Because of the enormous differences between the various Jurassic Park media, it is essential to separate one work from another. Even though they are all in the same franchise and share many common elements, each work also has many things which make it different and unique.
Michael Crichton’s novels:
Though the novels bear many if not the most similarities to the films of any other medium in the Jurassic Park franchise, they are not held within the same canon as the films because there are too many altered events, different species of dinosaurs than in the films, different characters and differing personalities of characters that are in both the film and the novel, differing island geography, and inconsistent dates of certain events. As an example, in the film adaptation, John Hammond lives while Robert Muldoon is killed by a Velociraptor while in the novel, Hammond is killed while Muldoon lives. Other notable differences are that, in the novel, the first dinosaurs that the tour group encounters is Apatosaurus while in the films it is Brachiosaurus; the geography of Isla Sorna as presented in the original novel was not transferred to the film adaptation of The Lost World, and an entirely new version of the island was created instead; and John Hammond’s demeanor in the novel is much darker and avaricious than in the film, in which he is portrayed as a much brighter and more likable person, similar to Walt Disney.
The fact of the matter is that, while Michael Crichton’s novels are the original source of Jurassic Park material as well as among his most famous works of all, the films are only loosely based on them; the vast differences to character appearance and design, as well as omitted scenes from both novels which were adapted in different films–for example, Hammond’s death in the Jurassic Park novel being transferred to Dieter Stark in the film adaptation of The Lost World–are surely testament to this fact.
If these obvious differences were not enough, there is even more substantial proof: Rick Carter, the Production Designer for both Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, indicates the differences between the two mediums early in the Making of Jurassic Park book: “The park is not as finished as it is in the book,” noted Carter, “The movie is probably nine months or a year earlier than when the book takes place [in it's construction phase].” (Duncan & Shay, 45). This in and of itself implies that the movie is an entirely different entity from the novels, and works as confirmation of such. Rick Carter is not the only one that feels this way, either.
For the Beyond Jurassic Park DVD, Michael Crichton himself was interviewed and discussed many things, including continuity separation. Originally, in regards to making a second film, Crichton remarked to Steven Spielberg, “I’ll do a book and you can do whatever you want in the movie.” (Crichton, “The Jurassic Park Phenomenon: A Discussion with Author Michael Crichton”) This shows that the films, even at that early of a stage in their development, were indeed considered different from the original works. Furthermore, Crichton remarked during the interview on the differences between the books and films: “There’s a practical aspect that they really are different media.” (Crichton, “The Jurassic Park Phenomenon: A Discussion with Author Michael Crichton”) This does, indeed, confirm that the novels are in a separate continuity from the films altogether.
JP: Adventures Novelette Series & Junior Novelizations:
The Junior Novelization series is based off of final scripts of the films. While the final script fundamentally is the same, in terms of plot and events, as what we see in the film there are some few discrepancies in these Junior Novelizations from the transfer that attempt to overlap the film with their own events. These, like the Jurassic Park comics, imply an alternative take on the events of the JP films. The Junior Novelizations are meant to be children books for young-adult reading level and are not accepted into the film canon.
As for Eric Kirby’s Adventures these do not seem to be canon. Even though they are looked at as expanding the film series, they were meant to be children’s books meant for a young-adult reading level. They do in fact fit in with the Junior Novelizations of the films and will be given their own canon and they reside with the other Junior Novelizations before them.
Topps Jurassic Park Comics:
The JP Comics series coincided with Jurassic Park the movie based off by a adaptation of a final copy of the script. The film-adaptations are depending off a close-to-final draft that has some differences to it’s film counter-part and attempts to overlap the events, with it’s own. The artistry behind the comics also counters what we saw in the film.
The comic had several spin-offs that featured the return of Robert Muldoon, BioSyn stealing Velociraptors off of Isla Nublar going awry and ending up in the hands of a Columbian Drug Dealer, and the mysterious Green Flame which is a nod to the “Green Lantern” (source). It is because of this that the comics aren’t considered S/F canon.
To further this, there is no acknoweldgement of any of the expeditions from the comics within the films themselves either by comments made by recurring characters that re-appeared in the film series (Example: John Hammond, Dr. Ian Malcolm, Dr. Alan Grant, and Dr. Ellie Sattler). While this doesn’t work as a confirmation of the events not happening (the characters could have simply not been asked), but the fact is the comics do remain outside of the canon in regards to practicality of story and artistic license. To further, many dinosaurs were added to the InGen species list for Isla Nublar without explination, this contradicts what was seen in the film. This series has been granted it’s own canon due to the massive artistic license taken by it’s creators and the unacknowledgement from the film makers in future stories. Possible one comic can be considered a member of the S/F Canon and that would be Return to Jurassic Park #9 “Jurassic Jam”, which in and of itself is a stand alone from the rest of the Return to Jurassic Park series and takes strides to give the appearance of taking place some time before the films.
