Jurassic Park: The Animated Series

Recently, we got a glimpse at what would have been an incredible addition to the Jurassic Park universe (I’m gonna start referring to it as a universe even more often now, just to annoy Trevorrow) but which never came to be. After the release of the first movie, artist William Stout was brought in to design a Jurassic Park cartoon show:

“Although I own a copy, I don’t think this trailer is available anywhere.

“Upon the success of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park movie, all kinds of ancillary projects abounded: toys, games, novelties, apparel, etc.

“Towards the end of all of this merchandising I got a call from artist Will Meugniot, asking if I’d be interested in designing a Jurassic Park animated series. This was not going to be a kiddy show (although kids of all ages, including myself, could enjoy it). They wanted the show to be a mature prime time series with top writers and state-of-the-art television animation augmented with quite a bit of CG animation. Universal Cartoon Studios wanted a “graphic novel look” to the series. I came in, showed my portfolio and was hired.

“We made a trailer to communicate the look and feel of the series, also showing how we would combine computer animation with traditional animation. All we needed was Spielberg’s approval.

“I heard through the grapevine that he never bothered to watch what we had done. By that time the word was out that he was burnt out on Jurassic Park merchandising and all of the film’s commercial exploitation. So, it never got made.”

First of all, I hope you guys understand that it is this fandom’s mission now to find this trailer, or at least for the more talented among us to recreate it. Second, a primetime show with a lot of viewers would have not only been amazing, it also would have run out of ideas concerning people on the island pretty quickly. Sure, it could recreate some scenes from the Jurassic Park Paint and Activity Center and the first novel (some scenes from which I would kill to see in the context of the first movie, not sequels) and maybe it could have an ongoing theme of everyone trying to survive on the island until help arrived, but eventually viewers would want more, and that might entail things like moving dinosaurs onto the mainland and all different kinds of new dinosaurs that weren’t canonically on the island– as well as some that were, like Metriacanthosaurus. It might also entail more of a romance element since it was also for adults, which would almost definitely involve Ian trying just a bit harder to snag Ellie, and a consequent love triangle that would no doubt be milked for all it was worth. (If you’ve read the near-final script for the film, you’ll see where I’m coming from– he was a little more insistent with his flirting there, and it’s not too hard to see him acting similarly here.) Whether those possibilities are good or bad is subjective, but I personally would have wanted to see all of them, provided they were done tastefully. And third, Spielbergwhy would you turn this down? It would be a cash cow and fans would have bothered you for a sequel a lot later! Daddy, you left us with Jurassic World, why would you do this?

Some possibilities that definitely would have happened are shown in the concept art that Stout produced recently, and which you can buy. First, though, let’s look at some character designs:

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Grant’s design here isn’t bad, per se; it’s very accurate. However, something about this gives me the impression that he’d be much more of a generic action hero in this cartoon than he was in the movie. Maybe it’s the pose that’s making me think this. Anyway, I could live with a paleontological semi-superhero.

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Now this I love– not just Ellie’s design or her confident pose, but the scientific equipment in the background that suggests that she’d do experiments and whatever else she could to understand the environment better and help everyone survive. She would probably take an active role in figuring things out and creating solutions to problems, like making a substance to repel dinosaurs and, undoubtedly, digging through more droppings. And I couldn’t think of anything more fitting to her character. Ellie is the hero we deserve, but not the one we need right now. Actually, we do need Hero Ellie. She’s not the hero we get right now.

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There are three distinct things I love about this– the fractal pattern on the computer in the background (oh, what I wouldn’t give for Malcolm’s lectures on fractals and chaotic patterns from the novel), his Zoolander pose, and the fact that he appears to be wearing some variation on Kamina glasses.

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“Your drill is the, uh, drill that will pierce the h-heavens!”

I like what this picture implies, too– that Malcolm would find computers on the island and use his knowledge of chaos patterns to discover valuable things, like he did with the population charts in the book.

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Hammond seems to look a lot more like Book Hammond here, especially considering the compies at his feet that allude to his book counterpart’s death. Obviously he wouldn’t die in the series, at least not permanently, but maybe that plot point could be worked in via a compy attack or something. His presence here begs the question– since the whole island incident was Hammond’s fault, how would he be treated in the show? Obviously Malcolm wouldn’t be too chummy with him (again, I would love to see one of their arguments from the book included in the show) but how would Grant and Sattler react? I mean, they wouldn’t feed him to Rexy, but I imagine he’d be handled a lot differently than he was in the movie.

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Tim looks adorable, and I think he would take on a role in this show similar to Eric in the third movie– he’d spout off simple dinosaur trivia for the audience to understand things better, and he’d be the perseverent kid that we would all root for despite our many questions about the state of his brain after that electric shock. He might also be the Baby Dinosaur Whisperer, judging by the two little ones with him. (Does that mean we’d also get Ralph the baby triceratops from the novel?) Which brings me to this:

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Tim would apparently have a baby pterosaur for his trusty sidekick, which I find adorable and appropriately 90s-cartoonish. Actually, if Tim had enough of a natural talent with taming dinosaurs to train a baby pterosaur to sit on his shoulder and presumably fetch things for him, I wonder how much of a stretch it would be for us to have seen him taming raptors in JW, instead of Owen?

