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THE REX FILES.

Computer dinosaurs stalk the earth alongside fantastic puppets in Steven Spielberg's pounds 50 million blockbuster.

The awesome T-Rexes, pterodactyls, velociraptors and other prehistoric wonders are a combination of computer generated effects and brilliant animatronic puppetry work.

It's all so seamlessly done that even Dennis Muren, the Oscar- winning SFX expert in charge of about a third of the film's budget, struggled to tell the difference.

He explained: "When you see a pair of T-Rexes drag a man from a car and tear the car apart, those are the ones built by Stan Winston's team and controlled by puppeteers.

"But when the man is then pulled to pieces, that's all done by computer graphics.

"Even when I watched the film, I had to think hard to remember which was which."

The pictures at the top of the page show how computer wizardry was used to create the first memorable sequence in the film - when stegosaurus stagger across a riverbed.

Stan Winston, who made a model for Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator in 1984, worked with more than 100 artists and technicians to design, draw, sculpt, mould and paint the mechanical dinosaurs.

Their job was made even tougher because of the monster success of Jurassic Park and their original dino delights.

Because Spielberg's demand this time round was: "Make me something I've never seen before."

That's was Winston and his wonder workers set out to do. But creating the radio-controlled, 25-foot high prehistoric puppets meant coping with some tricky problems.

For instance, everyone on the film location had to keep their mobile telephones switched off in case they interfered with the models' electrical systems.

Winston explained: "It was new technology and we didn't know quite how it was going to work out.

"And the models were so heavy and dangerous that all the actors involved would have been in danger had we not had total control."

That meant a specific procedure for each individual monster model.

With the T-Rex, Winston stood next to Steven Spielberg as he was directing the movie. Then Winston spoke to the puppeteers through headsets, giving them their direction.

Spielberg ensured that all his SFX experts stuck closely to how things might have been 65 million years ago by having a dinosaur expert on hand.

Dr Jack Homer, a paleontologist from the Museum of The Rockies, revealed: "My job was to make sure the dinosaurs looked real.

"We don't know precisely how they looked or moved, but we can take skeletons and flesh out the muscles, based on birds, and we do know how far bones can move. The only thing we don't know for sure is the sounds they made."

But Dr Homer admitted that a little licence was allowed with the movie.

He said: "For example, I think the T-Rex was much slower, not so agile or so much of a predator as we make it - the velociraptor was really king of the jungle.

"The 'raptors were relatively small, but had three claws on each hand, all of them razor-sharp, and one on each foot.

"They would just grab hold of their prey, pull up their hind claws and disembowel them.

"We do see them in the film, but it's the T-Rex that dominates because it is more impressive on screen."

Spielberg himself admitted: "It is very hard to better yourself with any sequel, because what we lose is originality of the first movie.

"With a sequel, the audience says `Okay, we know all about the magic ... now what else do you have to show us?'

"Hopefully, we can satisfy their appetite."

A star is born

Various models of Velociraptors were created, some with cable-control, like brakes on a bicycle: some were radio-controlled, like remote-controlled model cars; two were people in dinosaur costumes.

VELOCIRAPTOR(Vel-AHSS-uh-RAP-torr)

Means "fast stealer"

Height: 6 feet; 170 to 200lbs

Length: 11 feet

Time: Late Cretaceous(Krah-TAY-shuss)

Place: Modern-day China, Mongolia, Russia

Behaviour: Bloodthirsty: built to run down its enemies and slash them with its fott claw; usually smart; it hunted in packs

Description: Low skull: two rows of serrated teeth; runs with cheetah-like speed: huge razor-sharp retractable claw on each foot: long bony tail used for balance
COPYRIGHT 1997 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 11, 1997
Words:694
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