IDW Jurassic Park (JP:Redemption) Comics:
“Next, Schreck revealed that “Jurassic Park: Redemption” has no relation to the Topps “Jurassic Park” comics released in the nineties.”
Redemption is considered its own canon apart from all the other Jurassic Park comics that had been released before by Topps as well as from the film canon. It acknowledges the main events of each of the films, but changes the relationship between Peter Ludlow and John Hammond from the way it was intended as well as having other canon issues. Alexis Murphy is now Alexa. Dodgson does not, apparently, work for BioSyn but is more of a saboteur for hire. There is also faults in the story itself, and plot holes that were never filled by the end of the story. Source for this comes from here.
As for the standpoint on other IDW comics within this canon it has yet to be determined.
Universal Studios Jurassic Park Rides:
This universe is a bridge to our own universe to make the rides and events in the JP series to seem more realistic. We can count part of it that references the films for the movie canon and yet we can’t count the rest when it comes down to the rider experience. The rides do indeed serve as a spin-off of the movie series and anything in reference to the films is taken from here with some weight.
Information pertaining to the movies may be withdrawn here somewhat safely without much worry of contradiction with the films unless there is some unaccounted for elements yet to be discovered.
Speilberg was involved with the rides, but when it comes down to the rider experience, animals created specifically for the Orlando or Hollywood attractions, or the overall story for the ride’s creation it cannot be counted as canon events for the films, as no movie has acknowledged a park in Orlando or Hollywood. If there was something here that would contradict anything in the movies then the rides would be off the list entirely of safe sources for the films. Also, worthy of a note is that both rides contradict each other when it comes to rider experience itself as key moments within the ride are different at the Orlando or Hollywood theme parks.
Kenner/Hasbro Jurassic Park Toys:
Great for play, but not great for canon. According to the toy series Nublar has 23 species inhabitting the island while in the movie there are only 15. Truthfully, the only way to make these more movie canon is to switch out the over-sized “Tranq bazooka” guns, made-up characters, have the character likenesses/clothing match the actors, eliminate made-up vehicles, and also eliminate the extra dinosaurs that were not in the film. A fair amount of “fluff” was added to these toys for the value of play.
Jurassic Park: The Game, Trespasser, & Other Jurassic Park Video Games:
Jurassic Park: The Game is actually an exception to the rule when it comes to the separation of canon. Telltale pulled out all the stops (essentially) to make the game as compatible with the film canon as possible. In fact, Universal seemed to insist it from what the making of material behind the game and commentary indicates. What inconsistencies that are present can easily be taken care of easily via retroactive continuity.
Trespasser is more of a movie/novel hybrid. For instance it says JP took place in 1989 instead of 1993. In TLW, which is confirmed as being in 1997 according to Trespasser, that the incident at Nublar was 4 years ago. If JP took place in 1989, according to Trespasser, then logic dictates that 4 years later would be having TLW take place in 1993. Clearly we know TLW did not take place in 1993 because Jurassic Park did. There are some other inconsistencies with the maps of Isla Sorna as well, the Isla Sorna map pictured in TLW differs the one pictured in Trespasser. Even though there was a tid-bit of involvement from Spielberg it cannot be considered canon for either source because it mentions the San Diego incident and that did not take place in the novel universe, which Trespasser is heavily dependent on.
The reason why none of the other video games are considered movie or novel canon is that too many Dinosaurs and events are altered slightly for each console version of each adaptation of the game. For example, Isla Sorna was destroyed in TLW Game for Sega Genesis, which means the events of Trespasser wouldn’t have happened at all! Jurassic Park Operation Genesis is set in 1999/2000 as the starting year and has Peter Ludlow, Robert Muldoon, and Ray Arnold alive and well in it which contradicts what is shown in the films. The games extremely contradict each other as well as the movies and novels and as such are considered media off shoots of the films and novels.
So with all that said we’re going to introduce the guidelines of canon, how each were rated and what it was based on specifically:
C-Canon – Crichton Canon/Novel Canon. This is the novel canon only. The only reason this exists is due to the novels being the “starting” medium. Considered the Alpha universe as it’s the first one made and therefore the source material. The novels have really no “supplements” to canon is the interesting aspect. Suggestive reason for this is the fact the films are more popular.
