A Velociraptor Without Feathers Isn’t a Velociraptor

Jurassic Park is the greatest dinosaur movie of all time. Aside from being an exceptionally entertaining adventure, the film introduced audiences to dinosaurs that had never been seen before – hybrids of new science and bleeding-edge special effects techniques. The active, alert, and clever dinosaurs that paleontologists had recently pieced together were revived by way of exquisite puppetry and computer imagery, instantly replacing the old images of dinosaurs as swamp-dwelling dullards. Despite the various scientific nitpicks and some artistic license overreach – let’s not talk about the “Spitter” –  Jurassic Park showed how science and cinema could collaborate to create something truly majestic. That’s why it’s so disappointing to hear the the next Jurassic Park sequel is going to turn its back on a critical aspect of dinosaur lives. In Jurassic Park 4, the film’s director has stated, there will be no feathery dinosaurs.

Three years after the first Jurassic Park debuted, paleontologists announced that the small theropod Sinosauropteryx was covered in a fine coat of fuzzy protofeathers. This was just the initial drop in a flood of feathery dinosaur discoveries which confirmed that a wide variety of dinosaurs bore archaic forms of plumage, from simple filaments to asymmetrical feathers that would have allowed them to fly. And not only did these discoveries confirm the fact that birds are one lineage of dinosaurs, but that many bird traits – such as feathers – evolved long before the first avians took to the air.

Velociraptor was definitely a feathery dinosaur, and Tyrannosaurus probably was, as well. In fact, other dinosaurs more distantly-related to birds – such as Triceratops – at least sometimes sported swaths of bristles, quills, or similar body coverings in addition to the pebbly tubercles of their skin. Dinosaurs were far stranger and flashier than anyone expected.

Are fluffy tyrannosaurs - such as these Yutyrannus - any less scary than the leathery-skinned sort? Art by Brian Choo.
Are fluffy tyrannosaurs – such as these Yutyrannus – any less scary than the leathery-skinned sort? Art by Brian Choo.

The Jurassic Park franchise quickly fell behind the times. There was not a feather to be seen in 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Granted, maybe the filmmakers didn’t have time to incorporate new designs that fluffy little Sinosauropteryx could have inspired. But 2001’s Jurassic Park III blundered by making the barest token effort to update their dinosaurs. The Velociraptor pack that harries fictional paleontologist Alan Grant and companions have little feathery wisps on their otherwise bald bodies. If you’re going to put feathers on dinosaurs, you really have to commit to the bit. The Jurassic Park franchise actually made their dinosaurs look sillier by holding back while science was giving dinosaurs a major makeover.

Now Jurassic Park 4 director Colin Trevorrow – who recently helmed the fun indie scifi confection Safety Not Guaranteed – is saying that the Jurassic Park franchise is going to continue to ignore some of the coolest science paleontology has to offer. Granted, Tevorrow’s statement on the matter was rather brief, but on Twitter he simply said “No feathers. #JP4.” How sorely disappointing.

I have no idea what dinosaurs are due to appear in Jurassic Park 4.  I wish that I did. But if Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus are reprising their roles, these dinosaurs should certainly have some kind of plumage. That comes right from fossil evidence and evolutionary logic. But this is about more than just visuals. A blockbuster summer film has the opportunity to introduce audiences to dinosaurs as have never been seen before on the big screen while simultaneously throwing some much-needed support to evolution by visualizing one of the critical traits that connects avian and non-avian dinosaurs. And speaking as an unabashed dinosaur fan myself, a dinosaur bearing fuzz, feathers, or quills is so much stranger and more wonderful than yet another olive green, scaly monstrosity. Hollywood, let paleontologists help you push the boundaries of fantastic dinosaurs.

Franchise purists might point out that Trevorrow’s plan is in the spirit of the original Jurassic Park. Nobody loves a retcon. But the franchise has already changed its dinosaurs several times with no explanation. The first sequel introduced new color palettes for the dinosaurs, as did the third film. (Not to mention the fact that Jurassic Park III raises the mystery of why Site B contains species that InGen didn’t clone, and never actually resolves this point.) If the dinosaurs are changing from film to film to start with, why not take a jump and show audiences something they have never witnessed before?

The fuzzy dinosaur Sinocalliopteryx actually ate other forms of feathered dinosaurs. Art by Cheung Chungtat, from Xing et al., 2012.
The fuzzy dinosaur Sinocalliopteryx actually ate other forms of feathered dinosaurs. Art by Cheung Chungtat, from Xing et al., 2012.

We shouldn’t feel bound by what audiences are comfortable with. I’ve never seen a major feature create a truly well-done, scary feathered dinosaur, mostly because they have been afraid to commit to science that differs from our cherished childhood imagery of what dinosaurs were. But if the creators of the original Jurassic Park showed the same fealty to old dinosaurs – tail-dragging, lumbering idiots – then the film might not have had the major cultural impact that it did. It’s time to take a calculated risk and update Jurassic Park‘s dinosaurs.

Of course, I don’t have much any sympathy for complaints that feathery dinosaurs look lame. If feathered dinosaurs look silly, that’s because of a lack of care and attention from those that restore them. Paleoartists John ConwayEmily Willoughby, Julius Csotonyi,  and others, by contrast, have aptly demonstrated that feathered dinosaurs can be just as awe-inspiring and fascinating as the naked-skinned monsters we used to know. The only trick is fostering those dinosaurs according to science and looking to living animals to bound our speculation. Dipping a digital Velociraptor in electronic glue and shaking some feathers over it just won’t do.

If you’re being chased by a tyrannosaur, a carefully-arranged coat of fuzzy feathers doesn’t make the dinosaur any less fierce or threatening, just as there is something undeniably unsettling and scary about envisioning a Velociraptor cleaning blood from its colorful plumage after a kill. Letting feathery dinosaurs run wild could inspire a whole new generation of young fossil fans, thrill audiences, and give evolutionary science a much needed boost. When we eventually return to Jurassic Park, I most certainly hope to see feathery dinosaurs strut their stuff.

