Jurassic Park has several branches of canon, or separate continuities if you want to call them that. The entire franchise started with Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novel in 1990. After that, Steven Spielberg adapted the novel into a movie under the same name, released in 1993. The popularity of the novel and movie essentially forced Crichton to write a sequel, despite him having no plans or urge to do so when writing the original Jurassic Park. Thus, in 1995, The Lost World was released by Crichton, and later adapted to the silver screen in 1997 as The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Crichton never wrote a third novel, but a third movie was released in 2001 titled Jurassic Park III (or Jurassic Park ///, or Jurassic Park 3, whichever you prefer). Crichton sadly passed away in 2008, but the franchise has continued to this day with 2015’s Jurassic World and 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and a sixth movie is set to release in 2021.
Alongside the movies, several video games, junior novels, and comic books have come out under the Jurassic Park or Jurassic World brand.
You can begin to see why, with all of this material, the franchise has had a somewhat muddied canon over the years. Using statements from Jurassic Park officials and my own interpretations, the following are the three main branches of canon for the franchise:
- Novel canon
- Movie canon
- Video game canon
“Novel canon” would be Michael Crichton’s two original novels and anything that directly ties into them and/or is based mainly on the events as they are laid out within them. This would include the movies if not for the stark differences between them, and them being separate mediums altogether. For instance, at the end of the first novel, Isla Nublar is napalmed by the Costa Rican air force, while in the movie, Nublar is left to its own devices. The two cannot be considered one in the same as there are different dinosaurs, different characters (and their fates), different dates, and so much more.
Since the movies have become the most popular and widespread medium of the franchise by far, not a lot of material has come out that connects directly to the novels anymore.
Items in this category (including but not limited to): Jurassic Park (1990), The Lost World (1995)
“Movie canon” would be the three Jurassic Park movies, the soon-to-be three Jurassic World movies, and The Evolution of Claire. Despite the title of this branch, different mediums such as books, games, and other assorted tie-in material can be included. For example, The Evolution of Claire is a young adult novel released in 2018 as a prequel to Jurassic World, and has been deemed canon by Colin Trevorrow, thus would be under this branch.
Behind-the-scenes footage, promotional footage, “Making Of” books, and magazine articles can be considered movie canon when applicable. Particularly the “Making Of” books, they contain a wealth of information, both out-of-universe and in-universe, and are great for those that like to dig deeper into the franchise. There are lots of things mentioned in these types of books that never make it into behind-the-scenes footage or the movies themselves.
Websites can also be considered canon to the movies, but only certain ones. The DinosaurProtectionGroup.com and MasraniGlobal.com are both canon to the movies. Older websites like Lost-World.com and JP3.JurassicPark.com are non-canon; the former because it’s a cross between hyping the second movie and Jurassic Park: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood (which is mentioned in the Triceratops profile), and the latter, aside from being defunct, is more of an informational hub than an in-universe look at the third movie.
Items in this category (including but not limited to): Jurassic Park (1993), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), The Evolution of Claire, DinosaurProtectionGroup.com, MasraniGlobal.com, Making Of: Jurassic Park, Making Of: The Lost World: Jurassic Park, DVD/Blu-ray bonus features, Jurassic Park Official Souvenir Magazine
A sub-branch of movie canon would be the junior novelizations, i.e. the Jurassic Park Adventure series that came out alongside Jurassic Park III. These books are adapted from or based on the final screenplays of the movies. This often leads to discrepancies, such as Eric Kirby encountering an Iguanodon in Jurassic Park Adventure: Survivor when we know InGen never cloned the species. There’s also the entirety of Jurassic Park Adventure: Prey not being acknowledged by any canon item. Something that occurs within a junior novel that does not occur within the movie, but doesn’t contradict the event, should still be looked at as a non-canon event until indicated otherwise.