S/F-Canon – Spielberg Canon (Film Canon)/Jurassic Park: The Game. This encompasses the films, cast & crew interviews, official media such as Making of Books and other various “movie-oriented” sources. Spielberg Canon is where all the films and their supplements originate from. They are mostly their own beast as they have an entirely different continuity from what is read in the novel. What sources are considered to be film canon, S-Canon. or Spielberg Canon?
1.) The films themselves obviously. Spielberg had ties with all three.
2.) Cutscenes – What this is in regards to is scene remnants or scenes that were originally meant to be included but were cut due to run-time constraints and would have only furthered the story. In order for a cutscene to be considered canon it must be true for the media to be present of this scene in various places including, but not limited to: Screen capture from cut scene, film clip showing the scene, and lastly audio file. Audio files are suspect and can be forged however, so it would pend review. Examples of this include: Ellie grabbing Leaf, Ellie and Muldoon walking to power shed, extended Grant and kids through park walking, the board room scene, meeting with Roland and Ajay, etc would all be considered within valid canon as reasons for their elimination were not due to continuity, but rather shortening of run-time. While this is disputed and debatable, it is still adhered to in our continuity timelines due to the reasons behind the elimination. What precludes this clause and makes something uncanon that was cut? If said scene takes place in script, but is shortened or changed during filming then film canon takes priority. Examples of this include: Extended dialog between two or more characters where no screenshot is present, different endings, etc. The rule of thumb is the scripts are not canon for this reason as they attempt to overwrite established continuity and generally even the final revisions of the scripts fit into this category as they are changed at some point during filming.
3.) Supplemental Material this includes The Making of Books, the RPG sourcebook from The Lost World: Jurassic Park featuring the diary entries of the characters (and not the game contained within), featurettes in the films, making-of documentaries, Interviews from the cast/crew of the film, The props (If it’s seen in the film it’s canon and if it’s not in the film it’s not canon.). Mark ‘Crash’ McCreery art. (Similar to acceptance like the props – if it isn’t exact to the film it is not canon), the Jurassic Park Traveling Exhibits (they basically explain the science in the films, but bring the props to the forefront as well as the movie dinosaurs too), Official Souvenir Magazines (Official Movie Trading cards fall under here, where applicable and so long as this doesn’t override the film), The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park/The Lost World Scrapbook (Published by Scholastic), The Jurassic Park Institute: Dinosaur Field Guide (Some information pertaining to animals referenced in the film) and cold hard paleontological fact (We’re talking dinosaurs here)!
4.) The traveling exhibits, the Rides and the Jurassic Newsletters. The newsletters are an ambiguous canon at best, not very reliable and should be considered last. It is muddled with hybrid novel/film canon; however, the film events, workings, etc can be extracted so long as they do not contradict the finished product seen on screen. Only events of course referencing the movies, events, animal behavior, or places from the film can be layered in where they appear supplemental and not contradictory. The rides are a tricky subject as they are set into a “metaverse” like the newsletters where with bridging the gap in our world. What can be trusted exactly? The props from the film you see of course, the behavior of the movie dinosaurs, and some of the events from Isla Nublar that is discussed on the rides.
5.) JP:TG serves as an extension of this canon so long as it remains consistent with the films presented. NBC/Universal’s partnership with TellTale Games indicated they wanted a canonical extension to the film series.
CB-Canon – Comic Book canon, functional continuity that alters the events of the films due to being made off of final script revisions differing enough to not match the film closely. New evidence from IDW suggests that the Topps comics are in their own continuity).
JN-Canon – Novelette Canon, functional continuity that alters the events of the films due to being made off of final script revisions differing enough to not match the film closely.
T/C Canon – Trespasser Canon, Trespasser is in it’s own continuity because it is a hybrid of both films and novels in terms of dates. It also sets itself up with it’s own take on the continuity and on Isla Sorna.
U-Canon – Noncanon elements such as games & toys with no functional continuity that adheres into the categories listed above or canon where hybridization occurs (Film x novel hybridization most specifically).
Every “universe” deserves to be looked at separately because of the fact that the other material have different events, make attempts at overlapping the film’s own storyline, time lines, characters, dinosaurs, and island structure contained in their material.
It was found that every universe contradicts one another in some way or another. When speaking in terms of movie canon you should always count the movies themselves as the primary source followed by the “making of” books, official magazines, and other various informational material. For the Novel canon only stay close to the books preferably the original versions. The comics and novelette series have been granted their own canon, but the video games and toys are too disorganized to warrant their own canon.