77 thoughts on “A Velociraptor Without Feathers Isn’t a Velociraptor

  1. I imagine it’s a combination of factors (none of which are particularly valid):
    1) Feathers are hard to animate and model (invalid: Owls of Ga’Hool);
    2) It’d be tough to get good-looking feathered dinosaurs out of molded plastic (this would be a toy problem); or
    3) They’re just not getting a very big budget for JP4. Although I don’t think that Owl movie had a very big budget either.

  2. Hey, birds can be scary, as Uncle Alfred demonstrated so well. Nowadays I can’t look at a bird without imagining its ancestors and cousins in the Cretaceous. So let’s have feathers and colours and make it real. After all, as my kids keep telling me, the dinosaurs didn’t all go extinct. We’re feeding them nyger seeds right now…

  3. There weren’t any dinosaurs on Site B that just “magically” appeared leading to a problem that was never resolved. They clearly said that InGen simply just didn’t put Spinosaurus on their “cloning list” which surprised absolutely none of the characters.

    Until there is concrete evidence T-rex had feathers, I’m not buying it. Honestly, I, and many many fans completely disagree with you, despite whatever reality may or may not be, the image of feathered dinosaurs, regardless of how well arranged, is generally going to be accepted as much less fearsome than their bare skinned traditional counter parts.

    I could go on and on but feel I should probably curb myself now


    Let me ask you this. Do you object to restorations of prehistoric humans – such as australopithecines – with hair? There was no hair found with “Lucy” or other ancient hominins, yet we have every reason to restore them with hair because 1) we do and they were our close relatives, and 2) hair is a common feature of mammals. The same logic is why we can say Tyrannosaurus rex probably had some feathery coating. T. rex was a coelurosaur – a group in which every lineage had some kind of feather or dinofuzz – and two tyrannosauroids have now been found with feathers, including the 30-foot-long Yutyrannus. If you’re going to object to feathers on T. rex, you might as well object to restorations of fossil mammals with fur and prehistoric humans with hair. Whether or not a feathery T. rex is scary or not is a matter of personal opinion, but I must say it does make me sad to see dinosaur “fans” so against cutting edge paleontology and evolutionary science. – Brian]

  4. There’s no concrete evidence that Tyrannosaurus had eyeballs, either. Good thing science allows for inference!

  5. I have mixed feelings about this. As a paleo-geek I’m disappointed. But if they are trying to keep to the continuity of the films- then it does make sense. Plus I guess it can open the opportunity for a more plot driven film where they can finally explain a lot of the inaccuracies of the dinosaurs. Like the Velociraptors essentially being Achillobators, the dilophosaurs spitting, etc etc. I mean that stuff was hit on MAJORLY in Chrichton’s novels but not really in the films.
    I won’t compleatly discount the film on this alone… because I hope and pray they put SOME real/current science in. I mean they even did in Jurassic Park: The Game. What they need to do is consult more than one paleontologist for these films, much like what was done for the novels as well as the first film.
    In the end, this is science-FICTION. People don’t constantly tear down Star Trek/Wars, Batman, Superman, or any other franchise. Why should Jurassic Park be any different. As long as it’s explained, I’m fine with it. Genetic mishap during the recreation. Simple as that.

  6. Joshua:

    I think it’s really curious that fans always point to the genetic engineering as a way to present more conservative dinosaurs. Can’t we play with the same ideas to bring out feathers? Perhaps 20 years of breeding on the islands has caused old traits to become reestablished that were overridden by frog DNA before? I know that’s just hand-waving, but not any moreso than what’s needed to maintain the status quo. And like I mentioned, the franchise has changed the dinosaurs in every movie, anyway.

    And while Jurassic Park is science FICTION (Your caps), the movie was a revelation because of the collaboration between science and science fiction. The dinosaurs were up-to-date for the time, and brought to life with great care. Why can’t we do that again? Why not take the opportunity to get some new, cool science out in front of audiences instead of going the conservative route of keeping things as they are? This is supposed to be Hollywood, where anything is possible! It will be just as easy to present an updated, fantastic image of dinosaurs as good back to the shopworn ones of the early 90s.

  7. A real shame – I suppose we wont’ see any fuzzy pterosaurs, either, then. I wonder if the JP4 folks are in the market for a pterosaur consultant…

  8. We know it’s inaccurate. But, having feathered dinosaurs in JP would diverge from canon. Why? Because, in the story, the dinosaurs cloned by Ingen were created from the mid-eighties to early nineties. Back then, the scientists would have viewed this as a mistake, and changed it. Hence, the scaly V. antirrhopus (technically speaking, Deinonychus).

  9. Yeah, this sucks. The JP franchise is in need of revitalising, and this approach of ignoring updated science isn’t a good way to go about it. I can’t buy suggestions that feathering the animals is too expensive nowadays, as lots of movies have fur and feather creature effects without enormous budgets. Nor do I agree that feathered animals aren’t terrifying enough. Plenty of people flinch from common birds in everyday life, like swans and seagulls, and find Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ eerie and creepy. Imagine a raptor (as in, bird of prey, not the JP variants) or shoebill stork scaled to the size of a man and then tell me that that they wouldn’t be intimidating. And, as noted above, JP continuity is flimsy at best. A one-sentence, ‘sci-fi science’ explanation could easily cover why some animals have feathers now. Something about ‘reverting back’ to pure dinosaur genomes or adapting to modern environments or whatever. It wouldn’t matter what: it’s a movie about cloned non-avian dinosaurs, for crying out loud. One quick line of expository dialogue to explain their changed appearance, and then back to people being eaten.

