Ever since watching Jurassic Park, a thought has rattled around in the back of our minds. How cool would it be to actually visit the place? If there was any failing of that classic movie (along with its two sequels), it was that we never saw an operational park. It’s pretty obvious why that’s the case – it’s not going to make for the most of dramatic movies!
It took four films but Jurassic World finally delivered something that we’d been waiting over twenty-five years for, an actual dinosaur theme park. The set up of this movie offered a brilliant immersive opportunity – an event could recreate the experience of visiting Jurassic World. And that’s exactly what Jurassic World: The Exhibition is, an authentic trip to said amusement destination.
For Jurassic movie fans, this was a dream come true (and we obviously fall in that bracket – check out our Jurassic Park In Concert review). There have been some fun attractions elsewhere; Islands of Adventure’s approximation of the Jurassic Park Visitor Centre along with Orlando and Hollywood’s iterations of the River Adventure ride but this is absolutely the most authentic experience to date (and likely will ever be – we’re not sure how much further you could develop this short of building an island somewhere – it’s that comprehensive!).
So, on the final weekend of its operation, we made our way over to Paris and paid a visit to Jurassic World. Our time in at the attraction unfolded as follows:
Ferry to Isla Nublar
The adventure begins with you boarding the ferry to Jurassic World. After all, it is on an island! As you travel along the ocean, an onboard video plays, providing guests with a very brief and high-level overview of what they’re about to encounter. Though reasonably well executed, we just wanted to get to Jurassic World and see the dinosaurs first hand!
Admittedly, there isn’t really much to this feature, it’s just the entry gates to the park. But they’re so iconic (moreso the original Jurassic Park ones though) that you can’t help but get a little excited about passing through them! It’s an epic way of signaling that, yes, you have arrived at Jurassic World and dinosaur encounters surely await! Never thought we’d be reviewing gates on this site but there you go!! They’re awesome gates.
Land of the Giants
The first area after passing through the gates into the theme park presented us with two herbivores; parasaurolophus and brachiosaurus. The parasaurolophus seemed quite shy and was content hanging back in the foliage whilst the brachiosaurus was seemingly loving the attention. This creature seemed to intuit that people were taking pictures of it and would inquisitively lean towards its photographers.
It was a well-pitched start to our journey, beginning with two gentle creatures but also with the largest dinosaur that we’d encounter on our expedition, providing an immediate sense of awe!
Gentle Giants Petting Zoo
Here we got to see an adult and juvenile pachyrhinosaurus. Despite being a petting zoo – we, understandably, couldn’t actually touch these dinosaurs. They were maybe the least impressive purely because they weren’t hidden by anything. It just made it very clear that these were largely stationary animatronics and even their floor mounts were clearly visible.
Despite this, there were some cool little details in this room such as the food dispenser where guests could ‘buy’ food to feed the pachyrhinosaurs.
Where the dinosaurs are made! With an abundance of eggs, blocks of amber and a few hatchlings, this was a cool little area with a few opportunities for interaction.
A very subtle but cool feature that we spotted in this room was the CCTV bank – we could catch ‘live’ feeds to other parts of the park (the movie’s in-universe CCTV footage). This was a neat little way of making the experience feel larger in scale than it actually was as we could see areas that weren’t part of the physical exhibition.
Probably the most impressive section of the entire exhibition, the T.Rex Encounter had guests get up close with a moving T.Rex animatronic, walking out for its next meal.
It was at this point that the authenticity of the event hit home – with low lights and a walking dinosaur that acted (and sounded) like that of the movie, this was a scene that felt reminiscent of the first time we ever saw a T.Rex in the Jurassic movie franchise.
We filmed this entire section so check it out:
We got to meet Blue! The only dinosaur that wasn’t animatronic, Blue was a good old-fashioned ‘man in suit’ job. Whilst this obviously made Blue the most dynamic of all the dinos we witnessed that day, there was something a bit ‘off’ about her. The frantic running around definitely lacked the mystique of the other creatures and the super low-lighting (which we gather was to make it less obvious it was a person portraying her) made it a bit of a struggle to see what was going on, especially with the whole group focused on a relatively small area. And Blue also didn’t sound like the velociraptors from the movies – instead making this bizarre, padded clapping noise. We suspect that was literally the sound of the suit’s jaw opening and closing.
