Interview With Larry Selman

Some of the most iconic images in the Jurassic Park toy universe come from the box art. It's hard not to become excited when looking at the beautiful artwork depicting humans and dinosaurs in action-packed scenes. Even the banners used on our website and our forums make use of these thrilling paintings. One of the artists that brought these scenes to life is Larry Selman, who worked on the box art for both Jurassic Park series 2 and The Lost World. Currently, Mr. Selman works on historical art prints. had a conversation with Mr. Selman about his work on the JP lines.

First of all Mr. Selman, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to interview you. Can you tell us your involvement in the Jurassic Park toy lines?

I was the package illustrator for some of series two of the first film and only two packages for Lost World. Most of my illustration work at the time was either Western, military or young adult paperback books. This was completely different from any of that work. Even though as a young illustrator I took almost anything that came along, dinosaurs had never been one of those assignments.

Which toy lines, Jurassic Park or otherwise have you worked on specifically?

After JP I worked on VR Troopers, GI Joe Classic Collection for 8 years and recently completed a Transformers piece for Hasbro.

When producing box art, what is your starting point? Are the toys made first, and then you do the drawings, or do you start from concept art? Or do you design the figures and are the sculpts based on your art?

All the toy design work was finished before I saw anything. It all that came through the movie studio, Kenner, or later Hasbro, and then to me through an advertising agency. My job was to make the toy look real and exciting. At one point I asked the art director why they picked me? He replied "that they were having problems getting illustrators to paint the toy and figures or dinosaurs look real. Some guys could do the toy but their figures or dinosaurs were bad and vice versa". They thought I could do both based on my portfolio. As it turns out I was used to making small models as reference and scaling them up or down to fit a scene. For the Quetzalcoatlus, which was the first one I did, the art director sent me some of their initial concept drawings but allowed me to improve or change their ideas. After that they only sent one more concept drawing which was for Skinner on the bike. I would take the toy and try to imagine what a kid would be interested in seeing. Kenner/Hasbro had given me some general ideas but gave me free range to try other things. Nothing I illustrated seemed to be related to the movie that must have been the first wave of packages. At some point there was talk of a cartoon line to tie into this line but it never came about.

One of the more infamous art pieces of Jurassic Park is the box of the Jungle Explorer vehicle, specifically Dr. Grant's expression and body language on the box, which makes him look like he's stuck in rush hour traffic instead of a life-threatening dinosaur attack.

Yeah, that's one of the illustrations I was shown but you could tell they weren't happy with it. Its easy to see why because it really doesn't make sense and fit the action of the scene, Everything needs to relate in terms of mood or action and also the setting. The whole thing needs to be taken into account when you design a box or cover art. This may be the only piece of art anyone ever sees from you and you must put everything into it. Getting by just with weak reference won't make you a memorable illustrator.

Are there any rules you have to follow when designing art like this? Or are you free to do your thing?

There are several illustration rules for the packages. One was the type layouts specifically where and how big the JP logo was and the second was the color of the color burst. Kenner sent me a Pantone color book and my painting had to match the colors in the color burst area. It wasn't to bad for the first line but I wasn't crazy about the second yellow/green color burst. Green is a tougher color to work with when it comes to dramatic lighting and complementary colors. The complement of green is red, very Christmas and not all that appealing. Too much green is a very hard sell in any market and really tough in a toy shelf. I think it worked ok but could have been better.

Were you involved in designing the "Collector's Cards" included with most of the figures for the first film?

No, I didn't work or have any connection to those.

Can you tell us if there are Jurassic Park art pieces that remain unused?

All of the work I did was reproduced for both lines. I have my sketches black and white drawings, color sketches and figure reference only. The final art was kept by the ad agency.

Would you design art for a future Jurassic Park toy line if given the chance? If so, is there anything you'd really like to do as a piece?

That's an interesting question. I suppose it depends on the timing. Right now I'm moving away from illustration to paint more landscapes and back into westerns. I had a lot of fun being an illustrator. It was both rewarding and frustrating some days but it gave me a lot of great opportunities to grow as an artist. I think right now its time to see where the second half of my life will take me. I know that seems a little vague but like I said timing is mostly everything in life.

Thanks for talking to me about the art for Jurassic Park, it was a lot of fun digging into my files and looking over the work from almost 20 years ago.

Once again, we would like to thank Mr. Selman for taking the time off his busy schedule to answer our questions. Make sure to visit his website and check out his impressive art gallery.

For more Jurassic Park concept art work by Mr. Selman, please visit our Jurassic Park series 2 database, and our The Lost World series 1 database.

DISCLAIMER: While we understand the enthusiasm of our readers for this interview, please refrain from contacting the interviewees on behalf of JPToys. The people interviewed do this as a favor to JPToys and are generally taking time off of their busy schedules. They do not have the time to answer dozens of e-mails. If you have any questions regarding the interview, please contact staff. They will be happy to answer your questions, or centralize them and then contact the interviewee. This interview is © 2012 and Larry Selman. The pictures are © Larry Selman.

Illustrator Larry Selman

Example picture of Skinner

First sketch of Strike Cycle

First sketch of Quetzalcoatlus

Color sketch of Pteranodon

Final artwork Triceratops Hatchling