    The thing that troubles me most about this is the negative impact a non-feathered JP may have on the public perception of dinosaurs, and perhaps of science overall. The vast majority of people are still unaware that birds are a clade of dinosaurs, and that many Mesozoic dinosaurs were feathered. The JP franchise has a reputation, warranted or not, for portraying accurate dinosaurs (I believe Jack Horner’s name is flashed in the credits of each movie as their consultant) and will reach a much greater audience than any popular science piece. Showing naked dinosaurs in the next instalment may suggest to many viewers that the ‘feathered dinosaur thing’ is poorly substantiated or controversial, when it’s anything but. If the next JP movie ignores the last three decades of dinosaur research, you can bet dinosaur palaeontologists will spend much of their future PR time having to address its inconsistency with modern science. Having mentioned consultants, I wonder if anyone will take that job on if they insist on ignoring feathers? I mean, they would be portraying inaccurate animals from the get go, so why bother with the rest of the science?

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say, then, is that I hope the guys at Universal change their mind on this.

  10. That’s what was great about the Jurassic Park series that it had somewhat accurate dinosaurs for their time. I actually remember the great, late Stan Winston saying they didn’t fully feathered the raptors in the third movie because it would be too big of a change to the audience but they positively would do it for a fourth one.

    I guess this is just another case of someone, in this case the director Colin Trevorrow, being stuck in the past and going for what he learnt in his childhood. We might even see pot-bellied Tyrannosaurus…

    I guess Jack Horner probably won’t want be part of this anymore and I can definitely agree with him.

  11. They could *possibly* redeem this if they touched on a plot point in the novels that the first film only obliquely referred to. In the first novel, there’s a great scene between Hammond and Dr. Wu where they debate engineering the dinosaurs to match the public perception of lumbering lack-wits. (Interestingly, the scientist Wu advocates giving people what they want while the money man Hammond is the one who wants “true” dinosaurs. But chalk that up to Crichton’s general anti-science attitude, maybe.)

    So, who knows, maybe the plot revolves around the status of the Ingen critters as engineered creatures rather than being the real thing. Or maybe there’s at least a line in there mentioning that Ingen’s dinosaurs specifically had their feathers engineered out.

    But it’s still a missed opportunity, and the same excuses could also explain why the dinosaurs suddenly have feathers now. Ingen engineered them out at first, but several generations later the feather genes are expressing themselves again. Something like that. Simple and no more far-fetched than the basic premise already is. (I mean, come on, if “life finds a way” for sterile creatures to breed, surely it can find a way for them to grow feathers.)

  12. JP 4 has a good opportunity for a scare. Have a group observing a feathered dinosaur. Someone says “Oh, how cute!” Then he promptly gets eaten and the others learn their lesson.

  13. Another Hollywood film that poo-pooed awesome science in favor of the trite and banal is IMadagascar. How could the hollywood idiots completely overlook the extraordinary array of past and present madagascan fauna when making this film? If I read the title “Madagasscar” I better see a muthe’fuckin’ Fossa somewhere in there.
    Now, in regards to jurassic park:
    1) Would you say Eagles and other birds of prey are wimpy? Hell no! There’s plenty of inspiration there for feathered dinosaurs. Besides, in the world of Hollywood, anything can happen, after all, they are in the business of making skeptics believers.
    2) Contrary to what one of the previous posters wrote, jurassic park IS perceived by a majority of lay people as an accurate portrayal of dinosaurs, probably because more of the story elements are “closer to the real world “(i.e. cloning techniques, theme parks). Contrast this to more “out-there” sci-fiction like Star wars and Star Trek. Thus, believeing in fuzzy aliens is much less likely than believing what you see in Jurssic Park.

    3) The original jurassic park gave us a much-needed updated image of dinosaurs, thanks to the marriage between science and hollywood, thats why many of us love it. Precisely because of this is why NOT including feathered dinosaurs IS a betrayal of the franchise, and a deep and offensive one at that.

  14. “What John Hammond and InGen did at Jurassic Park is create genetically engineered theme-park monsters” … not scientifically accurate dinosaurs. And they are way cooler without feathers. Plus punk raptors in JP3 are ruining the continuity, how could those feathers have grown in 4 years between The Lost World and JP3?

  15. I remember being quite surprised (and scared) as a kid when a big tom turkey snuck up on me from behind when I was visiting a farm. Before saw him, I HEARD the sound of him “ruffling” and tensing his feathers. Movie makers could invent some pretty impressive (and terrifying) feathery displays and some great sound effects as well. Bring on the feathers, I say.

  16. Given the press that the TEDx talks on de-extinction are getting, it probably shouldn’t be a huge to have a line of dialogue about how the earlier InGen-created dinosaurs (dinosaurs 2.0) weren’t feathered beause no one thought they were feathered at the time. The InGen-created dinosaurs for JP4 (Dinosaurs 2.1) would have feathers, although the colours are only our best guess at what they might have been…

    As someone once said, the easiest place to solve problems for a TV show or movie is in the typewriter (or word processor).

  17. Let’s get one thing straight here. Feathers on the Raptors or T-Rex did not allow these dinosaurs to fly. Feathers simply acted as functional adaptation for either sexual display or insulation. They didn’t allow these dinosaurs to fly. Feathers of this nature were precursors, and ultimately allowed some species to fly millions of years later.

    So what, everyone is complaining about the facts that the dinosaurs don’t have feathers, so the movie isn’t accurate? GUESS WHAT. Dinosaur DNA is far to old to even clone a specimen anyways, the entire franchise is based around “unrealistic” settings.

  18. It’s pretty easy to forget that JP isn’t the only movie that has taken liberty with history and scientific fact, however; the movies are made for entertainment purposes. If it sparks the imagination of a child to seek out the truth of how and why dinosaurs perished/lived/reacted to their environment (as I am certain the original JP surely did) then isn’t this a positive? No one mentioned that most of the dinosaurs in JP are from the Cretaceous Period, but why is it called “Jurassic Park”? Probably because it sounds cool. Or, that Velociraptor doesn’t stand six-feet tall as depicted in the movie – the raptor displayed should have been Utahraptor – which was discovered during the original JP’s filming (1993)? Surely, George Lucas won’t stop red, fire-ball space explosions (with audio!) in the next Star Wars installment, and it’ll upset all the space geeks. So what? It’s all in fun, entertainment.

