The Jurassic Park / Jurassic World series is one of the most successful in movie history, but until now it’s been lacking in one regard that many such franchises boast – an animated series offshoot. But that changes soon, with the September 18 launch of Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous on Netflix.
Familiar names from the films like Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, and Colin Trevorrow are among the Executive Producers of Camp Cretaceous, which was developed by Zack Stentz (X-Men: First Class, Thor, The Flash), who also serves as a Consulting Producer.
Speaking to Fandom, Stentz noted that after he came up with the concept of the series, prior commitments lead him to take a step back, but he felt it was in more than capable hands with “Scott Kreamer and a very great group of writers running it day to day,” and Stentz then returning “once every couple of months or so to sit with them and help them break out the seasons and write a few episodes.”
The series centers on six teenagers who are the first to experience a new adventure camp on Isla Nublar. The series actually takes place during the events of 2015’s Jurassic World, as the kids arrive on the island shortly before things go awry in a big way, when the dinosaurs escape captivity.
Stentz explained how they approached Camp Cretaceous and used it to expand upon what we’ve seen of the park in the films.
THE PARK IS (STILL) OPEN
Stentz recalled going to DreamWorks Animation, where, “I kind of pitched them out the basic concept that I had, which was doing the kind of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern version of the first Jurassic World movie, but with a bunch of kids on the other end of the island in this kind of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory sort of experience. They got really excited by that.”
When it came to that decision to have the story take place at the same time as Jurassic World, Stentz said there were a couple of factors in play, including “That you want to see more of that park and you want to see what it looked like functioning. In the 2015 movie you see little bits and pieces of it, but you also see tantalizing glimpses of a lot more going on. So we get to explore a lot more of that.”
Stentz added, “The other reason for doing it was a very practical one, which is the joke that everyone makes about Jurassic Park or Jurassic World as a concept, which is, look, the park can only fail so many times before it’s uninsurable and you’re just idiots for going there. So by putting it in the same timeframe as Jurassic World, you’re essentially watching the one spectacular failure do double duty and be the same one that also affects the characters that you saw in the movie. And the fact that was happening all over the island means you get to have these kids in a completely different adventure, albeit one that occasionally intersects what’s going on in the main movie in fun ways.”
A LARGER WORLD
When it came to just how the show might intersect with familiar aspects of Jurassic World, Stentz remarked, “I don’t want to get into too many spoilers, but I will say you will see areas [of the park] that you saw in the movie. And there may be one or more characters who you saw in the main movie, including a couple of icons, both human and dinosaur. And you will also see entirely new characters and entirely new parts of the island that were only hinted at but that we had a fun time fitting into the greater aesthetic and the greater world. It’s an animated show, but it is canonical with the events of the main franchise, so it does fit in with the continuity of what’s going on in the movies.”
Given Camp Cretaceous is taking place parallel to Jurassic World, it was important for it to not contradict the film and to make sure the moments it directly intersected made sense. Said Stentz, with a laugh, “The writing staff and I studied that first Jurassic World movie like it was the Zapruder film. It’s like almost on a frame by frame basis. Fallen Kingdom as well, so that we could figure out how the timelines sync up.”
Stentz recalled, “A very sharp-eyed fan noted that in the poster with the kids ziplining and the Indominus rex roaring, that the sun is kind of setting in the background and they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s right. It gets out in the daytime [in Jurassic World], but then you don’t see it again until night. So there’s several hours right there.’ And it’s like, ‘Yes, exactly right! There are hours in which we can play.’ And without giving away much at all, I will say that the time frame that we’re in starts slightly before the events of the movie and then very quickly syncs up with it in a way that hopefully audiences will binge their way through in a day or two.”
The trailer includes a glimpse of the park’s aviary shattering, an event which occurred in Jurassic World, and Stentz remarked, “I actually wrote the episode where that happens and again I’m not going to give away much, but we needed a danger that gets the kids to run to a particular place. And we all realized, oh, well, this is right about when poor Simon Masrani‘s helicopter crashes into the aviary. So there’s something that could drive the kids where we want them to go. And all of the sudden you’re seeing this iconic moment from the movie happening from a from a completely different perspective.”
The main character in Camp Cretaceous, Darius, is introduced as a dinosaur-loving kid who has long been obsessed with one day making it to Jurassic World, giving us a better look at what it would be like to live in a reality where this kind of park actually existed.
Said Stentz, “In the world of Jurassic Park / Jurassic World, that park has been up and running for almost 10 years. And every kid around the world who loves dinosaurs — and there are many — they’re going to have posters on the wall, that’s going to be where they want to go. That was one of the germs that the character in the series was formed around was the idea that Darius is our Charlie in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory thing. He wants to do this thing. He knows that he doesn’t really have a shot, but then he is selected to be one of a very rarefied group that gets to go to this place that he’s dreamed about going to for practically his entire life. So it’s very Spielberg-like and centering on this wish fulfillment, aspirational thing that’s happened. And the wonderful thing, again, without giving it all away, is that because Darius loves dinosaurs so much, you get the sense that he’s really, more than anyone, the one who earned his way to this wonderful visit… that then goes horribly wrong.”
