Jurassic Park’s Darkest Legacy Is the McDonald’s Supersize Meal

God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man creates McDonald’s.

Lex and jello in Jurassic Park
Photo: Universal Pictures

Jurassic Park was nothing short of a phenomenon when it arrived in cinemas back in June 1993. Like Robert Muldoon being pursued by a pack of velociraptors, there was simply no escaping the clutches of what was a cultural phenomenon. But while much of the focus was on Steven Spielberg’s movie and its heady mix of stunning special effects and a shirtless Jeff Goldblum, what helped give Jurassic Park that extra bit of bite at the box office was the astonishing amount of merchandising surrounding the film.

Jurassic Park was ubiquitous that summer, whether it was the iconic Kenner line of toys featuring familiar characters from the film apart from Lex (blame Jurassic patriarchy), the Sega Genesis game that let you play as a raptor chomping on foolish humans, or the bizarre line of salami and beef jerky products that hit store shelves, life found a way.

Yet by far the biggest footprint left from that manic period of movie tie-in merchandising came over at McDonald’s where a marketing masterstroke ushered in the era of the supersize meal.

McDonald’s had flirted with the idea of upsizing their french fries and drinks to extra large prior to the summer of 1993. In fact, the term “supersize” was first trialed back in 1987 when the fast food giant introduced it as a temporary option over the summer months.

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A year later, the option was introduced once again, this time as part of a tie-in with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Figuring that audiences would be a little older than your typical animated film, what with Jessica Rabbit and a plot revolving around murder, Disney opted against creating a series of happy meal toys and instead focused on the supersize option. Diners could enjoy an extra large burger, fries, and drink in a limited edition Roger Rabbit cup. Our titular hero even gave the arrangement his blessing, with an advert featuring Roger and Jessica Rabbit ordering a supersize meal from a drive thru.

Yet, once again, the move was only a temporary one. Thus consumers of the Golden Arches’ cuisine would be left waiting another four years before supersize meals would become available at McDonald’s and, when they did, they would have a decidedly dinosaur-led theme to them.  To quote Ray Arnold, it was time to “hold onto your butts.” 

Instead of the more familiar “supersize” option customers saw several years earlier, the new partnership between McDonald’s and Universal Pictures on Jurassic Park invited fans to “Dino Size” their meal. The new sizing was announced via the television advert in which a Dr. Alan Grant stand-in enters the park by jeep before skipping seeing the dinosaurs and instead making a beeline for the nearest branch of the Golden Arches. A voiceover explained: “In Jurassic Park, the place to go to satisfy a tyrannosaurus-sized hunger is McDonald’s where something big is happening to your favorite extra value meals: dino sizing.” 

While the prospect of an extra large meal was tempting enough, what really drew fans to the promotion was the line of six collectible plastic cups created as part of the campaign. Each featured a different hand-drawn dinosaur and scene from the film, including the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Dilophosaurus, Triceratops, and, of course, Velociraptors. 

The cups were beautifully designed, featuring vividly created artwork chronicling key and occasionally disturbing scenes from the film. What kid doesn’t want a cup depicting the grim demise of Dennis Nedry? To this day, they remain a much-sought after collectible among fans of all things Jurassic Park, with the mere mention likely to have fans of a certain generation getting misty-eyed.

Yet once Jurassic Park finally left multiplexes, with a lucrative future in VHS and later DVD assured, dino size didn’t go extinct. It evolved. Life, or rather McDonald’s, found a way.

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Evidently buoyed by the success of the campaign, the fast food chain opted to do away with the term dino size and revert back to Supersize, with the option becoming a permanent fixture on the McDonald’s menu. As a result, a generation of customers enjoys more fries, more soda, and countless more unnecessary calories. Unfortunately, like John Hammond before them, McDonald’s “were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Supersize would remain a staple of the McDonald’s menu for over a decade before it was eventually phased out in 2004, following the release of the Morgan Spurlock documentary Super Size Me. That doc was especially critical of these extra large sizes, but McDonald’s insisted the choice to do away with the upsized food was just a coincidence.

“The driving force here was menu simplification,” spokesman Walt Riker claimed in a statement issued at the time. “The fact of the matter is not very many Supersize fries are sold.”

To quote Ian Malcolm: “That is one big pile of shit.”

Whatever the reality, the dino size meal remains a fascinating footnote in the history of the franchise and a movie tie-in that, much like the park itself, got a little out of control. Had Spurlock’s documentary not come along, then it might still have been a fixture to this day. But, when you gotta go, you gotta go.