We theme park enthusiasts occupy a strange place in pop culture.
For example, I find myself actively rooting for the new Avatar movies to do well.
Why? Do I have a vested interest in the success of noted mini-sub advocate and director of major blockbusters James Cameron?
I do not.
But I like Pandora, The World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Therefore, I hope the movies do well enough to give Disney a reason to invest more and expand that section of the park.
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Likewise, I hope the Jurassic World movies do well.
Am I such a big fan of the Jurassic Park franchise? Well I, like most people, enjoyed the first movie in the film series. Additionally, I really liked the Michael Crichton book, but I can’t say I’m overly attached to the ongoing movies.
I think I’ve seen them all, except the latest “Jurassic World Dominion” which I’m sure I’ll stream at some point.
But, despite the tepid critical reaction to the latest movies, we need them to make money to keep the theme park’s potential.
Is Jurassic Park Disney or Universal?
The general rule of thumb is if it’s a Steven Spielberg property, it’s Universal.
But if it’s George Lucas, it’s Disney World. Now, Indiana Jones is more Spielberg than Lucas, but there’s just enough Lucas in there to get Indy to Disney.
Who owns Jurassic Park?
For film and TV purposes, it’s Universal and Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment with its ET logo.
For theme park purposes, the rights to the Jurassic Park franchise and the characters and themes from the Jurassic World movies belong to Universal Orlando.
And – for the record – the Jurassic Park section of Universal’s Islands of Adventure is pretty awesome.
The Jurassic Park section at Islands of Adventure
I think it’s the best section of either Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Orlando that’s not a Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
First of all, Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade’s fake snow is incongruous with the Florida heat.
However, Isla Nublar – home to many of the Jurassic Park shenanigans – is a perfect fit for Florida. The Jurassic Park world is immersive and it doesn’t even have to try that hard.
The Jurassic Park section also offers the best variety of rides in one section of the park. From the Jurassic Park River Adventure to the for-kids-only Pteranodon Flyers to the amazing roller coaster aka the Jurassic World Velocicoaster, there is plenty of amusement to be had in this part of the amusement park.
Does Jurassic Park have anything for the kids?
The Camp Jurassic play area – under the Pteranodon Flyers – is fun and comfortable and shady. The Jurassic Park Discovery Center is informative – and air-conditioned.
The game area is entertaining with decent dinosaur prizes. The restaurants are … fine but probably the weakest link in the Jurassic Park DNA sequence.
Also, Jurassic Park has what is consistently the best character encounter in the park – maybe in all of Orlando – the Velociraptor Encounter.
At this point, we’ve been taught to fear the velociraptor since Sam Neill’s Dr. Alan Grant took a velociraptor claw and scared the bejesus out of a mouthy kid who was talking guff at a fossil dig in the Badlands.
What is the Raptor Encounter?
We did baby Raptor Encounter and the big animatronic guy, too. It was fantastic. It felt enough like a real dinosaur that my wife – MY WIFE – ran in fear.
She bolted despite knowing exactly what the robot was going to do and being warned by the raptor handler.
The only thing I wanted, though, was more character interactions. If Universal can pay a guy to act like imminent physicist Dr. Emmett Brown or Beetlejuice, then surely we can get somebody out here to do some credible Jurassic Park characters.
In fact, here are my suggestions in reverse order of preference.
10. Dr. Ian Malcolm originally played by Jeff Goldblum
Dr. Malcolm is a supporter of chaos theory, wearer of unbuttoned shirts and maker of inappropriate advances on colleagues.
The only reason I rank Malcolm so low is that I believe it’s impossible to pull off. There is only one Jeff Goldblum. So while I wouldn’t put it past him to randomly show up at the park in character, you can’t expect some kid trying to make his acting bones in at Universal to pull it off.
The character didn’t survive in the original book. But he made it in the movie. Crichton also brought him back for the second book, “The Lost World”. Therefore, the rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated.
9. Claire Dearing originally played by Bryce Dallas Howard
Claire is a CEO-type who is a little too loosey-goosey with her nephew’s whereabouts at a theme park full of living dinosaurs. And also, she’s a wearer of impractical shoes.