    I didn’t see this in the previous comments and, being that the storyline of JP has drifted quite a way from the books, remember; the DNA was mixed with that of a frog. I’m thinking there haven’t been any frogs with feathers, at least in my neighborhood – please National Geographic, update us on this if it is so.

  19. 1) The book was better than the movie.

    2) Not sure how I feel about another Jurassic Park film. I’d love to see another dinosaur film, especially one exposing audiences to what we now know many dinosaurs looked like. But JP has worn thin. Why not start another franchise rather than retreading old ones? (Looking at you, Star Trek and Star Wars.)

  20. Thank you Brian, I could not agree more! I don’t understand why the JP franchise isn’t updating its raptors. The first film was already making the comparison to birds. We all remember lines like “more like a 6 foot turkey” and “they’re flocking this way”. Dr Alan Grant is portrayed as a pioneer in this line of thought. His comments are met with scepticism from some of the other characters but ultimately it his expertise that leads the cast to safety. The closing scene of the film even focuses on a pelican gliding over the ocean! This conclusion is undoubtedly an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between dinosaurs and birds that we learnt in the 90 minutes preceding it. And it worked. When I watched the first movie as a 6 year old I was fascinated by the idea that birds were descended from dinosaurs and it was Jurassic Park that introduced me to this concept.
    20 years later and it is still almost impossible to read a popular media article about cloning, DNA, dinosaurs etc without a reference to Jurassic Park. The public perception of what a dinosaur is is usually based on what they saw in Jurassic Park. And to say that the public won’t understand why the feathers are there is an insult to the audience. The idea that some of these amazing animals were feathered is shocking to most precisely because Jurassic Park didn’t give them feathers the first time around. And it may be hard to accept straight away because it is such a dramatic twist on what we thought we knew but this is exactly why it should be included in the next movie! And I don’t accept continuity as an excuse to not include feathered raptors. Given what we know now about the process of “resurrecting” extinct species there is no reason why the appearance of the animals wouldn’t change. After all, we’re not really able to resurrect a lost species. We can only tweak existing ones until they look a bit like the animals we imagine from the past anyway. So why would we not update them as our understanding changes? And since the first film references birds so often already, wouldn’t logic state that InGen would have learnt a few things and would look to bird DNA and not frogs? We’re supposed to believe that these people are experts.

    But I suppose as long as this is a work of science fiction all of this rationalising is moot. And of course the films are not always accurate. We all know that there are fundamental flaws in the films and we are happy to overlook them but I would still love to see kids playing with feathered dinosaur toys. I believe that the magic of Jurassic Park isn’t just scary creatures chasing people around in the dark. It was an introduction to the amazing science of palaeontology! It changed our perceptions of dinosaurs. The tradition set by these films needs to continue. In the first film we saw agile, smart animals replace the out-of-date, dumb, lumbering lizards. In the second we saw a caring T-Rex mother replace the cold monsters of old. In the third, we saw raptors get even smarter and use basic communication. And we also saw that there were some dinosaurs that could have been a match for the mighty T-Rex. All of these ideas coincided with developments in scientific thought and new discoveries. The fourth film needs to challenge public perceptions again. If it doesn’t, the director has missed the point.

  21. I’m actually fine with them doing a sequel. Personal taste, I guess. When they do new franchises or a reboot of JP, THEN we can put feathers on the raptors. Patience, guys.

    And if we’re getting a sequel, it’s better to maintain the continuity, for better suspension of disbelief. Also, say it with me now: These. Dinosaurs. Are. Mutants. Anyway! “Genetically engineered theme park monsters” that can even change sex thanks to frog DNA. It’s quite possible they’re not exactly like original dinosaurs in other ways, too.

    It’d be too jarring to have Velociraptors with full down, if they expect me to believe these are the creatures Ingen bred in the original movie. That is, unless they introduce the more accurate dinosaurs as alternate breeds/strains *without* scrapping the creatures we saw in 1993/1997/2001.

    At this point, small theropods without feathers are becoming the equivalent of sound in space. You either accept it and sit back and enjoy the story (which I strongly prefer)…or you don’t.

    Loosen up, Switek.

  22. When I do workshops with JK/SK classes, I find that even at that young age they are resistant to the idea of feathered dinos thanks to their portrayal in popular culture. I strive to push the fact that not only were dinosaurs feathered but to think of them as quick, vicious and unpredictable, like birds, adds something that the scaly creatures of my youth were missing.

  23. Anyone who doesn’t think birds can be scary has never thought of what life might be like if seagulls were the size of German Shepherds.
    BTW, if I recall, a key part of the cool factor of the JP book and first movie was actually the accuracy: seeing dinosaurs as science had rethought them, alive and moving through a landscape (and, okay, eating most of the people you wanted to see get eaten). If they retain the old-school dino-look for the NMTs, it seems like they’re just letting down their audience by eliminating this accuracy-cool aspect of the original idea.

  24. I’m really surprised they aren’t going to have feathers. These days, even the littlest kids know that the turkey on your holiday table is a dinosaur.

    At this point, Velociraptors without feathers seem as silly as birds without feathers.

  25. Switek: “Franchise purists might point out that Trevorrow’s plan is in the spirit of the original Jurassic Park. Nobody loves a retcon. But the franchise has already changed its dinosaurs several times with no explanation. The first sequel introduced new color palettes for the dinosaurs, as did the third film. (Not to mention the fact that Jurassic Park III raises the mystery of why Site B contains species that InGen didn’t clone, and never actually resolves this point.)”

    While I don’t remember them being explained in the movies, I do remember hearing explanations for JP2’s new color schemes (Sexual dimorphism; Unlike JP, there were both male & female dinos on-screen) & JP3’s raptors (V.sornaensis; InGen originally created them, but they were too intelligent/aggresive for JP to handle, hence the creation of V.nublarensis).

    Anyway, based on what I’ve read, the late great Winston planned on fully feathered raptors in JP4, so I assume he had an explanation for them (E.g. Repressed genes in captive-bred dinos eventually being expressed in wild-bred dinos). Come to think of it, I’d love to see how Winston’s vision of fully feathered raptors would’ve turned out.

