New Jack Horner Interview

Let’s start with a cheap plug– I, unfortunately, did not get the chance to interview Jack Horner, but if you’re a Jurassic Park fanfic author, I would love to interview you! See my ‘I Want You’ post for more info.

Yesterday, Smithsonian ( interviewed Jack Horner, the paleontological consultant for all four Jurassic Park movies and the boy who sits in a corner, eating a Christmas pie. If you don’t know him, he’s the man who’s responsible for every dinosaur accuracy in the movies (the 1993 accuracy, at least). He worked closely with Spielberg to make sure that the raptors, rexes and other dinosaurs looked and acted like paleontologists at the time thought they did. He’s also single-handedly responsible for the astonishingly inaccurate Spino/rex fight in JP3. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this man caused the death of Jurassic Park‘s T. rex. He also made Jurassic Park’s T. rex awesome. Formulate your own opinion.

A few questions addressed his previous paleontological work and his consultation work on the movies:

What did you do as scientific adviser?

My job really was to work alongside Steven and answer his questions for him [and] to confirm with the computer graphics people…My job was to make sure that [the dinosaurs] looked accurate and that the movements that we’re sure of, that they would be accurate. Basically I was there to make sure that sixth graders didn’t send him nasty letters about something being wrong.

And did Spielberg get anything wrong?

There were a lot of things wrong, but it was a fictional movie. It’s not a documentary. And so I was just as happy with having some fiction thrown in there as anyone else was. I wanted it to be a good movie and so there were times that Steven and I would argue about things, but he was right. Basically, if I could demonstrate that something was true or not true, then he would go with that, but if I had some question about it and we didn’t really have much evidence about it, he would go with whatever he thought would make the best movie.

I can just hear Horner’s voice as he says all of this. I feel like he’s probably been answering these exact questions for upwards of twenty years, and he’s probably really, really sick of it. Sorry about that, Jack.

He talks some more about how we can’t extract dinosaur DNA from mosquitoes and how Alan Grant is based on a blend of him and Robert Bakker (I thought the latter was why we had Richard Burke in The Lost World, but whatever you say, dinosaur dude), and then we get to the good stuff.

You worked on Jurassic World, so let’s discuss the trailer. What’s eating that great white shark at the beginning?

It’s technically not a dinosaur. It’s a marine reptile. It’s called a mosasaurus and the size of this one is a little out of proportion, but we don’t know the ultimate size of any extinct animal.

I would like to personally thank this man for clarifying that the [mighty bone-crusher of the deep, the] mosasaur is not a dinosaur. Great whites are also going extinct, by the way. Trevorrow mentioned in one of his interviews that there could be a DNA lab on Nublar specifically for the purpose of manufacturing sharks to the mosasaur– I think that might be a clue to why the park was allowed to be built in the first place. The Masrani site has a big focus on nature (ironic, huh?) and conservation; what if a portion of the sharks that they manufacture is released into the wild, and Jurassic World is helping to rebuild the world’s great white population? What if the conservation side effect of that facility helped convince the government that Jurassic World was a good idea, and excused the fact that the park actively feeds members of an endangered species to one of their animals? Just a thought.

The line, “We have learned more in the past decade from genetics, than a century of digging up bones” – is that true?

That’s true. Now that we know that birds and dinosaurs are related, that birds really are dinosaurs, we have their genetics…We’re finding new specimens all over the world, we’re finding new associations of them all over the world, new nesting grounds. There are more paleontologists working right now, probably than there have ever been total together before.

What about “genetically modified hybrid” dinosaurs? Will those exist any time soon?

It’s just genetic engineering and we do genetic engineering all the time. We just haven’t genetically engineered a genuine dinosaur yet, but we know how to do it.

If you’re wondering how they “know how to” genetically engineer a dinosaur, it’s an experiment of Horner’s. He’s trying to make a “chickenosaurus” by taking chicken embryo DNA and sort of working backwards– you could say he’s trying to make dromaeosaurid dinosaurs by de-evolving chickens. The consequences of that could be horrifying, hilarious or both, but he hasn’t gotten past the embryonic stage yet, as far as I know. So there won’t be a “real-life Jurassic Park” quite yet; all we have now are a few chicken fetuses with teeth, and it’s not guaranteed it’ll get any further, since I and a lot of other people and scientists seem to agree that we wouldn’t learn too much about dinosaurs from an experiment like that. And PETA groups are bound to find out at some point and sic the Cray Cray Squad on media coverage about the experiment. But I digress.

Is it safe to canoe alongside dinosaurs, like they do at Jurassic World?

I don’t see why not…If you have plant-eating dinosaurs, there’s no reason you couldn’t. They’re going to act just like modern animals we have today. It would be like hanging around a bunch of cows.

Until you try to pet one, and you know some kid would. There don’t seem to be any restrictions as to how close those rafts can get to the animals.

I didn’t write that specifically to use this picture, but if you insist.

Also: a cow does not have a whip-tail built for cutting skin and breaking necks, especially not one that can reach across a lake if the cow stands a little too close to the water’s edge. I’m still convinced that the whole jungle river ride is a bad idea, but I guess I can’t complain, because look which park we’re talking about.

So if we had the ability to bring back the dinosaurs, should we?

In the movies, animals want to just eat people, and they can be vengeful. But in real life, they’re not.

First of all, yippee, I get to use this picture again:

Second, tell me about how an apex predator wouldn’t be angry at scientists that experimented on it and raised it in a confined lab, probably one with inadequate conditions, and explain to me why it wouldn’t even try to eat anyone. Because predators in zoos never, ever eat or injure their keepers, right? Third, the animals in the Jurassic Park movies didn’t just want to eat people. They were protecting their territory, babies and pack members, and driving out what they saw as threats. These animals don’t think with their stomachs, you know. It isn’t that simple. Fourth, does that mean his answer was yes, we should bring back dinosaurs? That’s a matter for a different post, but the shorthand is basically that it would be an expensive, wasteful experiment that would barely contribute to science. Now, Horner is an expert paleontologist, and the press does require a lot of simplification when it comes to science like animal behavior sometimes. I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about. But the way that was worded irked me.
But we’re here to talk about the movie. Here’s the end of the interview:

Can you give any hints about what to expect from the new movie?

It’s going to be a good one. And the made-up dinosaur is going to be very scary.

He’s also said in the past that the D. rex is “terrifying”; his words are vague, but they seem to suggest that they didn’t slack off in the horror department. I’m going to believe that. The original movies scared us. Even if it’s PG-13 scary, I hope this one does too.

That’s about it; as you can tell, there isn’t much news coming out of Jurassic Park Land. By the way, it was confirmed that the trailer CGI was unfinished (, so yay.

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