Stan Winston on A.I. and JURASSIC PARK III (Mania.com)
Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2001
Stan Winston Studio has had a busy year. Their makeup effects artistry can already be seen in PEARL HARBOR, and they have two other summer blockbusters coming out in the next few weeks, JURASSIC PARK III and A.I. So Stan Winston should have a lot to talk about, but there's one problem: both films were produced under the auspices of Steven Spielberg, who likes to maintain maximum secrecy. So how much can he say about, for example, A.I., Spielberg's attempt to bring to the screen the unfilmed Stanley Kubrick project based on a story by Brian Aldiss (FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND)?
"Without giving the story away, which I cannot, JURASSIC PARK is about dinosaurs; take a guess what A.I. is about. Obviously, the name of this movie is A.I., which has to do with artificial intelligence. The credits read 'Robotic Characters Designed and Created at Stan Winston Studio.' We did the robotic characters!" Winston laughs. He then goes on to promise that the film will present a futuristic world filled with such beings. "There are quite a number. There are very human-like robot characters, which start with Haley Joel Osment and move into Jude Law, and then there are probably two dozen completely different designs of robotic characters, ranging from makeup to a combination of makeup and animatronic effects, to puppetry, to complete robotics, to combination makeup effects and CG, to complete CG. Every technology is used in A.I., and we're combining these technologies in a way that people have not seen before. It's pretty stunning, and it's one of the most compelling, heart-rending stories that you'll ever see. It's a wonderful movie, and I'm anxious for people to see it."
Winston's Studio didn't just supply a few makeup effects to suggest that Osment and Law are robots beneath their human veneer. The studio also created one of the film's main characters, Teddy, a robotic Teddy bear. "He's the most extensive animatronic robot we've ever created. The most amount of moves we ever had in a robot was the T-Rex and now the Spinosaur in JURASSIC PARK III, which has some forty-one/forty-two moves, I believe, which is a major number of points of motion for a robot. The Spinosaur weighs twelve tonsactually, 25,000 pounds. Teddy, who is a little over two feet tall, has fifty points of motion. So between JURASSIC PARK and Teddy, you are going to see some robotics like you've never seen before."
Winston doesn't promise any leaps in technology, but he does say that there have been improvements. "The most extensive advancement for the robotics in A.I. actually is the control devices, the telemetry devices, that allow us the kind of fluid and organic motion that you will see in Teddy, creating a character that literally worked every day of the shooting schedule and is one of the principal characters of this movie. He was the toughest job we've hadnot to diminish the fact that we had to out T-Rex the T-Rex in JURASSIC PARK III. So in one year we're the busiest that we have ever been. I was so jealous of Rick Baker getting PLANET OF THE APES, because I wanted it so badly; but thank god Rick Baker is doing it, because our plate was full!"
If the attempt to improve upon JURASSIC PARK's T-Rex is not based on a technological breakthrough, is it more a matter of experience, having worked with similar effects in the previous films? "It's all of the above," says Winston. "The technology improves; experience improves; performance improves. When you have the good fortune of being able to do a T-Rex in JURASSIC PARK I, a T-Rex in LOST WORLD, and the raptors in I and II and III, your ability to perform improves, and they become better actors. They have a greater range of motion, of performance, of emotion. It's like Al Pacino: you look forward to what he does in each new movie; I look forward to you seeing the performance from the Raptors and the T-Rex and the Spinosaur. They're pretty amazing characters, and you are more into their heads than you ever were before."
One area definitely improved by experience is the knowledge of which techniques to use for a particular effectwhether live-action or computer generated or "new methods of putting CGI and live-action together." Winston explains, "We've actually broken ground in JURASSIC PARK III. Whereas in JURASSIC PARK I we introduced a beautiful blend of CGI and live-action (which we had actually introduced in TERMINATOR 2), in JURASSIC PARK III we have not only an organic blend of methodologies to create dinosaurs; we have an organic blend in the same shot. You will see live-action dinosaurs and CGI dinosaurs in the same shot. You will see dinosaurs that are literally a combination of live-action and CGthings you've never seen before. You won't be able to pick it out, but I'll point it out on the DVD."