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The theme park wanted people to know it was reopening. Set to jaunty music, a video made by the park shows a procession of employees wearing coronavirus masks and protective gear cheerfully telling guests, “Welcome home!”
Except things were evidently not safe for visitors just yet.
Intercut among the scenes of merry employees are shots from the park itself where things are quickly deteriorating and some of the star attractions are, well, eating the guests.
“We are ready to welcome guests back to Jurassic Park ✨,” read the accompanying tweet.
The video, a remixed parody of one originally posted by Disney to celebrate the reopening of its Florida theme park last weekend (but subsequently deleted amid an avalanche of dunkings), was made by a fast-growing comedy account on Twitter, Jurassic Park Updates (@JurassicPark2go).
As theme parks and other attractions reopen in parts of the US despite surges in coronavirus infections and deaths, and while corporations and brands struggle to finesse their public voice during the pandemic and racial justice protests, a satirical account making fun of a movie series that began in 1993 is suddenly shockingly relevant. Created earlier this month, Jurassic Park Updates’ absurdist humor and skewering of capitalism is some of the most relevant and biting satire currently being made.
“[The concept of the movie] is kind of great just because it’s human folly,” said Julie Greiner, a 24-year-old writer in Glendale, California, who is one of 12 people writing jokes for the account. “It’s people not thinking through consequences and that seems to really resonate right now.”
“The chaos of poor decision-making is something that’s hard to joke about right now,” she said, “but in this specific context it’s almost safe and a relief just to joke about.”
The account was originally the brainchild of PJ Evans, a 27-year-old writer. Since 2016, Evans has been running the satirical Disneyland account @Disneyland2go, which he started after a visit to that California park left him aghast at the orgy of spending and consumerism. “I thought it’d be funny to dunk on capitalism through the lens of Disneyland,” he explained.
Quarantined in a New York City studio with his girlfriend since the pandemic began, Evans grew increasingly cynical watching corporations run ads trying to offer reassurance. “Seeing these commercials on TV about how Honda cars are there for us and Twizzlers are telling us to stay home. They’re claiming to be people, too," he said. "No, you’re not! You just want money.”
As he read about how Disney was preparing to reopen its Florida park despite COVID-19 cases in the state reaching record levels, Evans was struck with an idea. He could do a variation of his Disney account about Jurassic Park, a beloved movie from his childhood that his dad would screen to friends to show off their surround sound system. @JurassicPark2go would be the perfect vehicle to make light of companies trying their best to keep their public image above water as a mounting series of disasters slowly engulfs them.
On the evening of July 5, Evans created the account and wrote a single tweet:
The next morning he gave it a boost by sharing it to the 290,000 followers on his Disneyland account:
Since then, Jurassic Park Updates has attracted more than 160,000 followers in less than two weeks.
But unlike Evans’ Disney account, this one is a team effort. He decided to recruit 11 of the funniest people he follows on Twitter to help produce content: his brother, Morgan, as well as Rajat Suresh and Colin Burgess (who both made the Disney video), Carmen Christopher, Raina Morris, Joey Garcia, Jay Weingarten, Sarah Squirm, Luke Denman, Alyssa Stonoha, and Greiner.
Most of the 12 writers have never actually met one another in person. Many of them have never even seen the Jurassic Park films. But they all have the password and can tweet whatever they want, whenever they want. “We joked at the start that one person could get us all canceled,” joked Evans. “But I trust all these people and I think they’re super funny.”
Since then, the jokes have been almost nonstop, with many of the most viral tweets perfectly mimicking the almost passive voice some companies seem to employ during crises.
“If you are being eaten, please do not scream. You could potentially be spreading COVID-19,” read one. “Keeping visitors safe is our number 1 priority.”
“We are offering free drinks for everyone currently trapped at the pool,” read another.
When the “park” cheerily told visitors to catch Curb Your Enthusiasm comedian Jeff Garlin at the “JP Hotel Bar & Grill” on July 7, it was followed hours later with a more ominous tweet: “Does anyone have the contact info for Jeff Garlin's family?”
Capturing the corporate tone of voice on social media — with many companies trying to personify themselves as relatable, hip, and friendly entities — is something that comes naturally to the writers, said Carmen Christopher, a New York comedian. “Living in a capitalist country, it’s very ingrained in us,” he said. “The dialogue the commercials give to us, it feels very formulaic.”
Part of the fun of Jurassic Park Updates then is slowly watching disaster envelop the fictional company while the corporate team tries desperately to protect the brand. “It’s interesting trying to write in that tone because the formality of that tone is breaking down,” said Greiner. “We can say these big sweeping, horrible things in the most casual tone and try to make it fun.”
The account’s parodying of companies reopening while the pandemic is ongoing also seems to shed light on some of the most obvious questions raised by the rebooted Jurassic World series: How on earth could a company reopen a theme park after a series of deadly disasters? And who would possibly pay to go?
“You watch those movies and you’re like, This would never fly!” said Morgan Evans, a 29-year-old writer and producer in Los Angeles. “And now after 2020 you’re like, Of course. Why the hell not? They’d be open in a week.”
“Obviously, we are doing it too,” said Joey Garcia, a 28-year-old Chicago comedy writer. “We wouldn’t let any sort of catastrophe or mass deaths prevent anyone from going to ESPN Zone — if that’s even still open.”
PJ Evans said he’s excited to continue providing jokes for people staying at home because of the outbreak. As for those venturing out to theme parks, he hopes Jurassic Park Updates — and its viral Disney parody video specifically — can give them food for thought.
“There really is no difference between dinosaurs eating people and you dying of a pandemic,” he said. “So I think showing the T. rex eating somebody and cutting back to people wearing masks is such a funny juxtaposition because it’s kind of so true just how the coronavirus is killing people — and so are dinosaurs.”●