Why Jurassic Park you probably didn’t ask? Well, there are two reasons. Firstly, Jurassic Park was one of the first films of my lifetime to acknowledge its own merchandising power and to achieve ridiculously high market saturation in almost every area. There is a scene within the film that typifies that self-awareness: when John Hammond gives his poetic monologue about the flea circus the camera pans and picks out his park merchandise including items that actually made it out on to shelves (including a hidden Making Of book by the authors of the real thing).
It may seem cynical now, but that self-referential product placement was like catnip to me and my generation and it made the off-screen versions of the products somehow more invested in the magical exchange of cinema. That was the point where I realized that we weren’t just buying plastic dinosaurs, lunch boxes and bed sheets emblazoned with the cunningly marketable JP logo, we were buying a part of that movie universe.
And the second: why not Jurassic Park? The film was phenomenal, and anyone suggesting that they shouldn’t immediately go now and make the fourth installment is a dastardly scoundrel who needs to re-evaluate their status as a film fan. And it should definitely be based on that legendary “Dino-soldiers” script (yes it is the most batshit idea ever, but Machete and Hobo With a Shotgun started off as similar jokes).
So, hold tight for a nostalgic trip through the big wooden gates of Jurassic Park…
1. Jurassic Park Topps Trading Cards
If you’ve never collected cards, you can’t really class yourself as a proper collector. They are after all the gateway drug for the majority of merch fans, and it is in the Wonka’s Golden Ticket-like heady mix of excitement and trepidation to be had in those adolescent days of tearing of the outer packaging (oh, what gleeful abandon! I’d never be so wantonly destructive now) and looking through the crisp new cards for duplicates and ultra-rares. It was a hugely moreish experience, and one that still pricks every time I go to a newsagent or supermarket with gleeming foil packets of cards and stickers on the counter by the till.
Nothing beats the feeling of completing a set, and cards have an incredible knack of exponentially increasing in value (as long as the game remains in circulation, and even in some cases beyond that) – just ask the Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh fans out there. But the magic is all about the nostalgic element for me; once you’re old enough to appreciate how pure that youthful enjoyment was, briefly returning to that world is like the perfect forbidden fruit. Either that or I need to get out more.
If you want to reinvest in the magic, one lucky person could pick up a box of the cards.
2. Jurassic Park Jungle Explorer (& Action Figures)
There’s something about vehicular toys that stand out, and it is that certain something that pushed the otherwise exceptional Electronic Command Compound out of the chance of its own mention here. The park cars, modeled on the Ford Explorer were as integral a part of the film’s design as the dinos, and the Dino Damage feature was a complete revelation on release, allowing the player to not only imagine an authentic sense of real and present danger for their action figures but to also realize that danger by destroying their vehicle slightly.
It’s a mighty difficult bit of merch to find boxed, but if you’re just interested in getting your hands on one to recapture the innocence of youthful dino-smashing there are plenty to be found on ebay.
And the action figures themselves were a triumph, though not wholly because of the design or range: they transcended the usual levels of cool thanks to the odd design work that packed Dennis Nedry – you’ll remember him, he’s the grossly overweight IT villain who bites the big one thanks to a Dilophosaurus attack – with a flame-thrower. So the kids could reposition him as a raptor-butt-kicking savage vigilante of sorts. And not only that, he is decidedly beefy in comparison to the more portly figure cut by Wayne Knight – but that was the charm of the figure series.
3. Lego Adventures: T-Rex Transfer
What is it with Lego? What started off as just colored blocks that a child could while away the hours with building nothing more dangerous than a pretty little house has become a far more complex endeavor for its fans with all manner of movie tie-in special packs. And even better, because of their Disney Vault style limited release windows and stock numbers, prestige Lego sets like this gold-chip Jurassic Park number can reach astronomically high values in double quick time (one of these will set you back northwards of $200 any day of the week).
The marriage of charm and the inherent humor of the medium increase the likeability factor here ten-fold, and it’s a must for genuinely invested fans.
T-Shirt of the Week
Ignoring the perfect logo – itself the subject of many, many designs – was a difficult compromise, but this shirt with its hipster cool and slightly off-center focus makes it the perfect, less obvious choice from the Jurassic Park world.
Buy one here (it’s only an extra £1 for international delivery).