From 1925’s The Lost World to 2015’s Jurassic World, audiences have long clamored for realistic dinosaur action. Take a look at the evolution of dino effects in the following movies, which paved the way for today’s flawless work.
The Lost World (1925)
This silent adventure, based on the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, featured the groundbreaking stop-motion animation of Willis O’Brien. He would hone his craft further eight years later, in a certain movie about a giant ape.
King Kong (1933)
O’Brien, already a legend in his field, outdid himself with King Kong, a classic that still holds up today. Kong and his dinosaur adversaries, constructed out of rubber and latex, set a benchmark for effects work in Hollywood.
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
A year before Godzilla, this monster hit depicted a dinosaur being awakened by nuclear testing, then taking its grumpiness out on New York. The creature effects were overseen by Willis O’Brien’s onetime assistant – a young man named Ray Harryhausen.
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
In 1966, more eyes were on Raquel Welch and her fur bikini than on the giant lizards antagonizing her. Nevertheless, the stop-motion animation – again, courtesy of Ray Harryhausen, who had by now come into his own – is impressive
The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
Why include this obscurity? Not only because it was the last dino movie that Ray Harryhausen worked on, but also because it was a long-abandoned passion project for Harryhausen’s late mentor, Willis O’Brien. Plus, cowboys!
The Land That Time Forgot (1975)
In the years before CGI, the dinosaur movie was in decline. Audiences found stop-motion animation too artificial; yet there was nothing better to supplant it. Thus movies like The Land That Time Forgot often relied on latex puppets.
The Land Before Time (1988)
Also for young kids who would be too scared of Spielberg’s creations or Peter Jackson’s rampaging creatures. If you try the movie out with your children, rejoice over the fact that there are 12 additional direct-to-DVD animated sequels for them to enjoy.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Ironically, it took the executive producer of The Land Before Time – Steven Spielberg – to make dinosaurs terrifying again. With its blend of digital and practical effects (thanks to dino master Phil Tippett), Jurassic Park changed everything.
Disney, which dabbled with dinos in 1940’s Fantasia, combined CG reptiles with live-action backgrounds in this family film. Originally, the dinosaur characters were not supposed to speak; authenticity was trumped by the desire for good box office.
King Kong (2005)
We’ve come a long, long way from Willis O’Brien’s charmingly crude stop-motion creations in the 1933 Kong – the version we prefer over Peter Jackson’s overlong remake. Still, the motion-capture-enhanced digital effects here are basically perfect.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)
Yes, Brendan Fraser’s a ham. And yes, Josh Hutcherson is much better in the Hunger Games movies. But the effects in director Eric Brevig’s 3D adventure were beyond impressive, topping out with the menacing Gigantosaurus – who makes life very difficult for our scientific travelers.