    1. The “evolved” theory is no good. The most common explanation is that we see two subspecies of V. antirrhopus (the raptors from the first two films have been dubbed V. antirrhopus “nublarensis”, while the raptors in JP/// have been dubbed V. antirrhopus “sornaensis”). Seeing as how the locations of the second film take place on different parts of Isla Sorna, this is extremely likely.

  26. Those are explanations by fans. The only official word is that they “evolved” through breeding, which doesn’t mean much, but the wild-bred individuals on the novels are also for some unexplained reason different than the captive-bred.

  27. I believe Alan Grant answered this question of feathers vs. bald dinos in Jurrasic Park III. When asked about the dinos on Site B, he said “Dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago. What John Hammond did at Jurrasic Park were genetically engineered theme park monsters, no more, and no less.”

  28. Jurassic Park is pure hollywood… and is not necessarily made to educate but to entertain the audience.. Hence the words “science-fiction,” where the filmmakers are allowed to exaggerate the action and the size of the dinosaurs, as well as add feathers on occasion.

  29. While scientifically accurate (the latest data suggests that raptors had feathers of a sort), it has nothing to do with whether or not the Jurassic Park raptors should have feathers. In Jurassic Park the “dinosaurs” are not dinosaurs. They are mutated frogs that have been infused with dinosaur dna. As such there are going to be aspects of the creatures that aren’t quite right. It is entirely concievable (in a sci fi fictional sort of way) that a frog infused with raptor dna might look like the Jurassic Park raptors. The dna from the mosquitos wasn’t complete and so mistakes would be likely. So while the creatures in Jurassic Park are dinosaurish they would never be dinosaurs because there’s no complete dna with which to do it. It’s the best that the park scientists and engineers could do.

  30. Look – there’s a budget for a movie, and the CGI animation budget is allotted a certain percent. Feathers (and fur, for that matter) are expensive to animate. The dinosaurs for this film will be one step up from “Terra Nova.” It’s about making movies AND making a profit – not about accurately conveying science.

  31. You know, this is a MONSTER movie, not a national geographic documentary. A fluffy dinosaur is a lot less scary than a big scaly monster lizard.

    1. “You know, this is a MONSTER movie”

      Except that monsters are imaginary. Dinosaurs aren’t. Would you make a movie about man-eating lions featuring naked lions just because it wasn’t a documentary?

  32. Andrew: “The most common explanation is that we see two subspecies of V. antirrhopus (the raptors from the first two films have been dubbed V. antirrhopus “nublarensis”, while the raptors in JP/// have been dubbed V. antirrhopus “sornaensis”). Seeing as how the locations of the second film take place on different parts of Isla Sorna, this is extremely likely.”

    That’s basically what I said in my 1st comment. In any case, Henrique Niza made a good point about that in the comment following mine.

  33. Dinosaurs may not be imaginary, but they are essentially “monsters” because the only come alive in movies. The JP franchise is a “monster movie” line, innovative by featuring non-imaginary creatures but classic “monster” flicks nonetheless.

    The general movie-going public wants their monsters scary, not cuddly – and feathers make them look like marauding chickens (which is what they probably looked like in real life). Movie producers know what scares you: no feathers.

  34. To everyone who’s making the case that the JP franchise is essentially “monster movies”: that may be true now, but that’s certainly not why the original Jurassic Park became the phenomenon that it did (the biggest cash cow in Hollywood history until Titanic).

    Yes, there were jump scares and other tropes of the monster movie, but what really resonated with audiences – and what’s been completely lost with the sequels – is the sense of Spielbergian awe.

    What set the tone for the film wasn’t the opening scene with invisible raptors doing their thing. It was the Brachiosaurus scene, with the slow pan up and the John Williams score dialled up to eleven. It was the idea that the film’s characters, and we the audience, were as close as we’d ever been to seeing a living, breathing dinosaur. That was certainly my initial impression when I first saw the film as a kid.

    So to retcon the film’s global popularity as the result of “scary monsters” completely disregards the fact that, inaccuracies aside, the filmmakers’ reasonable attempt at getting the science right was a large reason for its success.

  35. IMHO, issues of ‘continuity’ or ‘the public wants big scaly monsters, so we’re giving them what they want” only go so far. Why do we have to pander to the lowest common denominator in the first place, when Jurassic Park stood out because of its reputation for supposed ‘scientific accuracy’ and lifelike dinosaurs. To put it bluntly, science marches on. Deal.

    How much of the filmmaking budget went towards animating the fur of say, the non-human cast of Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Or Peter Jackson’s King Kong? Or the animals in The Golden Compass and The Chronicles of Narnia movies? Or the werewolves in the Twilight movies? How much did it cost to put feathers on the theropods in Dinosaur Revolution?

  36. “… shoebill stork scaled to the size of a man … ”

    I don’t think you need to scale up a shoebill. A four foot tall shoebill would put the wind up most people readily enough, never mind a feathered Utahraptor or tyrannosaur. A photo of a shoebill in a book gave me nightmares as a kid.

    That folk might think a feathered dino ‘cuddly’ is an indication of how ignorant people are of just how nasty and vicious the extant dinosaurs can be. If the ‘brain’s responsible for JP4 were more concerned with doing an interesting movie than merely soothing the nerves of the film’s accountants, they couldn’t do it better than by feathering their dinos. Brian’s image of a Velociraptor preening after eating its kill would be an absolutely iconic image. But instead, the timidity of Hollywood will produce just another eminently forgettable monster movie like JP2 and JP3. A movie for hobbits who don’t want to see anything they haven’t already seen.

