In recent years, it would seem that the Jurassic Park brand has, for lack of a better word, become "extinct", having been replaced by Jurassic World. But fortunately, this isn't the case at Universal Studios' theme parks, as many will remember that Jurassic Park: The Ride once thrilled guests at Universal Studios Hollywood, much like a dinosaur in its own right. However, it has since been replaced by Jurassic World: The Ride.
But never mind, because to cite the tagline for The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) - the first of many sequels in the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World movie franchise - "something has survived", as living remnants of Jurassic Park: The Ride can be found all over, whether it's in the form of that rebooted attraction, or as Jurassic Park: River Adventure at Universal Studios Orlando, Florida and Universal Studios Osaka, Japan.
There's also Jurassic Park: River Rapids at Universal Studios Singapore (it seems that Universal ended up realizing far more than InGen ever did). So while movies such as Jurassic World (2015), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), and Jurassic World Dominion (2022) have taken center stage in the last few years, that original ride remains as nostalgic and as memorable as the original 1993 film by Steven Spielberg.
Jurassic Park (1993) became an instant classic upon its release, and transformed the cinematic landscape forever, so Universal wasted no time in building a themed ride at Universal Studios Hollywood, which would be "spared no expense". And by summer 1996, Jurassic Park: The Ride was fully operational (unlike its on-screen counterpart), a river-based ride that wowed guests with incredible animatronic dinosaurs.
But while Jurassic Park: The Ride is of course based around the 1993 film, it is actually inspired by the late Michael Crichton's best-selling novel of the same name. "Jurassic Park" (1990) features a scene in which characters Dr. Alan Grant, Tim Murphy, and Lex Murphy board an inflatable river raft as part of their perilous journey through the jungles of Isla Nublar, as they make for the safety of the Visitor Center.
However, once afloat, they end up being pursued by a Tyrannosaurus Rex (which goes neck-deep in the water to go after them), while also encountering a pack of venomous Dilophosaurs along the bank. Fortunately for the children, Grant doesn't end up abandoning the boat when the T-rex gets dangerously close, but that's more than we can say about Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park director Steven Spielberg!
In contrast with that scene from the novel, which almost made it to film (there's some amazing concept art online), naturally Jurassic Park: The Ride takes some liberties, as there's no swimming T-rex, nor are there any actors present on the ride itself. There are also more dinosaurs than there are in the novel, such as Velociraptors and Procompsognathus (also known as Compys), as well as, of course, the dreaded 85-foot drop.
And that's where Steven Spielberg comes in. Or should we say, that's where he gets off! Upon its opening on June 21, 1996, the newly unveiled ride welcomed cast members from the original film - Jeff Goldblum, Ariana Richards, and Joseph Mazzello, who play Dr. Ian Malcolm, Lex Murphy, and Tim Murphy. Director Steven Spielberg was also in attendance alongside the three actors.
But what many Jurassic Park fans don't know is that the iconic filmmaker actually requested that he bet let off the ride just before the 85-foot drop! And what's particularly amusing about this story is that it actually had nothing to do with the frighteningly realistic Tyrannosaurus Rex overhead. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight way back in 1996, during the unveiling of the attraction, Spielberg said:
“I've gone up to the point of no return and I returned down the stairs. I don't go on those 85-foot straight down water drops. I guess I'm a director. I demand total control. And for those two and a half seconds of the drop I am out of control. I'm not willing to give that up yet.”
Well, now we know why Spielberg didn't give himself a cameo in Jurassic Park! But his fear hardly discouraged guests from braving the ride. In fact, Jurassic Park: The Ride became such a huge hit that a version named Jurassic Park: River Adventure was built at Universal Studios Orlando in 1999, and at Universal Studios Japan in 2001. However, while similar in concept, the attraction features significant differences from its Hollywood counterpart.
Unfortunately, though, in 2018, Jurassic Park: The Ride would finally shut its enormous gates. Given the success of the Jurassic World sequels, the attraction would receive a major overhaul - not unlike the film franchise itself - which was really no surprise given the box office success of the 2015 "revival" sequel. So, Jurassic Park: The Ride became Jurassic World: The Ride.
Like its silver screen-counterpart, Jurassic World: The Ride is, in many ways, a spiritual successor to the previous attraction, while boasting all-new animatronics such as the Indominus Rex, as well as a computer-generated Mosasaurus. But to the best of our knowledge, Steven Spielberg has yet to try out the new version of the ride, though we're convinced he wouldn't make it past the "Lagoon" section this time around!
There are plenty of Jurassic experiences to enjoy across the Universal Studios theme park resorts. Universal Studios Orlando hosts "Jurassic Park"/"Camp Jurassic", home to Jurassic World: Velocicoaster, Pteranadon Flyers, and Jurassic Park: River Adventure, while Universal Studios Hollywood has Jurassic World: The Ride, DinoPlay, and Raptor Encounter.
Jurassic World Dominion was released in 2022 and is now available to purchase on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital, and has grossed over $1 billion worldwide.