Whilst it would clearly be anticlimactic in this situation, think back to how menacing the first scene that the main characters encounter the velociraptors in Jurassic Park is. You don’t see them, just the cow lowered into the pen and then absolute chaos. Yes, it’s a family attraction but still!! Something along those lines would have definitely been more impactful than what we got.
This was another one we filmed (as best as we could!):
Now, it might be somewhat unpopular opinion but I love the Indominus Rex from Jurassic World. I think the conceit behind it is smart and apt. There’s a point in any hobby you have where you that sense that you’ve seen it all and you need to step it up. In comes the Indominus Rex, a dinosaur that is designed to break the indifference that people now have towards dinosaurs (in the movie’s world that is!). Much like how a theme park has to add new rides every couple of years to remain relevant. So yeah, when the next area was called Gyrosphere and we entered to a Stegosaurus grazing, I wasn’t expecting to come face to face with the I.Rex!
Slightly less impressive than meeting the T.Rex, if only because the Indominus stays in one place, this little scene was still pretty cool – recreating the moment when the ACU team are hunting the Indominus down after its escape. This two-minute piece also used the Indominus’ escape music from Jurassic World. It’s a small thing but using that music, to a fan, is the icing on the cake!
This whole stretch was also filmed:
The show ends in the Innovation Center – the pyramidal visitor’s centre from Jurassic World, although we don’t get to see the external facade here… This final space is where most of the educational elements come into play – we sadly can’t comment on them because it was all in French and, as you might’ve guessed, we don’t speak the language!!
My main observation here though was that it was pretty small in comparison to the place that it was supposed to be replicating. This feels like a case of space running out and, because there were no dinosaurs present in this room, it was the prime candidate for downsizing. It’s a slight shame because everything else that we saw did an extremely good job of approximating things that were in the movies. But then, realistically, everyone’s there to see lifesize dinosaurs aren’t they so why take up precious room with an educational area? That’s not to diminish the Innovation Center at all but, in all likelihood, if you genuinely wanted to learn more about dinosaurs, you’d visit a proper museum rather than try and learn from an attraction based on a movie franchise featuring resurrected dinosaurs!
It’s difficult to not be biased when talking about this event when all I’ve wanted to do ever since watching Jurassic Park back in ’93 is visit the island!
That said, we have also visited the non-IP ‘Dinosaurs in the Wild’ and it’s a very similar set up in many ways so we do have a frame of reference to discuss what was successful and the elements that didn’t quite do it for us. DitW was a way more interactive experience – from the way that you found your way to the facility through to the areas that you visited. Jurassic World felt very passive in comparison. For example, DitW’s version of the Hammond Lab had so many things that you could fiddle with; microscopes, bones and even dino dung! There’s an element of Jurassic World being tied to its IP but that shouldn’t come at the expense of the experience.
Where Jurassic World excelled was in the scale of the show – meeting actual, full-size versions of your favourite movie dinosaurs is a hard thing to top and the guys behind Jurassic World obviously knew to play to their strengths! Also, I don’t recall anything (other than the ferry ride over) that didn’t physically exist. The T.Rex actually walked towards the jeep – it was really there. DitW’s major set piece involved more than one T.Rex and a few other beasts and, whilst it was stupidly impressive, it was a fully digital experience. That said, as a result, they were able to pull things off that Jurassic World couldn’t. I think if Jurassic World had at least one technology-assisted moment, it could have really knocked it out of the park. As it stood, Jurassic World was very classic in its methods.
I think they’re both knockout attractions but Jurassic World is very dependent on your familiarity (and appreciation) of the movie franchise. If you’re indifferent to that series, we’d wager that Dinosaurs in the Wild would probably be the better show to attend.
But, you know, at the end of the day, Jurassic World: The Exhibition provided me with the opportunity to visit Jurassic World – in what world is that not an amazing prospect??
EVENT NAME - COMPANY
+ Full-size dinosaurs
+ Faithful recreation of the movie's setting
+ Great value for asking price
- Bit dated in approach
- Some moments were ripe for development
Jurassic World: The Exhibition was an amazing experience. We hear that a refreshed version may appear next year - if so, we would highly recommend checking it out!
Address: Cité du cinéma, 20 Rue Ampère, 93200 Saint-Denis