Items in this category (including but not limited to): Jurassic Park Adventure: Survivor, Jurassic Park Adventure: Prey, Jurassic Park Adventure: Flyers, Jurassic Park III Junior Novelization, Jurassic Park Junior Novelization, Jurassic World Junior Novelization, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Junior Novelization
“But it was canon last year…”
Sometimes an item can be considered canon at one time and be excluded later due to a new source contradicting it. “Jurassic Park: Trespasser” was hyped as the digital sequel to The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but so much of the story within the game conflicts with the movies that it cannot be considered canon to them. This is mostly to do with the game’s odd mix of novel and movie timelines. In the novel continuity, the Jurassic Park incident happens in 1989, and in the movie continuity the first Isla Sorna incident happens in 1997, but “Trespasser” claims the latter happened four years after the former, which would put Jurassic Park in 1993 like the movie continuity. No bueno. Another example would be “Jurassic Park: The Game,” which came out in 2011 from Telltale Games and was touted as being “woven into the events and canon of Jurassic Park.” However, “The Game” contained several contradictions and was, like “Trespasser,” a mix of novel and movie elements, although to a much lesser degree.
This can happen to anything at any point in time, mind you. The DPG website? It may be thrown out if another movie is made after Jurassic World 3 and the director wants Isla Sorna to be bustling with dinosaurs again. Universal or another filmmaker may decide they like a lot of things in “Jurassic Park: The Game” and want it to be completely canon to the movies, conflicts be damned.
Video Game Canon
“Video game canon” is all of the video games, including those for handheld systems and smartphones. They operate under their own rules and incorporate elements from all facets of the franchise to give the player the best experience possible. According to Colin Trevorrow, the games are considered “soft canon,” which is a short way of saying they function on their own without worry of messing anything up within the other mediums; and this also means the other mediums do not have to worry about anything that happens within the games.
That isn’t to say the games are ignored. Elements from them have been taken and incorporated into the movies, such as Mt. Sibo (the volcano on Isla Nublar) first appearing in “Jurassic Park: The Game” and subsequently being reused in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. “Investigation: The Old Park” report on the Dinosaur Protection Group website eludes to Gerry Harding’s involvement in “The Game” as well. Jack Ewins, one of the creators and writers of the website, mentioned in a podcast with Jurassic Park YouTuber Klayton Fioriti that he was originally going to include the Troodon, a dinosaur previously exclusive to “The Game,” on the original InGen list, but recalled that all records of it were erased, so he couldn’t. The list goes on, but keep in mind, just because something from a game is referenced in the movies, that does not mean that particular game is considered canon to the movies. Unless something is directly ported over to the movies, it should not be considered in movie discussions.
Items in this category (including but not limited to): Jurassic Park: Trespasser, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, Jurassic World: Evolution, Jurassic World: The Game, Jurassic Park (SNES), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1998), Warpath: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park: Explorer
Potential Fourth Branch
There is one last medium that could potentially qualify for its own branch of canon, and that is the comics. There were several comic books released for Jurassic Park and a couple for Jurassic World, but they differ so drastically from the movies’ events that they can’t possibly be considered canon to them. They also rarely connect with each other, making their consideration for canon even more dubious. The reason I don’t give the comics their own branch is because they’re still incredibly obscure, and no comic line is currently going to my knowledge. Basically, they’re irrelevant.
What About the Other Stuff?
We can’t forget about the multitude of other tie-in merchandise released for the movies, such as children’s books, trading cards, toys, and even Jurassic Park: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood & Orlando (soon to be Jurassic World: The Ride). That stuff was made with children and younger adults in mind. The children’s books would seem the closest to being movie canon, referencing events from the movies, displaying pictures of the dinosaurs and characters from the movies, even adding lore that could feasibly happen in the movies. The Jurassic World Employee Handbook, for instance, does a pretty good job of describing Simon Masrani’s Jurassic World theme park and resort, from the dinosaurs to the facilities to the people that work there. It should be obvious why the Augmented Reality (AR) and sticker books are non-canon, as they’re clearly made for kids to enjoy the pictures and not have to think too much.
