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SYFY WIRE Jurassic Park

Was Jurassic Park's Famous Marketing Tagline Born Out Of This On-Set Spielberg Joke?

"An adventure 65 million years in the making..."

By Josh Weiss

One of the least controversial things you can say as a cinema lover, is that Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park (now streaming on Peacock alongside The Lost World and Jurassic Park III sequels) is a perfect movie — or as perfect as any motion picture can ever be. The acting ensemble, efficient storytelling, and groundbreaking visual effects make the 1993 blockbuster a perennial classic that continues to spawn franchise follow-ups across all forms of media. Fittingly enough, it's one of those properties incapable of extinction. 

Even the original marketing team understood the assignment, delivering an iconic poster (directly inspired by Chip Kidd's skeletal T. rex cover design for the Michael Crichton novel of the same name), and snappy-as-hell tagline: "An adventure 65 million years in the making." While the concrete origins of this promotional slogan are a little murky, it might actually be rooted in a throwaway joke Spielberg made during the Hawaii leg of production.

For More on Jurassic Park:
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Jurassic Park's Assistant Director Reveals the 4 Big Lessons He Learned from Steven Spielberg
Jurassic Park's Still Knows How to Make Bank at the Box Office, Even 30 Years Later

Did Steven Spielberg Come Up with Jurassic Park's Famous Marketing Tagline?

In a behind-the-scenes video chronicling key moments of principal photography, the director can be seen explaining the origin of the mosquito trapped in amber to a curious Joseph Mazzello (Tim) in front of the Jurassic Park Visitor Center facade. He provides a basic rundown of how tree sap fossilizes over the countless eons, to which Ariana Richards (Lex) clarifies her co-star's question regarding the beloved prop affixed to John Hammond's cane. "I think he means how did you make this one," she says. Spielberg is vexed for only a split-second before going on to joke: "Well, we waited 50 million years. We've been in pre-production for 50 million years on this movie!"

Check out the moment for yourself in the video below (starting around 4:27)...

The backstory of the instantly recognizable logo, on the other hand, is way more verifiable.

"I went to The Museum of Natural History and I checked out the bones and I went to the gift shop and I bought a book," Chip Kidd recalls in a 2012 TED Talk. "I was particularly taken with this page, more specifically the right-hand corner [showing a full T. rex skeleton in profile]. I took this diagram, put it in a Photostat machine, took a piece of tracing paper, and I taped it over the Photostat with a piece of Scotch Tape. Then I took a Rapidograph pen and I just started to reconstitute the dinosaur. I had no idea what I was doing, but at some point, I stopped. To keep going, would seem like I was going too far. What I ended up with was a graphic representation of us seeing this animal coming into being. We are in the middle of the process."

Crichton's initial reaction to the design (sent via fax machine) was short, but exuberant: "Wow, F***ing Fantastic Jacket!" Universal loved it, too, because they quickly scooped up the poster rights not long after and...well, the rest, as they say, is prehistory. Kidd's logo is omnipresent on every last piece of Jurassic merchandise. "I was thrilled," he adds. "We all know it was an amazing movie and it was so interesting to see it go out into the culture and become this phenomenon and to see all the different permutations of it."

Jurassic Park is now streaming on Peacock alongside The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III.