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Shortly after the publication of Jurassic Park in 1990, author Michael Crichton started to receive endless letters from readers, asking him if a sequel was in the cards. Following the cultural and financial success of Steven Spielberg's film adaptation three years later, Crichton had no choice but to deliver a follow-up that became 1995's The Lost World.
Jo Breese — a U.K.-based artist who goes by the professional title of Vector That Fox — faced a similar situation last year after illustrating a special hardcover edition of Crichton's dinosaur masterpiece for The Folio Society. Fan reception to the release was so positive, that Folio asked Breese if they were interested in crafting six more pieces for a collector's edition of the sequel.
"I think it was literally a month afterwards," the illustrator recalls during a Zoom conversation with SYFY WIRE. "I got an email from them, saying, ‘Would you be open to the idea? We’re just sort of chasing the rights for it [and are wondering] if you’re keen to do it.’ Obviously, I was very keen to do it and since the first book came out, it was nonstop people saying, ‘Please do The Lost World! Please do The Lost World!’"
The generous folks over at The Folio Society were kind enough to provide SYFY WIRE with an exclusive look behind-the-scenes at a number of early Vector That Fox sketches done for the project. Head below to see what the images looked like in the nascent stages of the creative process and what they ultimately became once fully detailed and colored.
"We had to be a bit strategic because obviously, you want the pictures staggered pretty evenly throughout the book," Breese says. "I had that in mind as I was going through, just reading through the book over and over again. I was putting in little notes or little scribbles every time I came to a moment I thought would look really good — and jotting down reasons for that as well."
While Breese couldn't get all of their suggestions into the final product, Folio did allow them to whip up an extra drawing that became a two-page title spread right inside of the front cover. Inspired by a moment that occurs near the middle of the book, the piece shows wildlife expert Sarah Harding (played in the movie version by Julianne Moore) avoiding a parade of dinosaurs by dangling from a tree branch without her shoes.
"That was a good compromise of pulling some of the activity out of the middle of the book, but still getting to draw it. Making sure we could draw Sarah, who’s quite different to the Sarah we see in the film," Breese continues. "Talking about those fans and how detail-oriented they are, was that Sarah, the character, actually kicks her boots off when she goes over the side of the boat and she has to swim her way to safety or gets sucked into the island somewhat. So, she’s not actually wearing shoes in that image because it was following that point where she’s come out of the river and is ambushed by these dinosaurs. The keen fans have already noticed that she’s just in her socks. I’m glad I got that right."
The Lost World is centered around the chaos-obsessed mathematician, Ian Malcolm (Crichton retconned the character's death at the end of the first novel), who begrudgingly agrees to take part in a rescue mission on Isla Sorna. Also known as "Site B," this is the island is where InGen actually bred — and briefly raised — the dinosaurs before moving them to the main theme park on Isla Nublar. When John Hammond's ambitious experiment fell apart with disastrous results, Sorna was abandoned, allowing the dinosaurs that were left behind to multiply unchecked.
"The arc of the story feels like it mainly really happens over one 24-hour period," Breese adds. "It starts really light and happy and then gets really dark and scary. It was mainly trying to capture that mood with the lighting of the scenes and stuff like that more than anything ... Crichton describes the characters and the dinosaurs and the scenery so perfectly. A lot of people have commented on the little details I’ve added … but it’s literally there in the text. I didn’t have to do too much work. It was so beautifully laid out for me."
"I had a lot of fun working out the colors," Breese says of the image above, which depicts a pair of velociraptors attacking an elevated sanctuary known as a high hide. "It’s more about the process than the final image — trying to work out how to illuminate things just enough that it still looks really dark and scary."
Breese was actually in the process of moving houses when Folio got back in touch. Knowing they couldn't let the opportunity pass them by, the artist only unpacked the essentials. "The first thing I did when I got to my new house was set up my desk and all my drawing stuff. Everything else stayed in boxes for a couple of months ... That was the first thing that got done in my house. I [also] got all my toys out for reference as well — drawing equipment and dinosaur toys."
When it came to accurately presenting archaeological discoveries, Breese turned to a real-world Alan Grant: palentoglogist Stephen Brusatte. "He was really good at making sure that arms were the right length. I drew some arms a bit too big at the beginning from some of the early ones. And so, he was really good for that kind of really technical feedback."
"I would also say the bike chase away from the T. Rex was a little bit of a challenge because anyone who’s drawn motorbikes knows that they’re quite a challenge," Breese says. "But then to draw one that looks authentically like an electric bike from the early ‘90s was a bit of a challenge and then have it coming right at you with two people sitting on it. I think that was quite difficult [and] hopefully, it looks convincing. I think the T. rex was the easiest part of that in the end because I’d drawn so many T. rexes by that point."
The Lost World made its way to the big screen in 1997 as The Lost World: Jurassic Park (with Spielberg back in the director's chair), albeit with a storyline that vastly deviated from the source material.
"With the first and the second book, I didn't let myself watch them because I knew it would jumble up my memory of what happened," Breese admits. "So I avoided it entirely and I avoided the dinosaur podcasts that I listen to. I avoided everything [and] just focused on the books. But then obviously, as soon as I finished the work, I really wanted to rewatch them because it was so on my mind. And then I was that really annoying person watching the film, going, ‘Oh, that’s interesting because in the book…’"
One such change from the novel was the consolidation of two young characters — Arby and Kelly — into the single role of Malcolm's teenage daughter, Kelly (played in the film adaptation by Vanessa Lee Chester). "We felt it was important to get the kids in [there] as well because they’re two separate people that become one in the film version," Breese explains. "It was about navigating who we really wanted and where we could put them, essentially."
The artist concludes: "I think what’s nice about both books is that because they’re quite different from the films in some aspects, it kind of feels like bonus content. For me, anyway. It just feels like extra stuff."
The Folio Society edition of Michael Crichton's The Lost World is now on sale for $59.95 in the U.S.