Other books may seem applicable to the movies as well, namely the 2001 Dinosaur Field Guide and the 2015 Jurassic World Dinosaur Field Guide. They are solid sources of information, albeit supremely outdated nowadays, but they are explicitly non-fictional books written by real-life paleontologists, thus these books do not apply to the dinosaurs created by InGen in the movies. Similar to the junior novelizations, books such as the Jurassic Park III Movie Storybook are adapted from the screenplays, not the movies themselves, so there will be differences; they are not considered movie canon.
Jurassic Park: The Ride (and Jurassic World: The Ride when it’s finished being built) is basically an interactive promotion for the movies, or at least the first one. You may find little things here and there around the ride that seem interesting, like dinosaurs being hatched in the Visitor Center that don’t appear or are not mentioned in the movies, but things like that are just for fun. Back during the original Jurassic Park days, nobody had in mind “InGen’s list” and a hard canon for the franchise, so at the very least, something that could have been considered canon (like dinosaur species mentioned exclusively on The Ride) is not canon anymore.
Please never try to use toys in a canon discussion. They quite often embellish the lore for the purpose of entertainment, creating massive conflicts, and do not faithfully represent the dinosaurs as they’re seen in-universe. It’s possible some toy lines are consistent with one another, but most do not have any sort of internal continuity. Do you seriously expect a plastic Jurassic World drinking cup to display accurate information from an in-universe perspective? Toys and small accessories are like the bottom of the barrel as far as canon goes.
Posters are another point of contention. Some posters could be considered canon, and some cannot. The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park poster from the original movie’s release and the Jurassic Park 3D posters opted for more paleontological information, despite using pictures of the in-universe dinosaurs, shifting them into the non-canon column. There is also the Jurassic World size poster from Trends International, which appears to do everything right from what I can see, but I have not yet confirmed whether it can be considered movie canon or not, so use it at your own risk.
Items in this category (including but not limited to): Jurassic Park Institute Dinosaur Field Guide, Jurassic World Dinosaur Field Guide, Jurassic World Employee Handbook, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Survival Guide, Jurassic Park III Movie Storybook, Jurassic Park: The Ride promo cards, promo cards from toys, Jurassic Park 3D dinosaur posters, Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park poster, Funko Pop toys
One More Thing…
OK, you probably thought that was it, but I wanted to touch on just one more thing: HEADCANON (or “head-canon” or “head canon”, nobody can really decide how to spell it). Headcanon is something the franchise has not confirmed/acknowledged, but you believe it anyway or it is generally accepted among the fandom. This is another way of saying “fan theory.” Headcanon normally comes about to explain something that isn’t explained in the movies. Jurassic Park III left people with a lot of questions, so there was a lot of headcanon to go around, particularly pertaining to the mysterious Spinosaurus. Common headcanon includes:
- There were wild Velociraptors and Dilophosaurs in the Restricted Area of Jurassic World.
- The Spinosaurus is a hybrid.
- The Spinosaurus, Pteranodons, or a mysterious aquatic reptile killed the Dino-Soar tour.
- Rexy is going to die of old age in [insert movie, usually the next sequel].
- There were two Dilophosaurs that attacked Nedry.
As logical as some ideas are, they are not fact. They are not canon. The point is, you’re free to think whatever you like and that’s completely cool—nobody is telling you to stop thinking freely. But, know that unless it is officially acknowledged by Universal or one of the filmmakers, trying to pass off your headcanon as fact in a discussion won’t always go over well with other fans. Even if your headcanon is well liked by other fans and is spread around in the community, it remains headcanon and not official fact.
That’s all I can think of at the moment. Hopefully if you made it this far, you gained some idea of this franchise’s canon. If you have any questions or disagree, feel free to make your voice heard.