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A film franchise 28 years in the making; Jurassic Park has reigned success again-and-again with each sequel it makes. With the third instalment of Jurassic World coming this year, we reflect on how the original film captured the public’s attention and became the 5th most popular VHS tape of all time.
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) is a culturally significant film in Hollywood for pioneering new visual effects and reflecting the changing political climate in America. In the opening weekend, Jurassic Park achieved a record-breaking $50 million box office sale. After a year of being played in the cinema, the film had obtained $916 million before being released on VHS. To know that their budget was only £96 million, you get an idea of the magnitude of this film’s achievement.
The success of its box office and VHS sales were driven by the film’s production, marketing, and commodification. Combine this with a family orientated storyline of a group working together to escape the monstrous danger surrounding them – and you’ve got yourself a Spielberg blockbuster.
However, before we can understand Jurassic Park’s success, we first need to delve into America’s politics during the cinematic release.
6 months before Jurassic Park’s release, Bill Clinton was welcomed in as the United States’ new President. Within the first month of his presidency, he had reversed the family planning restrictions prohibiting women from getting an abortion.
6 months after Jurassic Park’s release, the Republicans won most of the seats in Office. There became a focus in American politics to maintain traditional American ideals.
Since the Republicans had won most seats, Clinton signed a bill called the “Defence of Marriage Act”. This act was designed to “protect” the institution of marriage as a union of one man to one woman – the conservative, nuclear ideal—an ideal which was heavily focused on Jurassic Park’s storyline.
“…those stories that become consumable by a large popular audience provide a good guide to the more conservative cultural narratives of the present.” – Laura Briggs and Jodi I. Kelber-Kaye, “There Is No Unauthorized Breeding in Jurassic Park”: Gender and the Uses of Genetics.”
Science fiction films tend to show us a narrative different from the Western cultural norm. Moreover, they highlight the dangers of living in a world different from the political situation that we live in. In Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs represent the dangers and uncontrollable nature of experimenting with genetics.
The dinosaurs represent the anxiety around the science of controlled breeding. Through being created in the lab, they represent the mix of being technological and organic. In the film, the dinosaurs were designed by extracting the DNA from a mosquito’s blood found inside an amber stone. The visiting characters learn that they created all the dinosaurs as females to prevent the dinosaurs from breeding and control their test environment.
However, the scientists used frog DNA to fill the genetic make-up needed to clone the animals. Little did they know that the frog’s DNA they had chosen to use was of an ambisexual breed – meaning that they had the capability of changing gender to procreate. The famous words of Ian Malcolm ring true as the female dinosaurs find a way to evolve and represent the uncontrollable danger of meddling with genetics and controlling breeding.
Since Spielberg directed Jurassic Park, there had to be a family-friendly spin on an army of monstrous dinosaurs rampaging around an island. At the beginning of the film, the audience is introduced to Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler: a couple struggling with their differences over having children. Ellie being all for beginning a family, and Alan thoroughly against it. The couple’s arrival to the theme park brought new responsibilities as they (well, Alan) were landed with protecting the owner’s grandchildren from the danger of the dinosaurs.
“It’s like a treehouse. Your dad ever built you one?” – Alan Grant rescuing Tim after their jeep falls over a cliff edge and lands in a tree.
By the end of the film, Ellie and Alan are surrogate parents holding and leading the children to the helicopter to escape the island. The message is clear that their survival is based on the group of characters working together as a nuclear family; with Alan showing his paternal leadership, he puts his arm around the now elderly-appearing Hammond and guides him to safety.
Scientific progression with cloning and manipulating genetics is shown as threatening the natural and traditional family. Like the Republican anxiety about marriage and abortion, Jurassic Park tells us there is safety in tradition.
Without the political agenda, it is hard to deny that Jurassic Park’s attraction was the visual effects. The CGI was an iconic development in Hollywood’s film production. Hence, the original film trailer avoided displaying the CGI dinosaurs to lure film lovers into seeing the cinema’s pioneering technology.
The fascination, adoration, and apprehension created in Jurassic Park are a homage to the monster film. By limiting big spectacular displays of the monster, the audience’s imagination is left to fill in the gaps. The dark setting and stormy weather in the film plays into this as Spielberg purposefully uses partial, close-up shots or shadows of the dinosaurs to build suspense. In fact, by using clever camera angles and lighting, the film only had 14 minutes of visual effects – only four of those minutes were the iconic CGI we remember Jurassic Park for today.