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Lex is even cuter, and judging by the computer in the background, she’d still be putting her hacker skills to use in the show. Combined with the fact that Malcolm would likely have had some sort of computer bank (maybe in the control room) to use, it’s entirely possible that the two of them would have the sweetest team-up imaginable, and that they’d fight together with the power of fractals and UNIX. Presumably Lex would be shown as she was in the movie, but with all the other allusions to the novels, she may have had traces of Book Lex in her, although hopefully not enough to make her annoying. I say this because she looks a bit younger here than in the movie, but that could just be the art style.

Some concept art regarding plot points in the series was also released. See if you can guess what I love about this:

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There are so many things about this that make me want to devolve this post into a series of seal-sound onomatopoeia, so I’ll just hit the highlights: the method of feeding that’s straight out of the novel, the inclusion of hypsys, the way the survivors still care enough about the dinosaurs to raise and care for the babies, the way Tim is dressed exactly like Grant, and squealing newborn hypsys acting like Tim is their mom. I wanted to see all of these in the first movie, and now they have been provided. Merciful William Stout, we thank thee.

Now that I think about it, I’m starting to wonder if this wasn’t meant to be an alternate universe where the helicopter never came to help, but one where nothing went wrong in the first place and everyone stayed on the island for… some reason. The exclusion of Muldoon, Nedry and everyone else who didn’t survive makes this kind of unlikely, but still, it’s worth consideration.

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“NOPE NOPE NOPE BAD IDEA, BAD IDEA, BAD IDEA, NO MORE WATER FOR ELLIE THANK YOU VERY MUCH.”

THE SEA QUEEN OF ISLA NUBLAR HAS CROSSED OVER INTO THE SECOND DIMENSION AND RULES HER LAND WITH AN IRON FIST THERE AS WELL! EVEN WHEN MADE OF INK, NO MORTAL CAN AVOID THE JAWS OF THE MIGHTY MOSASAUR! NO ONE IS SAFE!

Boy, it felt good to do that again. Both of these animals show us two things: a massive retcon, and the fact that no one would care about a massive retcon if we’d gotten the aquatic predators we’ve been asking for since Lost World before Lost World. It’s good to know that aquatic animals have been part of the plan since day one, at least, and that they weren’t just tossed into Jurassic World for the same reason that Indominus was. It would have been downright incredible to see an underwater chase scene with either of these guys– Spielberg, you could’ve done a shot-for-shot Jaws scene remake with a mosasaurus, why would you take this away from us– and even better, Mosasaur could have had the same deal that Rexy did and reclaimed her throne in Jurassic World. (The fact that Mosasaur was even there would put her in direct rivalry with Rexy for the Big Bad position, since she’s basically the T. rex of the water, but it’s not exactly a debate we can have based on so little material for for the former.) Finally, I find it worth noting that the boat, background and relative location of the mountains in the Plesiosaur picture look like they could have given the answer to a certain mystery.

This is some truly incredible art for what would have undoubtedly been a great show, and I would love to see the trailer that was created, no matter how rough it is. Hopefully Stout or Spielberg will give us a look at it soon.

(Thanks to JPLegacy and Mike Jenkins for the tip-off.)

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6 thoughts on “Jurassic Park: The Animated Series

  1. Wow, this is so surreal. It is kind of strange that this movie didn’t get a cartoon spin off, since pretty much everything popular in the 90’s had it’s own animated series. Robocop had one for Christs sake, and that film was definitely NOT for kids.

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    1. Obviously Spielberg didn’t let this happen because the universe hates us, but I like to think it was also because he wanted to be careful with where he went with the film’s universe and message. I guess he wanted to see what Crichton wanted to do with the characters and messages, and let the original author decide what to do rather than running in his own direction. It’s what helps me sleep at night.

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  2. Oh, and I thought that art looked familiar. William Stout! I had his book when I was a kid! Loved his artwork, even though looking at it now it is incredibly skin wrapped. That being said, seems to be a perfect fit for Jurassic Park’s style.

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  3. “…but one where nothing went wrong in the first place and everyone stayed on the island for… some reason.”

    Because it was THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.

    Okay, Tim, fun’s over, now you go back to your parents’ custody battle and THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, or you can stay with Grandpa on Baby Dinosaur Island until the divorce attorneys sort things out / bleed your parents dry…”

    I’d like to imagine Lex was teaching her baby dinosaur to read English and communicate by typing on the laptop.

    -Mike J.

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    1. OK, now that I think about it, I worded that the wrong way. I guess what I meant is that, in this AU, they might stay there for way longer than anyone expected, for several weeks/months, even when there are three important scientific figures (and people with university classes to teach/ dig sites to manage) on Monday morning. Maybe I should’ve thought through that a little better. That is a good point about Tim– maybe he’d be the one who convinced everyone to stay, with his puppy eyes and supernatural baby-taming skills.

      That would be truly adorable about Lex– I’m just imagining her and the baby sitting in a corner typing to each other like teenagers with their phones.

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