How Animatronics Works

Jurassic Machines

The "Jurassic Park" series is known for the realism of its creatures, both the animatronic and digital versions. When the original "Jurassic Park" came out in 1993, it set a new standard for the realistic portrayal of dinosaurs, creatures that have never been seen alive by man. "Jurassic Park II: The Lost World" continued to improve the vision, and "Jurassic Park III," the latest movie in the series, raised the bar once again.

Photo courtesy Stan Winston Studio, photographer Chuck Zlotnick
An animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) being built

Photo courtesy Universal Studios
The animatronic Spinosaurus in action

Most of the animatronic dinosaurs used in "Jurassic Park III" are new. For example, the Velociraptors were redesigned to more closely resemble what paleontologists think a Velociraptor looked like. The Tyrannosaurus rex was redone too, but is no longer the star of the franchise. That distinction now passes to Spinosaurus, a monster that dwarfs even the mighty T. rex. This is the largest animatronic creature SWS has ever built, even bigger than the T. rex that Winston's team built for the original "Jurassic Park"!

Check out these amazing Spinosaurus statistics:

  • It is 43.5 feet (13.3 m) long -- almost as long as a bus -- and weighs 24,000 pounds (10,886.2 kg/12 tons).
  • It is powered entirely by hydraulics, even down to the blinking of the eyes. This is because the creature was made to work above and below water.
  • There are 42 hydraulic cylinders and approximately 2,200 feet (671 m) of hydraulic hoses.
  • The creature moves on a track that is 140 feet (43 m) long and made from a pair of 12-inch (30.48 cm) steel I-beams.
  • All pivots use roller-bearing construction.
  • All large steel pieces were cut using waterjets.
  • The creature is completely remote-controlled.

How did SWS build this amazing device? In the next section, we'll look at the standard process used to develop animatronic devices. We will then look in detail at the various steps involved.