I like Bryce Dallas Howard a lot. She has proven to be an excellent director of Star Wars TV shows. However, she wasn’t given much to work with in the Jurassic World movies. In that way, it might be easier for a local actor to pick up the portrayal. I just don’t think many people are going to care.
8. Dr. Alan Grant originally portrayed by Sam Neill
Excellent remover of sunglasses, not a fan of children and inappropriate paramour of a significantly younger colleague. It’s a tough act to pull, being a character that is stern with children in an amusement park.
For example, we once encountered a Disney Mary Poppins who was playing the character’s prim and proper side.
My daughter Ainsley, who was around two at the time, rejected the premise entirely. Specifically, she told Mary Poppins what she thought and stormed off to the side to wait while the older two got their pictures with Mary.
7. Owen Grady originally played by Chris Pratt
Grady shares a surprisingly – maybe disturbingly so – strong bond with beloved velociraptor Blue. While saying things completely inappropriate for the workplace and making improper advances on his boss, he somehow maintains enough charisma to lead a team of raptors while riding a motorcycle.
We did a meet and greet at Disney with an actor playing Pratt’s Starlord character. Owen Grady isn’t that far from Starlord. This is the first one I consider doable.
6. Dr. Ellie Sattler originally played by Laura Dern
This triceratops veterinarian isn’t afraid to go armpit deep in a monstrous pile of poo while being ogled by Jeff Goldblum – who was clearly not in character for that scene.
She is a capable scientist who can outrun velociraptors. I feel like an educational meet and greet with Dr. Satler in the Discovery Center would go like gangbusters.
5. John Hammond originally played by Richard Attenborough
Hammond is a P.T. Barnum type crossed with Walt Disney shyster who weaseled his way to financing the original park. He’s a sparer of no expense and another character who passed in the book but survived the first movie.
Surely there are some mall Santas running around Orlando who need work the other 11 months of the year. So we could make this a go.
4. Dr. Henry Wu originally played by B.D. Wong
Voice of some level of reason in the books, stunted character in the first movie and inexplicable bad guy in the final movies. I love B.D. Wong. I make no bones about it. He is fantastic in everything.
Crichton’s book originally came out as the public was becoming aware that the popular notion of dinosaurs as big lumbering lizards was completely wrong. While most of us understand that dinosaurs were more like birds – even feathery – Wu was the branch between creating reality and meeting expectations.
In the book, he suggests to Hammond that dinosaurs – despite having their DNA supplemented with amphibian DNA – are too real, too dangerous.
He could modify them, he suggests, making them more like the public expects big and lumbering and even more docile. Hammond won’t hear of it of course and soon lots of people are being eaten.
In the movies, Wu eventually grows exquisite long hair and becomes a bad guy. A great character for the park. I would pose with Dr. Henry Wu all day.
3. Dennis Nedry played by the guy who played Newman in Seinfeld
The possessor of shaving cream cans with secret compartments, he was willing to let loose an entire park of extremely dangerous dinosaurs in a tropical storm because he underbid a job. He was also a wearer of festive shirts.
Another great character to have to wander around the park, asking for directions to the docks. Have him stage clandestine meetings at the restaurants so he can yell, “We’ve got Dodgson here!”
2. Tyrannosaurs Rex
T-Rex, eater of goats and lawyers, the enemy of velociraptors, relentless pursuer of children and scientists and Vince Vaughn.
To quote John Hammond, yes, they have a T-Rex currently but it doesn’t do much.
I want the velociraptor tech but to use a T-Rex size model. If a 7-foot Blue can scare my wife, imagine what a 20-foot T-Rex could do.
1. Indominus Rex
I-Rex is an all-around bad idea from people who have had decades of being unable to control dinosaurs but somehow decide to essentially make a Godzilla.
In the park, it’s the same principle as the T-Rex but bigger. If we’re truly bracing the Jurassic Park ethos, bigger is always better.
What do you think about Jurassic Park at Universal? Let us know in the comments!