An animatronic Spinosaurus was built for the third installment of the Jurassic Park franchise. The animatronic was the largest built by Stan Winston Studios and also the most dynamic. The Spinosaurus animatronic first appeared in a scene in which the Spinosaurus attacks the main protagonist in a downed airplane. It was used again for a battle scene in which it faced down against a Tyrannosaurus, however, most of the scenes involving the animatronics never made it into the actual film. Lastly, the animatronic was used in a scene in which it attacks the protagonists on a barge in the middle of a river.
The Spinosaurus was originally designed by Stan Winston Studio artist, Mark “Crash” McCreery, while concept colorations were drawn up by Jurassic Park 3 storyboard artist Ricardo Delgado. Key artist Joey Orosco, along with John Rosengrant, Rob Ramsdell, Paul Mejias, and Trevor Hensley, sculpted a one-fifth-scale maquette based on McCreery’s original design. According to Orosco, since a partial Spinosaurus skull was discovered around the time of preproduction for the third film, the filmmakers decided to add it into the franchise. Paleontologist consultant Jack Horner also suggested Spinosaurus as the new dinosaur to introduce it to the public as an alternative to the franchise’s previous Tyrannosaurs. Horner also helped the design team in the coloration choices.
Full-Sized Animatronic Spinosaurus
Unlike the Tyrannosaurus, in which warm clay was sculpted into a full-scale model, the one-fifth-scale Spinosaurus maquette was digitally scanned and computer-milled into foam pieces. The foam was then assembled into the full-scale Spinosaurus. To get the Spinosaurus prepared for molding, the foam was coated with a type of paint to help seal the foam from the high-temperature epoxy. All joints were filled in with clay. After the epoxy was applied, it was followed up by a fiberglass-type cloth. A structure in the sail allowed the sail to flex with the animatronic’s spine. The animatronic was then broken down to fit in the ovens and a special-made spandex was applied and would be the under-surface for the one to three inch skin.
When completed, the Spinosaurus measured around 13.7 meters (45ft) in length and weighed around 12.5 tons. The “skull” was built out of graphite which made it both light and strong. and held approximately seventy-six teeth within the jawline, although several more sets were molded in the unavoidable event that teeth would be loss or damaged during film shoots. Based on the design of the Tyrannosaurus animatronics used in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the Spinosaurus was built from the “knees up” and mounted to a motorized trackway. The Spinosaurus was the fastest animatronic built by the studio and used ‘hot-rod’ hydraulics that were controlled using an eighteen inch telemetry device. The Spinosaurus ran on nearly 1,000 horsepower compared to the previous Tyrannosaurus, that only ran on 200 horsepower.
The Spinosaurus then had to be loaded on to a tractor trailer, using cranes, and moved to the set. The animatronic was so big that the studio had to remove the doors in order to get it outside. The city of Los Angeles wanted the animatronic to be moved at night on a specific route, as it couldn’t go under bridges, so traffic in the city wouldn’t be stalled. Final paint details were added on the set. On set usage was very intense. Due to the power of the hydraulically ran animatronic, a powerful hit from the snout could send a man twenty feet in the air, or even kill them. As such, extra precautions were taken when using the animatronic, and, like with the Tyrannosaurus animatronics used in the previous films, only those who were absolutely necessary for the filming of a scene were allowed on the set.
Because the Spinosaurus versus T. rex fight was the final scene filmed with the Spinosaurus animatronic, the Stan Winston Studios crew decided to go all out in the battle. The crew had the puppets act out as if they were fighting a real battle. However, during the fight, the Spinosaurus‘ superior powerful hydraulics literally allowed the Spinosaurus to behead the Tyrannosaurus animatronic with a single swipe from the Spinosaurus‘ clawed arm. During the filming of the final climactic River fight where the Spinosaurus ambushes the protagonists, Stan Winston Studios deliberately left loose calibrations on the Spinosaurus animatronic in the event that water seepage would effect the weight based hydraulics. The foam latex skin was also coated in several water tight sealants, and the head of the animatronic was made out of hard urethane rubber. The interior robotics of the animatronic were all sealed against water.
What are Spinosaurus Made of? An awesome look at the making of the 12-ton, thousand-horsepower dinosaur. Stan Winston School of Character Arts (2013)
The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studios (Duncan 2006)