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30 years later, remembering the Jurassic Park FX maverick whose digital dinosaurs freaked us all out

Updated Jun 11th, 2023 7:37PM EDT
Jurassic Punk on Prime Video

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I’ll be honest, I’m having a little trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that this week marks the 30th anniversary of Jurassic Park, the 2-hour Steven Spielberg classic that loomed so large in so many of our childhoods. What a thrill ride it was, when you saw it for the first time as a kid — and what a collection of moments that also left you forgetting to breathe, from Laurie Dern’s Ellie frantically trying to get the power turned back on to that T-rex breaking out of its paddock and those terrifying raptors figuring out how to turn door handles while on the hunt for their prey.

Chances are, even if you loved and still love the original Jurassic Park movie, one name might have escaped your awareness until now: That of Steve Williams. He’s the animation and visual effects pioneer responsible for those dinosaurs looking so terrifyingly real, and his career has also included work on films like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and Jumanji. The 30th anniversary of Jurassic Park, in my opinion, is the perfect excuse to head over to your video-on-demand outlet of choice and buy or rent Jurassic Punk — a must-watch documentary that tells the story of how the guy nicknamed “Spaz” pulled off so many of those and other amazing cinematic feats.

It’s also the story of an iconoclast, of an obnoxious rebel who struggled with alcoholism and who burned bridges and torched relationships in spite of leaving a profound impact on cinema. The documentary is available to rent or buy from sources like Prime Video and iTunes, and the official synopsis reads thus:

“Steve Williams is considered a pioneer in computer animation. This intimate account examines his life story and events surrounding the historical moment when digital dinosaurs walked onto the silver screen in Jurassic Park. Steve and a chorus of expert witnesses recount a dramatic tale of rebellion and revolution at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic in the early 1990s — a time when creating realistic creatures with a computer was considered impossible. Decades later, Steve struggles to reckon with his chaotic past.”

Jurassic Punk was directed by Scott Leberecht, a friend and colleague of Williams’ who began his filmmaking career at Industrial Light & Magic. As a visual effects Art Director, his film credits include titles like Spawn and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, and he’s also written and directed award-winning films like Life After Pi.

Jurassic Park movie
A tyrannosaurus rex terrorizes people trapped in a car in a scene from the 1993 film Jurassic Park directed by Steven Spielberg. Image source: Murray Close/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

As of this writing, Jurassic Punk has a perfect 100% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s not hard to see why. The film is a warts-and-all reminder that the artists and creatives among us are sometimes the most difficult to love, never mind how easy it is to love what they do and make. Explains a New York Times review: “Jurassic Punk tells the very juicy story of pioneers, naysayers, and professional hierarchies that made Williams both the Necessary Man and an eventual outcast.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.