My Jurassic Journey

When I was 11 I was in the grocery store checkout line of the Food Lion  when I saw a small magazine called Disney Adventures.  It was the size of a half sheet of paper, and contained articles on things that any 11 year old would want to know about.  This zine was primarily concerned with upcoming Disney movies, and poorly crafted interviews with their child stars.  This particular issue was April  of 1996 and had a T-Rex on the cover.  That was how I was introduced to Jurassic Park, a film which would have a profound affect on my interests and passions as I grew up.  It fueled my love of science.  The April 1996 issue of Disney Adventures contained 25 facts about dinosaurs, but 25 facts wasn’t enough.  I needed all the facts.


In grade school my class went to the local library every Wednesday and I rented every dino book I could get my hands.  I acquired wooden dinosaur skeleton models that I used to decorate my room.  At one point I owned a home dinosaur excavation kit. You used paint brushes and tiny chisels to excavate the skeleton of a 12” tall tyrannosaurus rex, which in retrospect probably wasn’t real.  I loved dinosaurs.  When the library ran out of dinosaur books I turned my attention to modern reptiles.  If it was cold blooded and scaly I wanted to know about it.  What started as an infatuation with giant terrible lizards that hadn’t walked the earth for 68 million years had blossomed into a genuine love of herpetology.  When I was 13 I got my first pet lizard.  By the time I was 19 I had worked at an exotic pet store, gone to zoo camp, bred over a dozen different species of geckos, and eventually donated my prized Black Pine Snake to a breeding program in order to re-establish wild populations.  I was planning on getting a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.  While I ended up pursuing comedy instead, I’m still an ardent conservationist.  I can trace this obsession with animals, specifically reptiles, back to the film Jurassic Park.

I think part of the reason that I’m so fascinated with reptiles is that they are the descendants of animals that once walked on this Earth.  Animals that we can only speculate as to what they ate, how they looked, and the way they lived.  I love going to museums, and recently went to The Smithsonian Natural History Museum where they have a full sized triceratops skeleton on display.  It’s the frill is larger than the hood of my car. It’s body dwarfs most modern tanks.  This was a tremendous animal that roamed the earth in a completely different time.  It lived so long ago that if you took a picture of the earth from the Triceratops time and held it side by side with a modern image of our planet, you would swear you were looking at different celestial bodies.  This is a mind melting concept that crashed over me as I looked at the enormous skeleton.

When I looked at the big trike I could see faint traces of it’s features in that of my Russian Tortoise Judy, specifically in the beak. Now, I know that tortoises are not descended from Triceratops, but her little ancient looking face does serve as a reminder of some of the animals from long ago.  What is entirely likely is that my albino leopard gecko The Diva has some Deinonychus DNA in her.  She doesn’t seem very interested in the crickets I feed her.  Instead she prefers to stare at me through the glass walls of her cage with a look in her eyes that would cause Muldoon to quietly exclaim, “Clever girl.”  I say Deinonychus quite rightly, because that is what was portrayed in all four of the Jurassic Park Films, not the small and chicken like Velociraptor which is only sort of portrayed in The Lost World when a group of them murder Tim Roth for being Tim Roth and even then are referred to as Procompsognathus.  I know the actor who is killed isn’t actually Tim Roth, but if Stephen Spielberg can call Deinonychus Velociraptor I can call Peter Stormare Tim Roth.

While this film about a theme park where the attractions kill everyone is where I trace my love, fascination, and passion for animals and animal rescue from, I should point out that I didn’t actually see it until I was 12.  It was on VHS, in a VCR that had a tracking problem.  No wonder we thought the special effects were amazing.  Go back and watch the original Tron on a tube TV.  It looks like a game of Pong with dialogue.  The reason I tell you this is because all of my passion for cold blooded creatures is not really derived from the film, but from the April 1996 issue of Disney Adventures.  Now that I think about it, The Lost World was released in 1997, so that issue was probably an advanced advertisement for the Sequel to Jurassic Park which was originally released in 1993.  There was going to be more to this, but I am now realizing that most of my fervor for the protection of rare and exotic species as well as the advancement of science and a rationalist agenda isn’t based on a ground breaking film, but a child’s weakness for advertising.

I think that the intent was still there, and I still love the films.  Even the one where Doctor Grant takes The Shoveler and the best friend from Bad Boys to what I think was supposed to be a sequel to Congo.  It had an albino Velociraptor!  Give it a pair of stone paddles, toss in Bruce Campbell’s corpse, and it could have been Congo 2.

The point is that films like Jurassic Park are about more than just scaring people with giant claws and teeth.  They are also about inspiring young people to take an interest in science.  For better or worse Jurassic Park did that for me, and I hope Jurassic World does that for a new generation.