - 18 feet tall, 40 feet nose to tail. Paddling tail in the water. [April 2010 - this dinosaur has been removed from the attraction, hpefully for reskinning]
- 6) STEGOSAURUS 2- Baby
- 7) COMPY - fighting over popcorn box
- 8) COMPY - fighting over popcorn box
- 9) PARASAUROLOPHUS lurches out of the water knocking the boat off course.
[The Parasaur now has a degree of head movement (2010) and tilts up out of the water rather than lifting vertically, presumably putting less stress on the mechanism. Previous versions only moved up and down out of the water. The original Parasaur had mouth and head movement, but was one of the victims of the negative interaction between water and animatronics!
- 10) DILOPHOSAURUS (spitter) in the boat
- 11) DILOPHOSAURUS (spitter) on the left
- 12) DILOPHOSAURUS (spitter) on the right
- 13) VELOCIRAPTOR to the left of the lift
- 14) VELOCIRAPTOR through the ceiling
- 15) TYRANNOSAURUS REX through the ceiling
- 16) TYRANNOSAURUS REX - Final plunge - 20 feet tall
Soon after opening back in 1996, many problems developed with the animatronics due to the constant soaking they received. Although many of the dinosaur figures were designed to be fully immersed in water, the mechanisms did not cope too well, and some figures had to be rebuilt to a higher specification or simplified to reduce the complexity of movement. Even now, the dinosaurs require regular attention and are reskinned on occasion. The latest round of work was completed in February 2007.
Construction, History and Development of the Ride
1990 - Jurassic Park published in hardcover by Michael Crichton
1991 - Landmark Entertainment begins prework on the ride
1992 - 24 August to 30 November - Principal Photography on Jurassic Park (the movie)
1993 - 13 June - Jurassic Park the movie opens.
1994 - Landmark Entertainment shoots the ride pre-show footage starring Richard Attenborough and with a cameo appearance by Steven Spielberg.
1995 - Landmark Entertainment begins work on the soundtrack production
1996 - June 21 - Jurassic Park: The Ride opens at Universal Studios, Hollywood. Steven Spielberg and Jeff Goldblum were at the opening ceremony.
1996 - 4 September to 20 December - Principal Photography on The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
1997 - May - The Lost World: Jurassic Park opens. The second film in the Jurassic Park series.
2000 - 30 August to January - Principal Photography on Jurassic Park III.
2001 - July - Jurassic Park III is released, and to celebrate...
2001 - July - Jurassic Park III Summer Splash - additional 240,000 gallons of water make the attraction wetter than ever before - a 20% increase in water volume, to celebrate the release of Jurassic Park III.
2003 - The final splashdown is made adjustable to enable the amount of splash to be varied according to weather conditions.
2006 - A short refurbishment closure to re-skin the dinosaurs and introduce a few enhancements.
2007 - A new 'Wetter than Ever' experience as 60 feet high water geysers ensure a good soaking for all riders after the final splashdown. An additional dilosophaurus has been added to the final curve before the boat returns to the station. Also, a more efficient water system has been added to the queue line to ensure adventurers stay cool.
Photo courtesy of Scott at AmityIsland.net
2014 - Jurassic Park IV
Construction Photo Gallery
Opening Ceremony (1996)
1996 - June 21 - Jurassic Park: The Ride opens at Universal Studios, Hollywood. Steven Spielberg and Jeff Goldblum were at the opening ceremony.
Steven Spielberg signed his name in cement to commemorate the occasion (see below).
Article about the opening ceremony from 1996 (CNN)
"I had the idea to do a ride even before we shot the movie," producer Spielberg explained. "Universal trusted us and they said OK. And 18 months before the film was in release, the ride was already on the drawing board." In fact, some of the ride's drawing boards were props in scenes in the movie. Since the movie was the biggest ticket seller in film history, making the ride was never a controversial decision. As Phil Hettema of Universal Studios Hollywood's attraction development department said, "Deciding to do 'Jurassic Park: the Ride' was, as they say, a no-brainer. We knew everybody would want to see this come to life.
"But, making it come to life really was the challenge. When Steven Spielberg made the movie, he kind of raised the bar on what people expect."
The reproductions of creatures seen in the movie were only one of the hurdles to creating a theme park that meets Universal criteria. "You have to understand that these are full-size animals," Spielberg said of the park's creatures. The movie was able to cheat a little by using computer-generated images, which gave the animals a fuller range of motion than life-size models.
But, Spielberg said, "These I think -- in my opinion -- are the most realistic animatronic actors I have ever seen perform in any of the theme parks of the world."
Leviathans of another type were also employed on the corner of the Universal Studios Hollywood site, where miles of computer cable, vast water pumping and filtration systems, hydraulic controllers for the dinosaurs, and lots of old-fashioned hard work went into making the ride a reality.
Like the movie, the finished product is more than just a jungle cruise. "You want to take your 3-year-old on the first 30 percent of it, then you want to leave your 15-year- old at home for the rest," Spielberg said.
If parts are scary, other parts are soakers. The climactic water drop at the end of the ride is one of the biggest water drops in the world, an 84-foot plunge at a 54 degree angle. It was specifically engineered to make a beautiful and dramatic splash plume at impact. Especially if you're in the front row, you are going to get wet.
The story line may call for things to go dramatically wrong at "Jurassic Park," but in reality, things could hardly have gone more right on opening day.
As well as the opening ceremony attended by Steven Spielberg and Jeff Goldblum, the Jurassic Park River Adventure has had some notable visitors.
However, only one photo has been submitted to this site so far - please send in your evidence!
Here's Justin Long (Accepted, Herbie Fully Loaded, Galaxy Quest) enjoying the ride back on 6th December 2006. He's even signed the photo!
