Frills and Thrills Of the Dilophosaurus:
RICK GALINSON INTERVIEW
JURASSIC PARK CREATURE ARTIST
Watch directly at YouTube
As a continuing part of our research, Jurassic Time reached out to none other than the creature creator / puppeteer of the original JURASSIC PARK Dilophosaurus, Rick Galinson, who was kind enough to answer our questions through email!
Rick has provided his technical knowledge and skills to build animatronics for such films as CHILD’S PLAY 3, BATMAN RETURNS, MEN IN BLACK 1 and 2, and for another Steven Spielberg film, A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE.
Bernard Kyer: What spurred your interest and got you into creature design?
Rick Galinson: My path to creature effects began when I was a kid. Love of Sci Fi and horror films inspired me to create my own costumes and special effects ‘gags’ at home with no budget and only household items to work with.
I snuck into Alien(1979) and never looked back. I made squibs out of small firecrackers and an Alien costume from a model of a human skull, duct tape, paper towel tubes, plastic tubes, caulking and paint.
I wanted to get into spfx but back in the 70’s there was no internet, nor was there anyway to find the contacts to get hired. I went to college hoping to learn special effects. No such luck. I ended up getting a degree in BioMedical Engineering instead.
After college I got a lucky break when two separate people gave me the same fx company’s number within a week. I applied and was hired a few weeks later as a mechanical shop assistant.
I started out sweeping floors and doing mundane, repetitive tasks. Within a year, I was at the largest shop (Stan Winston Studios) and on the largest film ever (Jurassic Park). Lucky breaks!!!!
Bernard: You’ve worked on some really impressive films but JURASSIC PARK was one of your first. Was it intimidating having to take point on developing the animatronic Dilophosaurus?
Rick: Intimidating? Ohhhh, not at ALL!!
YES! OMG, I just observed what was the standard practice at the time for cable controlled creatures and made a few sensible adjustments and hit the ground running.
When we had our mechanical shop meeting with Stan to decide who got what dinosaur, I thought I would just be an assistant to one of the main veterans. Then they gave it to me. Just me. I was terrified but I knew I could ask for help from the others. I kept quiet and did my best and got a lot of good advice and learned A LOT from my deskmate and seasoned machinist, Rich Haugen.
Bernard: Early scripts to JURASSIC PARK have the animal seen during the tour. Were there any discussions that you recall of having the animatronic on location in Kauai?
Rick: By the time we were close to finishing, all of my work would be handled on stage at Universal Studios, Hollywood. I never heard of any rumor suggesting Kauai.
Bernard: There has been heated discussion for years on if the Dilophosaurus was a juvenile, including some Behind-The-Scenes discussions between Steven Spielberg and Stan Winston on making the animal smaller to avoid confusion with the Velociraptor. What are your thoughts on this choice?
Rick: When we were awarded the film, we were making the Penguins for Batman Returns and everyone ran out and bought a copy of JP. When I read it, I remember it being much larger, so I guess this little guy is a juvenile.
Plus, the smaller size allowed for the playful interaction in the beginning of the scene. A full size adult would’ve required a different scene altogether.
Bernard: When developing the character of the Dilophosaurus, did you develop any back-story for the creature?
Rick: Nope. Again, no time for being dramatic. I just had to finish by my deadline and I had given several weeks from my schedule to help the Raptor team hit theirs. “Oh, we will be done by the time you get here and we can come back to help you finish yours…” Never happened.
An example of several of the Dilophosaurus’ built in abilities: frill, lip movement, eye movement, and venom sac inflation.
Bernard: The Dilophosaurus appears to be a VERY complicated animatronic! It could walk / hop on set, eye movement, lip curl, it had inflating venom sacs under its jaw, the iconic frill, controllable tongue, AND the ability to actually spit all in a compact size! What are you most proud of and what was most complicated?
Rick: I’m most proud of the neck. Initially, I was going to do a single parallelogram but then, I think, Rich suggested I break it up into three sections with left/right pivots between them. It worked great and each section was sprung to handle the weight. It was like a steady-cam for camera equipment.
The core, or fiberglass shape that went loosely over the mechanics and supported the skin, was cut in a spiral fashion to allow for a smooth flex in any direction but still maintaining rigidity.
Bernard: The Dilophosaurus scene was a big scene for Wayne Knight. What was it like working almost 1-on-1 with him on set?
Rehearsing the Dilophosaurus sequence with a stand in for Wayne Knight.
Rick: He was quiet with us. The only time I got close to him was the ‘Spit to the face’ shots. He was a trooper!! I had a paintball gun in one hand with a large clear Tygon tube over the barrel. No paintball, just the air blast. In the other end of the tube, we had put a bunch of slime: KY jelly, food coloring and Methocel.
It took 4 takes. He had to turn around knowing I was about to blast him. Wow! That’s gotta be hard to do. Speilberg was next to me and I was next to the camera. Steven said, “as soon as you see his eyes, BLAST him”.
So, on the first take, he turned and I hit him in one eye. CUT. Back to one!
