If you think Netflix’s animated series Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is a kiddie show, think again. The show is about a group of teen campers trying to survive the dinos of Isla Nublar in the wake of the chaos depicted in Jurassic World. Produced by Amblin Entertainment, the series was even developed under the guidance of Steven Spielberg and the franchise’s mythology guru, Colin Trevorrow. And interestingly, they mandated that showrunner Scott Kreamer not hold back on the show’s stakes, or just give kids a warm, fuzzy version of the mythology.
This directive to go for broke helps explain why Season 1 ended with Ben (Sean Giambrone), one of the most anxious and reticent of the campers, falling from the above-ground monorail to the jungle depths below. Darius (Paul-Mikél Williams) was bereft at his inability to lift his friend back to safety, and the seemingly deadly incident left a cold chill among all of his friends (and the audience). Things only got more dramatic when viewers learned that Ben might still be alive, as the last shot of the season finale showed him moving his hand while lying there on the forest floor — dinosaurs presumably lurking in the trees.
With the entirety of Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Season 2 dropping on Netflix today, we can finally get some answers on the fates of Ben, Darius, and the rest of the human kids trying to get off Isla Nublar and home in one piece. To help roar in the new season, SYFY WIRE got on the phone with Kreamer about making the big emotional swings, what we can look forward to, and the new dinos getting screen time...
Amblin in the ‘80s made a whole library of films, including E.T. and The Land Before Time, that emotionally gut-punched a generation of children with stories that didn’t coddle their audiences. Do you think being an Amblin series is why you have some narrative carte blanche with Camp Cretaceous?
I wouldn't say anyone gave us a carte blanche. I definitely think at the get-go, Steven [Spielberg] saying, “Don't do the kiddie version,” probably gave us more latitude than we would have more likely had. Also, part of that could be partnering with Netflix. We never really asked permission to tell these stories, whether it's getting into Darius' past, or any of the darker areas that we did. We just wrote it how we wanted to and, luckily, everyone got on board.
Was Ben always the one out of the core campers that had the target on him, or did that evolve?
As in any writers’ room, you turn over every decision and every possibility. I'm not gonna lie, there were times when it was like, “Okay, Ben's gonna be alive,” then, “Well, maybe Ben doesn't make it?' We knew we wanted to have Ben's arc of the first season going from scaredy cat to having a heroic moment. Pretty early on, we knew that Ben was going to be the one to be in a position to, if not sacrifice himself, just put himself in jeopardy for the team.
Season 1 tackled some serious topics, like Darius losing his dad to cancer, and the emotional fallout continues to inform Season 2. Did that experience come from personal stories in your writer’s room?
I think all the writers draw from their personal lives. I can't say this was more of a personal story to me. But I'll be honest, we came upon this as you're fleshing these characters out and [asking] why is this [camp experience] so special to Darius? You come to a choice that maybe he had this bond with his dad who's no longer there. We're trying to send an empowering message to kids who love the entire series, and as much inclusion or representation of not only just characters, but in what people go through in real life. And I'll be honest, when we submitted that script, I was expecting some pushback. This is not something you get to do. But M. [Davis] did a beautiful job on the script. And I think that, in part, is what led to whether it be DreamWorks or Amblin, or Colin [Trevorrow] or Netflix, everyone was on board. And when you talk about carte blanche, I think once that went through without a fight that I was really gearing up for, then it's that we have the latitude to go into darker, more mature themes on this show.
Series creator Zack Stentz recently said on Twitter about Season 2 that it is about the kids surviving but the dinosaurs also getting to be free for once, and what does that look like?
Yes. First of all, we get some new dinosaurs this season, which is exciting. And this is their island now, so how do they coexist? How do they interact with the man-made world events on their island? It was almost going at it as a nature documentary on how they would actually adapt. What is a wild animal like? The dinosaurs have never been necessarily tame, but having the free run of the place and just trying to portray, what would that look like?
Did you ever think about just doing a dino-centric episode?
At the end of this day, this show is about the kids. The dinosaurs were there and they're always going to be there. There were definitely some places where we wanted to show how dinosaurs interact when they're not trying to eat children. [Laughs.] How do they interact with each other? Some are predators, some are prey, some are coexisting, some now have to learn how to defend themselves, whether it's as a herd or individually. Now that the walls and defenses are down, what would that look like?
You had access to the 3D models of the dinosaurs from the films. They helped your animators build your CGI dinos, but are there any that are native just to your series?
Bumpy was unique to the show. We had Ankylosaurus models to go from, but Bumpy was unique to the show. There were a number of dinosaurs that were just started from the ground up, and that goes from modeling, as well as the sound. The guys, Rob and DJ over at Sound Rebels, have the Jurassic [sound] library. But there's some of these dinosaurs that they started with what was there, like for building Toro, there wasn't a lot of Carnotaurus reference there. So in a lot of these places, and maybe Bumpy for that matter, just building from the ground up. The starting point has been a great place, but our designers are able to start from scratch and build something beautiful.