RIDE PRODUCER Universal Creative
Senior Vice President: Phil Hettema
Creative Director: Neil Engel
Creative Supervisor: Eddie Newquist
Project management team leader: David Wilson
CONCEPT DESIGN Landmark Entertainment Group
Gary Goddard, CEO/lead show designer
Adam Bezark, concept co-designer
CREATIVE CONSULTANT Steven Spielberg
DINOSAUR DEVELOPMENT Sarcos
PALEONTOLOGY CONSULTANT Don Lessem
RIDE SYSTEMS SUPPLIER Vekoma International
SHOW CONTROL / RIDE SYSTEMS CONTROL ITEC Productions
Steve Alkhoja, Mike Boshear
SOUNDTRACK DESIGN Landmark Entertainment Group
Ted King, Soundtrack co-producer
James Fielden, soundtrack co-producer
SOUND SOURCE MATERIAL Skywalker Sound
Gary Rydstrom, film sound designer
SOUND/VIDEO/SURVEILLANCE INSTALLATION Signal Perfection Ltd.
Will Parry, president
Ed Sullivan, project engineer
Bill Bittel, Jim Carmody, Phil DiPaula, Zane Marshall, Den Rambo
LIGHTING DESIGN Scenographic Designs
Daniel Flannery, president
C.D. Simpson, associate creative producer
SCENIC DESIGN Lexington Scenery and Props
Account executive/vice president: Andy Hanlen
Project manager: Bill Rapp
Installation manager: Drew Groelinger
ROCK WORK DESIGN Vasili Varelas
ROCK AND WATER INSTALLATION Rock and Waterscape Systems Inc.
Darrell Devore, supervisor
SPECIAL EFFECTS SpectraF/X
Mark A.Stephens, project manager
Mike Harrington, project engineer
HYDRAULICS VENDOR FOR SPECTRAF/X Hydraulics Controls Inc.
GENERAL CONTRACTOR Turner Construction
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Morrow-Meadows Corp.
This list from TCI magazine, November 1996
The landscaping which really brings the Jurassic Park River Adventure to life is the largest individual planting project ever undertaken at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Below is a list of some of the specimens on display:
- 353 palm trees of 11 species, including Sago, King, Queen, Kentia and Canary Island Date.
- 926 additional trees of 33 species, including Flame, Golden Rain, Orchid, Australian Tree Fern, Giant Bird of Paradise and Dragon.
- 7,441 shrubs, plants and flowers of 76 species, including Star Jasmine, Breath of Heaven, Rattlesnake Grass, Tasmanian Tree Fern, Shell Ginger, Mystery Gardenia, Sugar Bush, Bougainvillea and Giant Burmese Honeysuckle.
- 300 bamboo plants of six varieties.
The waterfall which masks the final T Rex attack runs at 5,000 gallons per minute. The river consists of 1.4 million gallons of recycling water.
The mist used throughout the opening stages of the adventure is actually a mist of water droplets, forced through a series of tiny nozzles.
The boats hold up to 25 people (5 per row) and are the largest ride vehicles ever constructed. Made by Vekoma of Holland.
The ride was refurbished in early 2003 to mean the ride boats can be stopped at any point around the ride. Previously they could only be stopped at specific locations. The height of the portion of the track at the bottom of the final descent can be raised or lowered to make a bigger or smaller splash, depending on weather conditions.
Refurb, January 2006. Photos by MR
Thought the fake control room at the boat launch site looked very realistic? That’s because that’s the real ride control centre. The staff in there are monitoring every aspect of the ride through a number of CCTV cameras, and can halt the ride at any point if there is a problem.
The command to launch a boat is issued by a human operator, but from then on, the whole experience is under the control of the show computer system.
The computer system was built by Electrosonic and is based under the initial ramp of the ride, along with sound, video and other control systems.
The soundtrack to the ride consists of music from the Jurassic Park film, composed and conducted by John Williams. The ride is narrated by Richard Kiley who was the ride narrator in the movie.
A radio is playing "The Girl from Ipanema" just after the jeep plunges into the water. Nice to see a sound designer with a sense of humour. The tune features in many John Landis movies - it can be heard as elevator music in The Blues Brothers.
All the audio for the ride is stored digitally in
solid state playback devices, which are triggered
by the ride central computer system.
There are hundreds of speakers hidden around the ride and in the dinosaurs.
The voice of the T Rex for the final attack is played through six Technomad Berlin full-range loudspeakers arranged around the T Rex, alongside eight Technomad Chicago subwoofer loudspeakers (known as “subs”) to provide bass rumbles.
The Chicago subs are distributed on the platforms, four subs on each side of the boat track, to deliver T-Rex's ominous footstep sound effects. Six Berlin speakers deliver the blood-curdling roar of T-Rex, as the animatronic beast lunges at the spectators in the final moments of the ride. Two Berlin speakers are installed approximately 25 feet above the boat track, and fire directly down on the spectators. Two additional Berlin are positioned left and right of the boat track, one per side, parallel to the overhead Berlin speakers, again within 25 feet of the spectators. The final two of six Berlins are suspended in the waterfall, positioned left and right of the animatronic T-Rex, approximately 35 feet above the floor, and approximately 60 feet from the spectators. The volumes of the six Berlins are EQ-ed and blended to deliver the most effectively terrifying sound effect in the themed entertainment industry.
(From the Technomad website http://www.technomad.com/articles/jurassic2.html)
Jurassic Park Links
- Jurassic Park Legacy - The world's largest JP Information Resource
- Technomad sound - article 1
- Technomad sound - article 2
See also Creative Team above for more equipment supplier links
Spinosaurus overlooking the Lower Lot at the base of the water plunge.
Photo by Phillip Donnelly, March 2006
• Universal Studios Press Pack
• Entertainment Technology magazine