Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Ray Harryhausen

The Harryhausen family regrets to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator. He was a multi-award winner which includes a special Oscar and BAFTA. Ray’s influence on today’s film makers was enormous, with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Tim Burton, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and Nick Park (you know, Wallace and Grommit) have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations.
I have been an admirer of his work ever since I was conscious enough to be awed by his sense of the marvelous. As I got older, I began to understand and study the art, the technical ability of what he did. I am still floored every time I see the 1963 skeleton animation sequence from Jason and the Argonauts...
I met him twice, in Yellow Springs, Ohio at a film festival in the early 70's. then I had him autograph his book at Forbidden Planet in 1981 in New York when Clash of the Titans was released. The sophistication he achieved with his clay and plasticine models and single frame stop motion animation may never be equaled again, now that we are in a digital, programmable animation world. There are very few artists working in this medium any more. Thank you Tim Burton for keeping the art alive and vital!
Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation. Over the period of the next 46 years, he made some of the genres best known movies – MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957), MYSTERIUOUS ISLAND (1961), ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966), THER VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969), three films based on the adventures of SINBAD and CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). He is perhaps best remembered for his extraordinary animation of seven skeletons in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) which took him three months to film.
Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive. Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray’s hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so.

Raymond Frederick Harryhausen, born June 29, 1920 in Los Angeles and he died today, May 7, 2013 in London.

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