The Self-Driving SUVs in Jurassic Park Weren’t Actually Self-Driving at All

Everyone knows the movie Jurassic Park and all of the magic that went into filing. Did you know how Steven Spielberg got the Ford Explorer to drive without an actual driver? The answer is more humorous than you might have expected. Don’t worry; the Jeep Wrangler SUV is still kicking dinosaur butt in the park, too.

What Ford Explorer is in Jurassic Park?

The Jurassic Park 1993 Ford Explorer
A Tyrannosaurus Rex approaches the Ford Explorer SUV in ‘Jurassic Park’ | Murray Close/Getty Images

According to a recent article from Slash Film, a lot of work went into these Ford Explorers behind the scenes. In the film, the Explorer SUVs were “self-driving” around the park, if you recall. People were probably focused on the giant dinosaurs, which is understandable. However, it really was movie magic that helped the Ford Explorers get around the park in the movie. In addition to the explorer, the Jeep Wrangler was also heavily featured.

Back in 1993, this was a big deal. As such, Jurassic Park used 1993 Ford Explorer SUVs throughout. In the movie, John Hammond commented that he spared no expense on the SUVs, which seems to be the case in real life as well. Joseph Mazzello, who played Tim Murphy in the actual film, revealed some of that movie magic.

It appears that all of the Ford SUVs were driving around the park without anyone driving, hence the self-driving Ford Explorer situation. But it was funnier than that, and looking back, the movie magic definitely worked.

The 1993 Ford Explorer SUV wasn’t self-driving at all

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In an interview, Mazzello revealed how these cars were self-driving. In reality, there was a guy in the car’s trunk with a small TV screen allowing people to see what was in front of the Ford Explorer. These full-size SUVs weren’t exactly easy to navigate as it was, but production managed to figure out a good solution.

“In reality there’s a guy in the trunk of the car with a little TV screen, you know, smaller than my iPad that I’m on right now, and he’s hunched down on his side like this driving the Jeep, driving the cars.”

Joseph Mazzello | Jurassic Park

At one point in the film, the vehicles were supposed to approach a land bridge to really hammer home the self-driving thing. But at some point, it was decided that was probably too risky, seeing as the person driving the Jeeps and Ford Explorers were in the trunk of the vehicle driving via a tiny screen. That’s movie magic, alright. There were no self-driving cars, just stunt drivers or regular people in the trunk, driving actors around the park and avoiding dinosaurs.

The dramatic scene with the T-rex sequence was also movie magic

Stan Winston was one of the main special effects people working on Jurassic Park. Yup, all of those CGI dinosaurs and scenes came from the magical mind of Mr. Winston. These dinosaurs were some of the best the public had seen at the time. In fact, Jurassic Park set the standard at that time for special effects in movies.

One of the best pieces of information to come out of this interview was about the part of the movie right before the T-rex breakout scene. When all of the actors are in place, the water begins to ripple dramatically, indicating a giant dinosaur is nearby. Apparently, that was someone underneath one of the SUVs plucking a guitar string. No heavy T-rex was stomping nearby, unfortunately. Who would have thunk it?

So, for now, the mystery of the self-driving Ford Explorers and various Jeep Wranglers were driving by the trunk people. But if you believe in self-driving technology all this time, then the truth doesn’t matter anymore, right? Someone play Jurassic Park before it’s too late.

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