Of course, the big selling point of the Jurassic series is the dinosaurs themselves. At this point, several species (and even a few specific dino characters) have been prominently featured in the films, while others have been seen more peripherally.
When it came to choosing which would be focused on in the series, Stentz said, “It’s a combination. It’s like with any update on a beloved franchise, you have your iconic characters that the audience expects to see and wants to see. But then hopefully you do your job right and you create new cool characters. So you’ll see the carnotaurus named Toro plays a big role in the first season. And that’s a dino that you don’t see in, at least not that specific one, in the movies. And yet at the same time, you also see you see the Indominus, you see Blue. I’m not giving away anything that’s not already in the trailer, by the way, s don’t get mad at me, Universal! And you see the T-Rex, who’s been the flagship dinosaur character since the first movie.”
The dinosaurs in the series look great and very in line with what we see in the films. Said Stentz, “I cannot speak to the exact details of it, but I know that ILM did provide our animators with all of their dinosaur renders and with a lot of their digital elements from the original. I simply don’t know enough about the technical aspects to tell you if they’re just straight up the models from those or if they were adapted for the needs of animation. But I do know that we had access to all of that awesome stuff. And you’ll see that not just with the dinosaurs, but with some of the digital sets. You’ll notice in the trailer we go to the Mosasaurus lagoon, and you’re going to see that in some really fun ways.”
THE KID QUESTION
Stentz said the intention from the start with Camp Cretaceous was to make a family-friendly series, but of course, there are some older Jurassic Park / Jurassic World fans who are wary of the focus on kids on the show.
For his part though, Stentz felt it wasn’t some huge pivot, noting, “Kids have been a central part of the Jurassic franchise since the very first movie. The whole emotional spine of that first movie is Sam Neill, the Alan character, thinking that he hates kids, but learning to love these two kids and risk his life to protect them and being this kind of quasi-family toward the end. It’s very much the parallel Spielberg’s experiences where he talked about how shooting E.T. made him realize that he wanted a family of his own because he felt so close to the kids in that movie. All we did with this was say, well, what if we put [kids] in their own adventure without the adults there to rescue them? This is family-friendly, even more so than the movies, but the danger and the stakes are played as very real. And without giving away anything, there are fatalities, even if they’re not on screen. There is the sense that dinosaurs are actually killing and eating people while all of this is going on. I know a certain segment of fanboys is like, ‘I’m going to hate this if there aren’t gory onscreen deaths.’ And it’s like, well, you know, go back and look at those movies. None of the main characters died. For the most part, the core group makes it. And then various and sundry supporting characters don’t…”
For Stentz, there are four key components to the Jurassic franchise. As he put it, “You get the wonder and awe and you get the adventure and you get the scares and you have to think of those as like four knobs. And at different points, you turn up the volume on a different component of the whole. But you need them all there.”
SOME NOTABLE INPUT
While Trevorrow was plenty busy developing the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion as the animated series was being made, Stentz revealed that still, “Colin was hugely involved, I think to a degree that would surprise a lot of people. Several times he came in and spent the day in the writers room. As he said, ‘I just like hanging out here. This is fun.’ He really enjoyed himself. He contributed a lot of very specific, very good ideas. And he’s been watching cuts and reading scripts and giving notes on everything as it comes through. He’s been involved to a shockingly great degree and making sure that things line up. And he’s just been a wonderful and generous collaborator.”
As for a couple of other notable producers from the Jurassic films, Stentz added, “Frank Marshall has been greatly involved as well. And we haven’t met him in the process, but we’ve also gotten notes from Spielberg himself. I think one of them was ‘Make sure it’s like Goonies,’ and it’s like ‘That is not going to be a problem, believe me!’”
Stentz said he couldn’t say yet say which specific ideas came from those big name producers due to spoilers, but did note, “A couple of them had very specific ideas that really helped open things up. Like Colin talked about Tom Sawyer a lot in a way that will become clear when people watch the show. There are a couple of beats from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that we ended up riffing on to great effect.”
He also noted that it was Trevorrow who pushed for the red logo to be used within the series for Camp Cretaceous itself, with the thought, “We’ve had blue in Jurassic World, but wouldn’t it be fun to use the classic read old school red letters on the Camp Cretaceous sign?”
Stentz noted that it was interesting working on Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous and his movie Rim of the World — which also debuted on Netflix — at the same time, explaining, “I would say it’s a little bittersweet looking at Camp Cretaceous because the tone is much more like what the original script for Rim of the World was before it went in a different direction. When people see Camp Cretaceous, they’ll be seeing something that’s a little bit more like the very Amblin-esque original draft [of Rim].”
So with all of the ways Camp Cretaceous intersects with the Jurassic films, could the opposite occur? Could Dominion end up having any connection to the series? Said Stentz, “I hope so. I don’t know. Honestly, if [Colin’s] done it, he hasn’t told us. I do know things that are going to happen in Dominion that if I told you Colin would like reach through the phone from London and choke me to death, but I don’t know if stuff that we’ve done is going to end up in the movies. But I’d be very cool with it!”
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous debuts Friday, September 18 on Netflix.