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‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous’ is a roaring good time

As a kid, Colin Trevorrow used to play with dinosaurs. “I was a dinosaur kid but mostly in the context of how those dinosaurs can help my other action figures fight various battles and get around. I would kind of mesh dinosaurs together with my Star Wars figures and various others. They’re very helpful in war, even though I don’t necessarily support that storyline in the movies we’re making. But when I was a kid, yeah, dinosaur-laden battles were a big deal.”

Those hours of playing turned out to be prophetic. Because as writer, producer and director, Colin gets to play with dinosaurs (and Star Wars characters, in “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker”) on a much bigger scale. 

He worked on 2015’s “Jurassic World,” 2018’s “Jurassic: Fallen Kingdom” and is currently filming “Jurassic World: Dominion.”

But that’s not why we were on Zoom with him earlier this week. We were there to talk to him about “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous,” a CG animated series from DreamWorks Animation and Netflix that started streaming on September 18. 

Glen Powell as Dave a camp counselor; Jameela Jamil as Roxie a camp counselor

The show is set against the timeline of “Jurassic World” and follows the adventure of six teenage campers (Paul-Mikél Williams as Darius, Jenna Ortega as Brooklynn, Ryan Potter as Kenji, Raini Rodriguez as Sammy, Sean Giambrone as Ben, Kausar Mohammed as Yaz, Jameela Jamil as Roxie, Glen Powell as Dave) who end up trapped in Camp Cretaceous on the opposite side of Isla Nubar.  

Colin, who shares executive producer credit with Steven Spielberg among others, told us about the joys and challenges of bringing “Camp Cretaceous” to life.  

Can you talk about the decision to create an animated “Jurassic” series?

We recognize that we only make one of these movies every three years—we put a lot of time and heart and care to them—and yet, if you’re a kid, you’re six years old and you love “Jurassic World,” three years is half your life. It’s a long time. And so we wanted to be able to make something that kids could go to and get that fix and have the experience with dinosaurs that they love so much at home, you know, without having to wait for us.

Sean Giambrone as Ben Pincus

What are the challenges that you faced doing animation versus live action?

The challenge of animation is always to create characters who feel like real people. And that goes for live action as well. We really wanted to make sure to infuse into this the challenges of being alive in the modern world so it wasn’t only a fun show, it was something that would mean something to young people.

What do you think makes the “Jurassic” franchise continue to thrive for almost three decades now? 

One is that every day, so many new dinosaur fans are born. We have the advantage that dinosaurs were real, they were here and kids are introduced to them. What’s very exciting is we get to play in a world that’s based on scientific reality and I love how much it gets kids to recognize the value of the natural world and how briefly we’ve been here compared to how long the earth has existed.

Sean Giambrone as Ben Pincus; Ryan Potter as Kenji Kon; Jenna Ortega as Brooklynn; Kausar Mohammed as Yaz Fadoula; Paul-MikÈl Williams as Darius Bowman

Can you talk about casting the voice talent?

It was really just about capturing the soul of the character. At first, we kind of present them almost as archetypes of modern children and by the time we get to the end of the season, hopefully we revealed that they’re real human beings facing all the challenges that young people face in life.  

What’s it like having the responsibility of taking care of this franchise?

I feel very fortunate that I’ve even been able to play in the sandbox at all. And now that I’ve been doing it for many years, it’s just really something that’s become a part of my life in a really huge part, of not just my career, but of my life, with my family. So much of it has been defined by this responsibility to make sure that this legacy lives on and is respected. I see myself as a bit more of a gardener, I’m a custodian of this and I’m very sincere in how grateful I am for all of it.

Was this really meant to be a Netflix series?

Yeah, the partnership with Netflix happened very very early in the process. We teamed up with them right away. For me, it’s a different kind of distribution than theatrical for many reasons but it does still have the ability for everyone in the world who has access to Netflix—which at this point are great many people. For a lot of people all over the planet to experience something at the same time, that’s the thing I love about theatrical distribution as well. Not just the shared experience in the theater but the shared experience on a global level. You know we have a shared culture in so many ways when it comes to entertainment. Dozens and dozens of countries will have kids that will watch this all at the same time and it’s very exciting for me.

 

How much of a hand in terms of the creative execution or storyline does Steven Spielberg have in the show?

He puts a lot of faith in me and it’s something I really appreciate in guiding all this forward. But I do go to him in key moments, crucial moments and ask for his advice. On a macro level, he’s giving the writers permission to be as openly creative as possible. The one thing that he said very clearly to everyone is he didn’t just want this to be a kid’s show. He wanted this to be “Jurassic” which means that the kids are in real danger. And that’s something that we’ve done in all of the films pretty consistently—nobody safe and you know dinosaurs don’t discriminate in human life when it comes to who deserves it or who doesn’t. They’re animals and that comes to children as well. It gave the writers a great freedom to create a show that has a level of tension in it because you’re not really sure who’s safe and who isn’t.

How’s the filming of “Dominion” doing especially during this time of pandemic? 

You know, it’s a time of great solidarity amongst the people who are making this film, and yes, there are really pretty strict protocols that we’ve put in place. I’ll be the first to admit, maybe we’ve gone beyond what is absolutely necessary. But that’s a choice that we made, because we just want everyone to be as safe as possible and we want to be able to finish this film. It’s the livelihoods of so many when it comes to our crew and people who are working for us and I’m just astounded and really moved by how everyone’s risen to the occasion on this movie. We all show up. We wear masks every single day and we are tested three times a week and we take temperature checks every morning when we show up. I’ve been quarantined away from my family for four months. I’ve seen them for two days out of those four months, and all of these things we’ve done because we care so much about it. And I really believe it’s going to show in the movie that we’re making.

The “Jurassic” franchise has a lot of fans, both kids and adults. Do you think this series will appeal to adults as well? And was this something you consciously worked on? 

Yeah, I think hopefully it will naturally be. I’m a parent and I watch stuff with my kids. My kids watch every one of these episodes in early forms before we had finalized them just to make sure that they were entertaining them because it was entertaining me a lot. They’re definitely my eye test kitchen. Actually I was very confident that it was going to work for adults so I just wanted to make sure kids like it. And I think I think they will.

What’s your favorite dinosaur?

I like the ankylosaurus a lot, you know, hard shell and soft middle. And I like the microceratus which is one you guys haven’t seen yet but it’s coming up. It’s kind of a little one that you could have as a pet.