  37. what i think we are forgetting here is that it is a movie and for a sequel or reboot to be successful it has to retain aspects of the original film’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if the dinosaurs feature a little bit of plumage. I think the problem that people want this to be true to the facts but jurassic park has always had to have a flair in it and it always will. It won’t be factual it will be based on facts but as far as i’m concerned it will be fiction like the other 3 so i think everyone should just stop complaining. But if you must then here are some points
    Dilophosaurus: not acid spitting
    Velocirators: why are they deinonychus?
    Spinosaurus: It’s a fish eater!
    P.s : most kids no a lot about dinosaurs i don’t think they will be taught otherwise by this film, so stop complaining i think the movie will be great

  38. I’m afraid to say I disagree with you, and am inclined to agree with the arguments of continuity. Now I will admit I am indifferent on weather or not the raptors have feathers, as you said there is a significant amount of evidence that they did have them, but I don’t think whether they give the raptors feathers or not is going to completely ruin the story. In regards to the differences in The Lost World, you have a point that they did have a different color scheme, but the design of the animals was for the post part the same, unlike the third (and in my opinion abysmal) third film. There were little details I could appreciate from the third film, but the stroy was so thin and the characters so unlikable that I stopped caring. And of course you have the ridiculous Tyrannosaurus and Spinosaurus fight sequence. But I’m rambling, my apologies. The point is, I’m far more concerned that the tell a good story. And just because the ratpros won’t have feathers does not mean that there won’t be pleanty of other good science in the film. With the team behind Rise of the Planet of teh Apes writing the script, I’m quite hopeful.

  39. “what i think we are forgetting here is that it is a movie”

    Nobody is forgetting this is a movie or that it’s a sequel, unless you are speaking for yourself there. We all know it is a movie, we all know it is a sequel.

    The question is whether that`s a good enough excuse for losing JP`s distinctive feature, the thing that made it different from most monster movies featuring such huge and/or ferocious monsters: that these things had actually lived, that they were actual animals that really worked and really were the monsters depicted. They were just extinct, rather than being imaginary.

    If they do go with the old featherless velociraptors, it will be out of cynicism and contempt for their audience. The might be right on the money going with HL Mencken, but that’s not something anyone should be comfortable with.

  40. I think you’re assuming a lot based on only one statement there Mike, and the raptors with feathers only appeared in ONE out of two films, and even then it was only minor. For them to cut the feathers out won’t be that big a deal, and remember to look at whos writing the story. This movie is not going to be made or saved by feathers. Would I like to see dinsoarus with feathers portrayed more in film? Yes I would, but I’m not going to judge the film or the director from that one fact alone. I’mm more interested in a good story, and as I said previously, there’s every probability that there will be good science in the film, despite that one error. Remember, even the first film had some pretty serious changes from reality (The Dilophosaurus anyone?) I’m going to wait until I see more of the film before I start trying to make judgements about it. At this point, looking at the writers (who also wrote Rise of the Planet of the Apes), i’m optimistic that we’ll get a MUCH better film that we got in the third Jurassic Park.

  41. Since the post’s comments are still going strong here I contacted John Horner regarding this matter and according to him nothing is yet determined.

    “I don’t know anything about it, but will find out once we have a completed script.”

    So, there it is. I believe one should take that twitter account with a grain of salt since I have read one article questioning its authenticity.

  42. i love the jurassic park movies but what i don’t get is why they used frogs instead of living archosaurs like crocodiles one of there closest living relatives and were alive back then to

  43. I see the comment mentioning amphibian and reptilian DNA, which is what I get to. JP doesn’t need feathered dinosaurs because InGen didn’t make dinosaurs. They put together a hybrid of dinosaur dna with modern day cold-blooded creatures. If the idea was time travel and we plopped the animals from the past into the present like Dino Crisis it would be an issue, but the fact that they aren’t the original artifact leaves wiggle room for any kind of characteristics. I love the books and films, but I feel the dinosaurs can look more like toads, ostriches or however they want so long as this film has more substance than the last. We need some of that original Michael Crichton depth back in the JP world.

  44. The reason Michael Crichton had the novel’s scientists use frog DNA instead of crocodile/alligator DNA is that he needed a literary loophole that would allow for the cloned dinos to change sex and/or breed on their own. Amphibians can be more sexually-ambiguous than reptiles.

  45. Totally agreed. Jurassic Park was originally written and designed to be an up-to-date educative adventure story.

    I’m a big fan of JP (almost a sickness this passion). The movie guided me to find this career in Paleontology I am in today.

    I can’t deny that watching JP4 with feathered predators will be scarier than ever. It’s a new barrier to be crossed in CGI technology.

    The Raptors will look just soooooo beutiful (and more realistic for sure).

    … and feathered dinosaurs would surprise and shock the audience as much as the first original revolutionary agile animals from 1993.


  46. What’s really sad is how discussions of JP4 have taken precedence over any real discussion of dinosaurs and paleontology. The other day a “LiveScience” chat was held entitled “What have we learned about dinosaurs since JP?” and Jack Horner was the presumed “expert”. For one thing, I thought it was pretty lame that the original movie was positioned as some scientific milestone rather than just a highly-successful movie. Worse, nearly all the questions that were being asked were addressed to Jack Horner concerning JP4. Needless to say, Jack avoided any discussion of the movie – which led me to think there’s nothing set with JP4, only a lot of ideas and concepts that have yet to take shape into any form of shooting script or even synopsis. I’m sure the economics of the release of JP3D will justify just how much money will be spent on JP4. So watch the box office returns this weekend and hope for high double-digit returns.

    1. I have to agree with you there, I mean yes Jurassic Park did introduce a lot of more up to date ideas involving dinosaurs to the mainstream public, but it just as easily completely took quite a few liberties (Tyrannosaurus not being able to see you if you don’t move, Dilophosaurus spitting venom and having frill, AND being small, the Velociratpors being the size of Deinonychus/Utahraptors, etc. So it was good for that, and it was highly successful and I loved it as a child, still do now. I also have to admit a fondness for The Lost World, despite the latter films flaws (though I loved the way they made the dinosaurs feel even more natural in behavior). But a scientific Milestone? I think not. Maybe the films could be used as a good launching point for some scientific discussion but I wouldn’t use it as a primary focus. I also have to admit, while I can respect a lot of Jack Horners theories, I really have to admit that in my opinion, his bias really gets on my nerves. (Spinosaurus badder than Tyrannosaurus just because it was larger? REALLY? I can appreciate he concept that Tyrannosaurus may have scavenged at times, but he’s gotten a bit obnoxious for me, again, in my opinion)

  47. Even if JP doesn’t display feathered creatures just the fact it out these will create conversation and hopefully enlightenment on the subject of feathers.Better some learning than none and this movie will certainly cause that.

