Did you know that Jurassic Park was just one Steven Spielberg nod away from getting an animated spin-off television series during the 1990s? Well, neither did most people.
It's a revelation that startled anyone who knew anything about movie studios in the '90s; specifically, their love of turning smash hits like Jurassic Park into Saturday morning cartoon shows. Quite a few of those have been made over the years - enough so that we have put together lists of the best cartoon spinoffs for live-action movies, as well as the worst live-action films turned animated series. So why did Universal Cartoon Studios fail to make this potential cash cow happen?
Well, it wasn't from a lack of effort. Universal wanted a quality project and went to artist William Stout for help on the Jurassic Park animated series. As Stout has now revealed on his personal blog, Saturday mornings were actually never part of the equation:
They wanted the show to be a mature prime time series with top writers and state-of-the-art television animation augmented with quite a bit of CG animation. Universal Cartoon Studios wanted a “graphic novel look” to the series. I came in, showed my portfolio and was hired.
Stout agreed to take on the project near the tail-end of the "dinosaur mania" spawned by Jurassic Park in the 1990s. He put together concept art for the proposed animated spin-off along with a nifty trailer meant to dazzle Steven Spielberg. However, Spielberg just wasn't interested at the time:
We made a trailer to communicate the look and feel of the series, also showing how we would combine computer animation with traditional animation. All we needed was Spielberg’s approval.
I heard through the grapevine that he never bothered to watch what we had done. By that time the word was out that he was burnt out on Jurassic Park merchandising and all of the film’s commercial exploitation. So, it never got made.
We may never see that trailer for the Jurassic Park animated series, but thanks to Stout, we do have access to concept art for the series; you can check those images out, below:
These drawings feature characters Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, John Hammond, Hammond's grandchildren Tim and Lex, and Dr. Ian Malcolm with his look from the first Jurassic Park (rather than his appearance in the 1997 sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park). One panel reveals there were plans to introduce the Mosasaur into the Jurassic Park universe on the cartoon series; fortunately for fans, the aquatic terror wasn't shelved along with the show, and the Mosasaur made its onscreen debut nearly two decades later in Jurassic World.
Had Spielberg not succumb to a combination of burnout and cynicism, how would a "grown-up" cartoon about Jurassic Park have fared? It's hard to say. There's a reason animated spin-offs typically aired during Saturday mornings instead of primetime: An almost guaranteed captive audience. During the golden age of Saturday morning cartoon shows, kids were stubborn enough to sit through cartoons they hated for the sake of "tradition". Saturday morning wasn't over until the last cartoon aired - no matter how bad it was.
A primetime Jurassic Park cartoon, by comparison, might've gone up against established '90s shows like Full House, Murder She Wrote, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. With the movie's buzz already behind it, cancelation seems the most likely outcome. Still, it's interesting to wonder if the animated TV show might've pushed the franchise in a different direction - though, obviously, we'll never know for certain.
You can buy various pieces of Stout's art through his official website. Meanwhile, the Jurassic Park franchise will continue with the currently-untitled Jurassic World sequel, due to open in theaters on June 22nd, 2018.
Sources: William Stout