Spielberg captured the public’s attention and left them hungry for more by withholding the spectacular visual display of the dinosaurs.
If there is one thing Jurassic Park satirises, it is our capitalist desire to commodify anything new and exciting. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, it is at the expense of the consumer. Ian Malcolm outlines this problem after Hammond explains his idea to make a dinosaur-themed park:
“Yeah, but John, if Pirates of the breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” – Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
The irony being Universal Studios building a water ride simulating the fear and adrenaline rush of being attacked by dinosaurs. This year also welcomes a new Velociraptor rollercoaster ride paying homage to the success of ‘Jurassic World’. It is an inescapable thought that experiencing a dinosaur-filled theme park is (and dare I say it?) sexy.
The commodification of Jurassic Park is the final reason why the film has captured so many people’s hearts. The initial VHS release came with a special edition gift set of a DNA carry case, an educational book on dinosaurs, an InGen security pass, 3D hologram watch and map of Isla Nublar. The gift set toys with the theory of dinosaur cloning being plausible as it mixes the factual with fiction.
“…before you even know what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a lunch box” – Ian Malcolm speaking about the dangers on capitalising on dinosaurs.
The risk, wonder, and adventure: Spielberg’s film captivates us by showing a world we could never live in. The VHS to DVD releases combined with playful commodities has placed Jurassic Park into a staple part of Western film culture. Furthermore, its innovative visual effects and theorisation around the dangers of creating dinosaurs with a capitalist agenda cultivate a world in which Jurassic Park could exist.
Have you found your collection of Jurassic Park VHS tapes at home? At Digital Converters, we can convert your tapes to digital formats. Follow the link here.
It is coming up to Christmas 1995: you are weaving around shops finding presents for your children. That’s when you stumble into the video aisle in Woolworths. There you see it: orange and shining in all its’ Disney glory – The Lion King on VHS.
You know it’s a hit with your children because you were dragged to the cinema to see it (and let’s be honest – you loved it too). So, you buy it. Along with the 32 million other people across the globe who made this film the top-selling VHS tape ever.
26 years after the release of The Lion King, the success of its VHS sales and box office numbers have not been forgotten. Last year, Disney released a photorealistic remake of the film which played with fan’s nostalgia and made Disney over a billion dollars. In fact, it did so well it surpassed the original film’s box office numbers and became the 7th highest grossing film of all time.
But how did the original Lion King gravitate such a huge success?
With the film being released in 1994, it was Disney’s 5th success in their renaissance period. This collection of films brought back Disney’s classic hand drawn animation style and focused on telling well-known stories. Only this time was an exception: The Lion King is the first original story created by Disney.
(Now, I know that anyone who has studied Shakespeare will stand their ground and say that The Lion King was based off Hamlet. And yes, you would be correct for saying that. However, when storyboarding the film Scar was not the brother of Mufasa. It was only when the creators saw the resemblance between their story and Hamlet that they decided to take inspiration from Shakespeare’s tragedy.)
The interesting part is that Disney never expected The Lion King to be such a huge success. Moreover, that it would topple Pocahontas on box office numbers and VHS sales. When Disney decided to split the studio between producing Pocahontas and The Lion King many of the top animators worked on the former believing it was the more prestigious film. This left codirectors, Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, with new animators and the chance to experiment with new 3D effects in the film.
Thankfully, this new opportunity to experiment with new techniques, such as the Rack Focus technique (changing the field of focus of the lens in a continuous shot) in their animation. When comparing the two films, there is a clear difference in how The Lion King pushed to be innovative and use new animation styles. Unlike Pocahontas which reflect the traditional Disney style and darker colour palettes.
In terms of pushing boundaries and changing the sphere of Disney, The Lion King was immediately seen as unique from their first theatrical trailer release. They released the entire four minute opening scene of the song ‘Circle of Life’ which highlighted the films new 3D effect and Rack Focus technique.
More to the point, it advertised the cracking soundtrack composed by Elton John and Tim Rice.
At the time, it was strange for Disney to collaborate with a celebrity musician and it wasn’t easy to organise. Tim Rice had to argue his case against Roy E. Disney (vice-chairman of Disney at the time) for why he believed they should collaborate with a rock star. Unfortunately, a large part of Disney’s grudge was based on him not liking popular music.