Take two: I gave him a purple mohawk! CUT. Back to one!
Take three, the gun didn’t fire.
Take four is in the film. If you watch it again, you will see the ‘cloud’ on the left of the screen as the gas leaves the tube in my hand.
He later told me that the purple food coloring tinted his skin. Oops, who knew…!?
Bernard: For the sequence, how many animatronic/ swap out parts did you create?
Rick: We had three head/neck setups.
The first one had the frill sculpted down along the neck skin, hiding it until the reveal. This made the neck skin really thick but the mechanics still could turn the head all the way around convincingly.
Then, when the frill deployed, we used number two. It had the frill tied down with a small thread until we opened it up.
The third head/neck would then be swapped with a permanent open frill and finish out the scene.
Bernard: Were there any design elements or ideas that didn’t make it into the final build/Film?
Rick: Yes. Everything was predetermined and built, and all of it was in the film with the exception to the Tongue and inflatable bladder in the throat.
Testing the compressed air Dilo Spit mechanism.
When the Dilo spit, it worked but we tested in hot, dry air in our Van Nuys studio. Compressed air cools down rapidly as it expands during the ‘spit’. This cooling created a visible cloud of gas and gave away the gag in the cold/humid stage at Universal. They cut the film around it.
But the mouth would open wide, the venom sac would sell up in its throat and the tongue would lift up like a serpent revealing the spit openings.
Compressed air condensing in the frame on the far left.
The tongue and the spit from the mouth would’ve been epic! The tongue was a two stage tentacle mechanism and the base was on an ‘up/down’ pulley, too. The tentacles would allow the two sections of the tongue to move up and down and left and right independently of each other making it very serpent-like. Then, the base would rotate the tongue up to the top of the mouth to reveal the venom pits beneath.
The twin Tygon tubes were inside that special head and neck, so all of this including the swelling throat could be done in one insert shot.
Storyboard of the cut insert shot showing the inflated venom sacs and the Dilophosaurus spitting.
It was really great and I’m so sad it didn’t make it into the film.
Bernard: What fun stories / favourite moments did you have working on the film?
Set Image from the Dilophosaurus scene showing the trench used to control the animatronic out of sight.
Rick: On the Spitter set, we had lots of rain and so, we shot on a special stage that had a deep center section to catch the water. A fake floor was built that the jungle set was built on and we had several puppeteers under neath operating a supporting rig for the puppet. The area was like a swimming pool with a deep end and a shallow end where we were working.
Rain effects on the Dilophosaurus sound stage flooding the set.
After the first day or two, the deep end filled up. I guess the drain was blocked. The water was brown and pretty gross. Then, near the end of the shoot, it became so high that the guys under were standing in it. At one point, a TV monitor on a few apple boxes became buoyant and fell over into the water. Pretty scary.
At the end of the scene, the spitter is inside the Jeep with Wayne. As it strikes, the Jeep needed to thrash about while they struggled.
An overhead view of the Dilophosaurus / Nedry’s Death set layout.
Matt Winston (from Stan Winston School of Character Arts) and I were asked to lie down in the flooding waters behind the Jeep and push the car on Cue with our feet. We were drenched! But, they gave us replacement clothes to wear home. They were actual wardrobe from the film.
Bernard: Speaking of the attack in the car, fans speculate that the animal in the car was a separate animal to the initial one. What do you think?
Rick: I don’t think it was supposed to be. I think they would’ve shown a little bit of one sneaking up behind him and getting in. That would’ve added a lot of tension as he climbed back in to his car. I do think, the hitting his head and falling over bit, wasn’t enough time for it to run past and get in, though. It could have just chomped on him laying there. Why jump in the car?!
Bernard: In spite of its cultural impact, the Dilo has never returned for the films. Do you have any insight into why the Dilo has never made another true film return?
Examples in both Video Games and Toys of the way the films depiction has shaped the perception of the creature.
Rick: I don’t know why its never shown up as a real dino in any of the other films. I’m available… hint, hint…
Bernard: Any advice you’d like to give to prospective creature artists?
Rick: Creature effects are still going strong, sort of. The days of sculpting out of clay are pretty much over so, I advise them to look into digital sculpting programs.
I use Zbrush almost everyday at work, but its primarily to integrate my CAD designed, mechanical components into the sculpts. I’m not a sculptor.
As we walked out of the JP screening, we all felt obsolete in the age of CG. Turns out we weren’t going as extinct (LOL) as we thought. Digital allowed for more creativity in the industry and that added work to our side of it.
The industry does have busy times and slow times and it seems to be shrinking a bit. I imagine its harder to get a foot in the door, but once you do, you could flourish.
Take the internship, protect yourself from bad people(yes, they’re out there) and showcase your enthusiasm and talents! Good Luck!
We want to thank Rick for being so gracious and generous with his time in answering our questions and taking us back behind the scenes of JURASSIC PARK! If you’d like to learn more about Rick Galinson, Stan Winston Studio, or want to learn more about creature creation, check out the Stan Winston School of Character Arts!
Interview conducted, compiled, and arranged by Bernard A. Kyer.