  48. This is directed at Zach Miller.
    The problem with comparing JP to Guardians of Ga’hoole is Ga’hoole is an ENTIRELY computer graphics movie. JP is not. One of the reasons JP3 fell so flat on its face was, according to fans, an overabundance of CGI and not enough puppetry and robotics that made the first feel so realisic. If you made all the dinosaurs in JP4 cgi, you might be able to get as realistic feathers as Ga’hoole, but at the expense of movie purists. Meanwhile, you will never get the puppets and robotics to have the realistic feathering you could get with CGI, as evidenced by every single feathered puppet and robot in dinosaur documentaries so far (no offense guys, I know how difficult is and I don’t envy your positions.)

    In the end, JP ‘dinosaurs’ are movie monsters, not dinosaurs. That much is true. You would have to correct a lot more than feathers to make the ‘raptors’ approaching accurate. It’d be much easier and, imo, more sensible to remind the audience that these are genetic monsters who do not resemble the real animals that were part of their test tube parents.

  49. I have to emphasize: back in 1993, those of us familiar with paleontology and “Deinonychus” all thought the final stalking sequence in the film was pure “movie magic” – ridiculous but “entertainment-worthy.” Come on – the sight of kids outwitting presumably vicious predatory animals? Besides which, the raptors’ behavior – the twisting of the doorknobs, the screeching before attacking – it was all contrary to known predator behavior but we scientists in the movie theater allowed ourselves to succumb to the nonsense because it was all so much fun. It was only later when many viewers – including those who would eventually become paleontologists as a result of the movie – accepted everything in the movie as “fact” (including the promotion of Jack Horner as the ultimate paleontologist) that the rest of us realized exactly how much damage this movie did to the scientific community in general and the paleo community in particular.

  50. If you really think about it, the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park don’t necessarily need feathers, they weren’t true dinosaurs. “What John Hammond, and InGen did at Jurassic Park, was create genetically engineered, theme park monsters. Nothing more, and nothing less.” As Dr. Alan Grant would put it. The reason they don’t have feathers is because amphibian DNA has been recombined with the fragmented genomes of the dinosaurs found in fossilized Amber, so because of this amphibian DNA, the dinosaurs weren’t true dinosaurs, but had some things wrong with them (such as Dilophosaurus spitting and frill, T-rex not able to see movement, larger Velociraptors (like Deinonychus), and the lack of feathers.) So Trevorrow saying that there isn’t going to be feathers on the dinosaurs isn’t trying to push away from the scientific view, but to stay true to the franchise, and keep the dinosaurs as “hybrid” dinosaurs. It’s just the way it is in the Jurassic Park series, the dinosaurs aren’t 100% real dinosaurs.

  51. Well, however people feel about feathered dinosaurs vs. non-feathered movie dinosaurs, it’s water under the bridge, now that JPIV has been postponed, most likely indefinitely.

  52. The big problem is that changing the design would break the canon. The Velociraptors were established without feathers in the first two movies, then JP3 changed the design. If the new movie will take place in the original park from the first movie like they say, then changing designs wouldn’t make sense as it would not canonically fit with the first movie in the timeline.

  53. A velociraptor with feathers is one thing but a T-Rex with feathers is stupid. All large animals alive today, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos etc have hardly any hair at all due to the difficulty in maintaining body temperature. If Rex had feathers they would have been very slight and hardly noticeable. I also had most of the artist depictions of overly colourful dinosaurs. A terrestrial, predatory dinosaur can’t look like a parrot because it needs to be camouflaged in order to surprise it’s prey.

    1. @Granted

      While it’s true that sometimes paleoartists go a little nuts with color when you consider that almost all modern birds of prey have cryptic patterns and neutral colors, I disagree about t-rex. After all, we have already found a member of the tyrannosaur family (Yutyrannus huali) which was 30 ft long with visible feathers in the fossil. It’s not surprising that tyrannosaurs could be fully feathered because we have other large, feathered dinosaurs and large feathered modern birds (though recently extinct.)
      Check out the Giant Moa sometime. They were fully feathered birds that stood as tall as elephants.

  54. This article is great…but also off the mark. It is based on a false premise: That Jurassic Park was a dinosaur movie. It was not. It’s a monster movie. Even in the film they did things that animals such as dinosaurs probably could NEVER have done, and this was pointed out. They are genetic abominations and the featherless images reflect the ignorance of the times. That’s fine. In fact, it could serve as an interesting minor plot point if they wanted to include it.

    Still, that’s just the mouthy internet critic in me. This is an amazing article and I have to say these last 10 years have been probably the most exciting time in Paleontology ever. It’s truly been an honor to be the recipient of such a major overhaul in our understanding of these remarkable creatures and I’m incredibly grateful to the “bone diggers”, the chemists, the geneticists and everyone who I haven’t time to mention for bringing us this treat.

  55. Yeah, that’s a great argument and everything, but…. I just don’t like feathery raptors. A lot of people don’t, and a lot of people do, and it just happens that someone who doesn’t is in charge of the film. Fandom and reason don’t go together for me. If there was another franchise that did feathery raptors, that’d be fine, but a major change, like turning my childhood favorites from tall and scary to chicken sized and fluffy would cause at least a little grumbling. D: And I hope they have more puppets and robotics in 5.

