The BBFC received Jurassic Park for classification in May 1993. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the adventure that was ’60 million years in the making’ was an interesting classification case for the BBFC thanks to the intensity and impact of those giant dinos.
The examiner report we publish here makes a clear argument for a PG certificate on a number of counts. They saw that Jurassic Park came from a long dynasty of monster movies, such as King Kong or the original The Lost World, and that the CG effects would be of huge appeal to families. The scary elements are noted, but the examiner recognises a key aspect of the roles of the two child characters in the film, “with one of the children being resourceful when the other is scared, one pointing out the excitement at a time when the other is fearful”. These onscreen reassurances and the balance they provide are crucial aspects when making a classification decision.
The examiner report mentions showing the film at a test screening, and this was the case as the BBFC held a test screening of Jurassic Park for an audience of 200 children, aged 8 to 11, in June 1993. The children were invited from five schools both in and outside London.
A report of the event describes the reaction of most of the audience as one of “’cheerful terror’ rather than ‘genuine anguish’”. A questionnaire given out after the screening revealed that there was some degree of anxiety for several members of the young audience - 37% did not feel certain that the children in the film would be alright – but overall 96% said that they enjoyed the film “a lot”, including all of the 8 year olds. Just one child ticked “not at all”.
Given a choice of phrases to describe their experience of the film – “too frightening for me” or “good and scary”, only 13% of the children said “too frightening” and 82% chose “good and scary”. The BBFC therefore had to choose a rating that would not deny the 82% the opportunity to enjoy the dino-thrills. A 12 or 15 could not accommodate that as those certificates would prohibit the admittance of anybody under those ages. The BBFC opted to award a PG certificate, but with a warning attached – “contains sequences which may be particularly disturbing to younger children or those of a sensitive disposition”.
Jurassic Park was rated PG for its video release the following year, and was one of the first titles to bear consumer advice notes (the equivalent of BBFCinsight today).