'Jurassic Park's' Mike Trcic talks life-size dinosaurs and desire

Tyrannosaurus rexes may not be stomping into Tempe's forest of classrooms and dorms, however, one of its creators, Mike Trcic, is to once again revive the legacy of dinosaurs that roamed theaters around the country over 20 years ago. 

For the first time ever in 1993, "Jurassic Park" creators brought to life full-sized mechanical dinosaurs, an attempt that had not yet been made in motion pictures. Now the film is older than most of those pursuing a degree at ASU, however, it still remains in the top 20 films in box office earnings. 

ASU organization Hollywood Invades Tempe works to connect students with professionals in the field. The president of the organization Colton Trcic reached out to his father who was a sculptor and a puppeteer of the team who began working on the film in the early '90s.

"My father’s work on 'Jurassic Park' and numerous other films has been a huge influence on my career choice," Colton Trcic said. "I was so overwhelmed by his job when I was little. A career in film seemed like the best job ever."

He said he feels that there are films that are pivotal parts of viewers, movies that for many different reasons stay and keep people coming back over and over again. 

"'Jurassic Park,' I feel, was that film for a lot of students my age," he said. "I think my father’s work is a prime example that you don’t have to write or direct to have an immense impact on a film. There is a lot of talent that goes into making a movie, sculptors and artists are at the core of the film’s design and often responsible for the look of many creatures, environments and more. I think my father’s work showcases that perfectly, and could inspire students into wanting to bring their talent to films."

Don't Forget about our Jurassic Park event TOMORROW night! We will be screening the film followed by guest speaker Mike Trcic talking about building a T-Rex!

Posted by Hollywood Invades Tempe on Monday, March 14, 2016

Mike Trcic said he is excited at how his film continues to remain relevant. 

"I'm surprised," he said. "The last time I saw it on the big screen was in 3-D. ... Wow, I'm impressed. The artists that we had working on the film, still many of them are still working. Back in the day we were all young and hungry."

Trcic began working on the artwork for the movie two and a half years before it made it to the big screen, which was during his time on-set for "Terminator 2: Judgement Day." He said he and his friend Shannon Shea got ahold of the manuscript that had been lesser known until Steven Spielberg bought it. He said they then decided that they would find out the effect shop that got the opportunity, and they were going to work there. 

From there on, Trcic and the crew would continue to draw, study and work to create the fictional world. 

At one point during the film, Trcic said the crew attached a camera to the hip of the full-size dinosaur in the scene where the character Grant is waving a flare at the T. rex. He said they thought it would turn out so cool, but in reality when they watched the footage it looked like they used a miniature T.rex and put Grant 50 yards away.

“We ended up not using that shot in the film, though it was real, it didn’t look real,” he said. “I think the rest of the film was a testament to the (computer generated) effects because the life-size T. rex only appears in the scene when it initially escapes and is terrorizing the kids.”

Trcic said from then on it appeared that the only reason they created a life-size one was to make a model that would excite the investors, instead of trying to convince them that miniature models would be exciting on the big-screen.

Although it had a cool presence, Trcic said it was always a possible danger to the crew. He recalled a slightly funny story from working on set, when he stepped in for another puppeteer for the first time during the scene where the T. rex is sniffing the door of the explorer with the children inside.

"I operated the head and neck," he said. "The action was set up probably about 30 to 40 feet away from where the rest of the puppeteers were so we couldn't see the angle of how close the nose was to the door. It bumped the door and lifted it up on to two wheels with the kids inside! Everyone was screaming, 'Woah, woah, woah, stop!'"

With all the action going on, Trcic said his favorite memory is of Fay Wray, the female lead of "King Kong," on set and he had the opportunity to meet her.

"I got into the movie industry because of 'King Kong,'" he said. "I could not leave her alone."

However, after so many years in the film and television industry, he said he realized he needed a plan to either stay in the industry or leave. Ultimately he left; he and his wife fell in love with Sedona and decided to move and raise a family. 

Trcic continues to remain relevant around Arizona as he works in his own studio, and his work can be seen in museums. 

He said he advises that students need the desire to be successful. He mentioned that he grew up in Pittsburgh, a city far from the film industry. 

"When I was in my teens, I'd spend my summers doing animated films and building my own models," Trcic said. "Then, when I was done with that I would play ball with my friends. ... I'd say if you want it bad enough, you can achieve it. You just have to want it." 

HIT Vice President Kai Ritter said the best part is meeting the VIPs and seeing how the film industry works. The organization used to live stream the movie and Skype the professionals into Tempe, but now students are able to see them on campus.

"This industry is all on who you know," he said. "The more people you meet, the more information you have, then the more you are prepared to work in it. It's going to be amazing. It's 'Jurassic park,' which a lot of these people haven't been able to see in theaters."

Students and the community alike will have the opportunity to watch the film for free, as well as enjoy refreshments and ask Trcic further questions about his experience with "Jurassic Park."

Head over to Marston Theater located in the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology building four on Tuesday by 7:30 p.m. to relive the first time that full-sized mechanical dinosaurs had never been attempted in motion pictures. 

Related links:

ASU grad student builds dinosaur skull replica, bellowing roars and all

Where have all the dinosaurs gone

Reach the arts editor at rsantist@asu.edu or follow @ryanerica18 on Twitter.

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