CREATURAMA JURASSIC LEGACY Part 1

The Work of Artist Anthony James

CREATURAMA JURASSIC LEGACY Part 1

Dinosaurs, huge reptiles that once ruled our world. I’ve been fascinated by them for as long as I can remember, and that’s a while!

Like a lot of children born in the 1960’s I collected the Brooke Bond Tea Cards and dutifully stuck them in my Brooke Bond dinosaur card collector’s booklet, and read about dinosaurs in wonderful and wildly inaccurate children’s encyclopedias and ‘How & Why Wonder Books’. (All of which I still have!)  Dinosaurs back then were huge, slow, lumbering, almost comedic lumps of scales drawn in black and white on course paper.

My first direct encounter with a T-Rex was at primary school.  A stubborn chicken wire framed creature coated in thick, seemingly ever wet, ‘Paper-Mache’. I painted it light green (because dinosaurs are ALL green aren’t they?) and was inordinately proud of its proportions.  But then came the bitter blow. It would not stand up! No matter what I did that model just would not stand up! Still… I didn’t really care.  I’d made a dinosaur! (In hindsight I had definitely made one leg longer than the other but hindsight is overrated!)

At home my mother and father sighed, and at Christmas ‘Dinosaur Snap-Together Model Kits’ were the order of the day!

Every dinosaur related movie that came out I wanted to see, but alas most of my dinosaur viewing came in the form of wonderful B Movies on a black and white portable TV, such as ‘10.000 years BC’ with the voluptuous Rachel Welsh, re-runs of Ray Harryhausen stop motion animation fantasy’s and almost anything with Doug McClure in it!

JURASSIC PARK

And so it stayed for many years, and then in 1993 I went with my then partner and our friends to our local cinema to watch the much hyped ‘JURASSIC PARK’…and everything changed.

It’s hard to describe to people slightly less enthusiastic about our long lost reptilian predecessors just how mind blowing ‘Jurassic Park’ was. Directed of course by the skilful and competent hand of Stephen Spielberg, whose 1970’s film ‘JAWS’ is also one of my top 5 movies!  It’s uses of the relatively new art of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) replaced the stop motion plasticine of the 1960’s and the rubbery puppets of the 1970’s.

I sat with most of the audience in awe of how the dinosaurs were created in ‘Jurassic Park’, and if anything let the ‘Horror’ part of the narrative wash over me, concentrating instead upon the first views we have with Doctor Alan Grant breathlessly sagging to his knees when confronted with the enormity of the park and its beautifully rendered dinosaur inhabitants.

I knew then, even while watching the movie that things were wrong, that the T-Rex is a Cretaceous dinosaur, not Jurassic, that Velociraptor’s are much smaller predators than are portrayed in the film and that dinosaurs would have trouble breathing in our modern atmosphere, but this was the closest I’d ever been to seeing these fantastic and incredible creatures appear real for the very first time. 

Back in my parent’s garden shed I instantly got to work. CREATURAMA was just taking shape and it seemed an obvious move from my alien models and costumes into the world of dinosaurs and so I started creating – what back then was going to be a sister company to CREATURAMA…DINORAMA. It was only several years later that I decided DINORAMA sounded too much like a pest control company and it changed to CREATURAMA DINOSAUR.

CREATURAMA DINOSAUR

My first two large scale exhibitions of my dinosaurs were huge successes, and I’ve been running dinosaur themed workshops in schools ever since. While at college in London I spent many, many Saturday afternoons in the ‘Natural History Museum’ with the wonderful ‘Dippy’ skeleton that used to stand in the central concourse and I would lurk,  sketchbook in hand, in amongst all the dinosaur bones, delighting in the fact that Victorian palaeontologist Mary Anning or Richard Owen had found this, or that. After college I slipped back into exhibitions and workshops, but it wasn’t until the late 2000’s that I had another dinosaur exhibition.

This one was sort of a re-awakening of the format. Many of my older dinosaurs had become either too damaged to use, or were just too inaccurate by that time, so I began a little re-build creating some new – more accurate dinosaurs, and importantly drifting a little further back in time to include creatures from the Permian era. For this exhibition I created a new far more realistic Velociraptor with feathers, a Xylosuchus, a Dimetrodon and a new large Pteranodon, while also updating and repairing older creations. And all through those years, alongside my life, the ‘Jurassic Park’ Franchise itself came to an end, and then re-booted in 2015 with the beginning of the ‘Jurassic World’ reinvention of the original idea.

…And then it gets a little surreal, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself, let’s just say I never thought a junk model maker from Warwickshire in the UK would EVER be part of HOLLYWOOD’S ‘JURASSIC WORLD’ Franchise!!!!!!…HOW MAD WOULD THAT BE! Well, find out how that happened in next week’s blog JURASSIC LEGACY 2.

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