    1. I’m sorry but I do have to disagree here, feathered raptors, if handled properly, could still look and act quite intimidating, it all depends on the execution and the behavior. But they really would look NOTHING like turkeys, raptors were streamlined, efficient killers. While I do disagree that Jurassic World is really doing anything wrong by going with the scaled raptors, in turn sticking better to the continuity as presented in the original film, I also acknolwedge the Jurassic park was a film that introduced what was at the time very modern scientific presentations of dinosaurs. And then made efforts to keep the science up to date (which it can still do, though the feathers would be a bit too obvious a change)

    2. I agree, Raptorfan. And, to Mark Witton, if they want to make feathered dinosaurs, they should be saved for documentaries. For fans of the Jurassic Park, it’s best to keep them as they were. Besides, how would Ingen explain feathered dinosaurs when there were none before (save for the somewhat feathered Raptors in JPIII)? Remember, they used frog DNA to fill in the gene sequence gaps (and, as far as I know, no frogs have feathers…though I’m no animal expert). Let the documentaries have their feathered chickens…err, dinosaurs. But, for the sake of the Jurassic Park series, no feathers, please.

  56. Jurassic Park will always be my favorite movie, followed closely by The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park III was okay, but I must say I was a bit disappointed in seeing the “new” look the Raptors had. I’m relieved to hear Jurassic Park IV (or Jurassic World as it’s been known as) won’t have feathered dinosaurs, though what the plot will be will determine if I want to see it or not.

    You know that kid in the first film who compared Raptors to “six foot turkeys”? Well, if they made a film showing feathered dinosaurs, that kid would be exactly right! Fans of the original (myself included) don’t want to see feathered dinosaurs in the movies. Leave that for documentaries. No wonder I hate progress. It keeps getting dumber and dumber. Feathered dinosaurs, iPads, newer technology, etc…come on!

    Call me “old-school”, but I’ll take the scaly dinosaurs over feathered dinosaurs any day as long as they look cool. That’s what I loved the most about Jurassic Park (and, to a lesser extent, The Lost World). They had realistic dinosaurs without being stupid-looking (aka, with feathers). Updated from the “tails dragging along the ground” of older dinosaur movies without going overboard.

    Now, to anyone who replies to me, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Otherwise, I’ll ignore any negative comments. Thank you and good day.

  57. David, your attitudes are the sort of thing discussed in this blog post:


    Remember that science isn’t about what’s cool or badass: it’s about reality. The dinosaurs in the original JP weren’t arbitrarily updated from older movie dinosaurs to look dangerous and stylish: they were portrayed as scientists thought they were at the time. We now know that the portrayal of several species in that movie is inaccurate, so we have to move on. Whether you think the resulting progress is dumb or not is irrelevant.

  58. Have the opponents of feathers ever seen a modern raptor like a Golden eagle? They hunt wolves with them in Mongolia.

    Have they ever read John McLoughlin’s old science fiction novel The Helix and the Sword, with genetically resurrected Deinonychi that rather resembled deadlier versions of such birds?

    Also: Google Harpagornis moorei.

  59. I just think that feathered dinosaurs would take away the foursome was of the dinosaurs, especially the tyrannosaurus and velociraptor. I love the first films so much because of how awesome the dinosaurs looked and I want to be taken back to that feel I had if awe at the dinosaurs from the first film, I’m all for scientific accuracy in films, just not in Jurassic park, it just wouldn’t work.

    1. The human lack of respect to birds is so huge that most of the people just can’t accept the reality of feathered dinosaurs. In 1993, the audience was surprised because the saw really up-to-date resconstructed animals. The only way to have the same feeling in 2015 would had been with the colorful and feathered mesozoic creatures. Otherwise, we’ll always be watching retro dinos on the screen. That’s the Jurassic Park Syndrom.

  60. Something everyone seems to be missing, but have come close to in the comments I have read. This is 20 years later. The two islands have been shut down and running wild. There has been no further attempts at making dinosaurs. New discoveries since the first could not have been worked into the creatures. The possibility mentioned of “life finds a way” unplanned mutations could work, but in so short a time? Would creatures really develop something like that so quick? It would explain the partially feathered raptors in the third movie, if they followed through with more heavily feathered dinos in the 4th. Bottom line, it is fiction. It’s Hollywood. We know how they work. Why is anybody surprised?

  61. Thank you, Howard Freeman – June 12, 2014. I also like Nathaniel’s comment on July 16, 2014.

    To those who still advocate feathered dinosaurs to make them look “accurate”, Jurassic Park is, as Nathaniel said, fiction. Besides, if a new film were to show feathered dinosaurs, how would they be explained to fans? How did the animals suddenly develop these feathers? Remember that they used frog DNA to fill in any gaps missing from the available dinosaur DNA. Now, unless frogs were to sprout feathers, there should be NO feathered dinosaurs in any Jurassic Park movie.

  62. The Jurassic park franchise has a long history of ignorance. Stephen Spielberg is largely to blame. 2 incidents in the making of the first film. When Mike Trcic was sculpting the T. rex, in walked Speilberg. He asked Mike what the large protruding bulge was (as he pointed to the pubis). Mike responded “There is a bone there”. Spielberg then responded “Not on my T. rex”. From this, we can see the director already was committed to deceiving the public even in the first film. Another incident was on location, Don Lessem pointed out how the fossil dig scene was all wrong. Fortunately, Spielberg did modify from his original plan to incorporate what don had advised him to do.
    While there is no valid reason in the world that feathers should not adorn most every theropod and even some ornithopods now, I do not expect the arrogant and ignorant to do the right thing. They seem fully committed to the wrong thing.

  63. i think you are so right i mean i love that the way you are trying to put out there i think the effects on the raptors in j.p. but why do they hold back on the scientific info?

  64. Now Jurassic World has been released we can see the writers are aware of all these issues from the Opening scene of a bird to the script reminding us that they (bed theme park scientists) were mixed with frog DNA they were never real dinosaurs. The franchise is now set for bird DNA to be used for the next film. If the writers have the imagination they will have new (good) bird DNA using scientists more accurate dinosaurs eating the old (bad) frog based theme park dinosaurs along with the scientists that crated them. I read the T-Rex actually had brown and red feathers though when its peering though your window they would look more like spines. I think the 5th film could be terrifying.

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