As the film developed, new challenges arose with the soundtrack: one being how ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ should be sung and presented in the film. Initially, it was proposed that the two comedic characters, Timon and Pumbaa. However, Elton was not happy with this exclaiming that it is supposed to be a traditional Disney love ballad and should not be sung by a “big, stinky warthog”. He even had to argue for this song to be kept in the film after watching an early screening of the film and noticing it had been cut. Praise be that he did, because that song earnt The Lion King the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Without Elton John’s involvement the soundtrack would never have been as successful as it was. It is still the best-selling album of an animated film and the success of involving Elton began a new era of collaborating with celebrities on animated soundtracks.
One aspect of marketing which really drove the sale of VHS tapes of The Lion King was through its merchandise. A great perk to selling animated characters is that they are exceptionally adaptable and amenable when creating toys and other commodities. Since the film was aimed at children and based around animated animals, merchandising toys and collectibles became, well, child’s play. For instance, when McDonalds and Burger King included toys from The Lion King in their kid’s meals their sales soared. Children loved collecting those cuddly, cartoon characters.
More so, the reason why VHS sales of The Lion King topped the charts is because it’s a children’s film. Unlike adults, children love to watch films and television shows on repeat. It is comforting for them to re-watch films and an easy way for them to learn new vocabulary and understand the story. Studies have shown that children predicting the plot of a repeatedly watched film is a win for them and a confirmation that they have grasped the story. The Lion King even had musical numbers for children to learn new song lyrics and copy dance movements.
For parents, buying the VHS was an easy option to keep children entertained. The best part being the sturdy, plastic casing of the tape which prevented too many accidents from happening to the film – unlike the fragile DVD which came after.
Have you got a collection of Disney VHS tapes lying around your house? You can transfer all your VHS to digital formats and have all your favourite films on a singular memory stick!
Follow the link here to get started!
Ever wondered what to do with your collection of VHS tapes lying around your house? Have you thought about getting them digitised?
Thirty years ago, VHS tapes were the clunky heroes of the day. A place where you can store 3 hours of home videos whilst also taping all the TV shows you could ever want to watch. It was your saviour for when people made plans at the same time as your favourite television show… and, your worst enemy when you mistakenly chose the wrong VHS to tape over. But, what about now?
With streaming services available to watch the shows that you love without the hassle of taping and mobile phones being a quick solution to capture a memory forever, the thought of searching for a VHS and setting up a camcorder becomes a laughable solution. And now you’re left with a quandary: since you no longer have a VCR due to new televisions making them obsolete – what are you to do with all your VHS tapes? Digitising your VHS tapes preserves your memories and revitalises them in the modern age.
Transferring your VHS to digital can feel like a tiring ordeal when thinking about the appliances and work needed to do so. Yet, with the help of a professional video service all you have to do is select, package and send your tapes to the service.
No worries! These services will sift through your footage and edit out any unwanted television or static screens. Then, the files will be converted into an MP4 format (or format of your preference) so you can watch, and choose to edit these videos, without the need of prior watching.
Using a service like Digital Converters means that cleaning and repairs are included in the price of your transfer. The sooner you send in your tapes, the higher chance you have of recovering your memories from film deterioration or mould. Their expert technicians have the knowledge to repair tapes – and with the help of in-house editing, your videos will play seamlessly.
Conversion is included in the price of VHS to digital services. It would be foolish to expect your VHS tapes to keep in a good, high quality condition for the next 20 years. By converting your VHS to DVD, USB or Cloud declutters your house and protects your videos from any future damage.
Hold the phone! Choosing to convert your VHS to DVD is better than not converting them at all…however, using a VHS to DVD service will become problematic for you later. DVD’s are quickly following the same route as tapes due to streaming services replacing the need for discs.
Personally, I recommend converting your tapes to a USB or cloud format. USB’s are easy to use on a smart television or computer, and cloud downloads allow you to watch your videos on your phone anywhere. A fantastic option if you are wanting to show them to friends and family outside the home!
Digital Converters is the top video conversion service in the UK. They use the best VHS equipment to ensure your videos are converted at the highest quality. What makes them really unique is their easy to use website where you can create orders and contact the company. Using web chat, email or phone to discuss any other questions you may have.