Saturday, July 21, 2001

Dr. Alan Grant (actor Sam Neill) encounters a group of
raptors in this scene from Universal Studios' "Jurassic Park III."

Kauai film chief
happy with
‘Jurassic Park III’

Judy Drosd declines a critique
of the film but loves how
scenes of Kauai turned out

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> The first showing on Kauai yesterday of "Jurassic Park III" was completely unlike the almost surreal Oahu opening of "Pearl Harbor."

There were no aircraft carriers borrowed from the Navy as party boats. It was Kauai style: humble and understated. And, even though the movie is intense, the sold-out audience was filled with kids and their parents.

The only person connected with the filming of "Jurassic Park III" who was in the audience was Kauai Film Commissioner Judy Drosd. Not even Michael Crichton, who wrote the books on which the films are based and who lives on Kauai, was in attendance.

For the uninitiated, most of the exterior scenes in what was supposed to be two Costa Rican islands in the "Jurassic Park" series were filmed on Kauai. The crew for the first film was evacuated from the island just hours ahead of Hurricane Iniki in 1992. The opening of the new film was shot on Molokai, and some of the jungle scenes on Oahu. But most of what moviegoers see is Kauai.

Every location used in the newest film is destined to become a high-demand stop on Kauai movie tours -- based on the visitor reaction to the first two "Jurassic Park" films.

"Every tourism article that's written about Kauai makes it clear that Jurassic Park really is Kauai, or vice versa," Drosd said.

Drosd is diplomatic enough to avoid saying whether a film is good or bad or will be popular or unpopular. What interests her most about any film is how Kauai looks on the screen. And "Jurassic Park III" is by any standards a visually stunning film.

"Fantastic," said Drosd, who has been involved in all three "Jurassic Park" movies. "They far exceeded what they did on the first ones. I was very impressed."

Drosd spent three months scouting locations with the film's producers.

"They wanted a completely new look for this film, and that was a challenge and a lot of work," Drosd said.

The shooting on Kauai involved only about 10 days over two visits in September last year and January this year. The film crew spent about another 10 days total on the other two islands. In all, Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment spent an estimated $3.5 million in Hawaii.

As with the other films, the Kauai locations were so remote and the crew so self-contained, it was hard to tell they were even on the island.

"They shot all over the island: the Wailua River, Kilauea, Princeville Ranch," Drosd said.

Even people familiar with the locations may not recognize them all on the screen.

"They did an extraordinary job blending the computer effects with what they shot here. I was stunned by what they did," she said.

Drosd watched almost every Kauai scene being filmed.

"In my mind's eye I had an idea of what it would look like, but it was nothing like what you see up there on the screen," she said.

"You have to give a lot of credit to the actors. Most of the time, they were playing to thin air. But then when you see it with the dinosaurs, it is truly amazing. I give them an A+ on the visual effects. At a certain point you start to really believe the dinosaurs must be real."

The Kauai Film Commission sent a thank-you card to Amblin Entertainment in the form of a large ad in the trade magazine. It shows Sam Neil, who starred in all three movies, surrounded by dinosaurs.

"It's true there are no snakes in Hawaii," the ad reads. "It's the velociraptors you have to watch out for."

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