Ray Harryhausen

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Ray Harryhausen

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:28 am

http://www.moviefanfare.com/fanfare-friends/guest-contributors/performance-capture-the-old-fashioned-way-a-tribute-to-ray-harryhausen/



Guest blogger Brian Burkart writes:

James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar may feature photorealistic aliens, but for my money the most magical special effects were created by a single man: Ray Harryhausen. He brought to life some of the most memorable creatures in film history without the assistance of computers.

I was first introduced to Harryhausen’s work in the second grade when I borrowed the picture book “Creatures!” from my school’s library. The title was part of a book series that featured entries on Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, even King Kong. These books were very popular with the boys in my class and you had to be quick to grab one during our weekly library visit. The photos included in this entry were magnificent and sent my imagination into overdrive. There were pictures of sword wielding skeletons, a Hydra, a dinosaur attacking a rollercoaster, a giant octopus destroying the Golden Gate Bridge, flying saucers destroying Washington, D.C., and the most mind-blowing of all--an alien fighting an elephant! I felt a primal need to see these films. How could such wondrous images exist and I have yet to see them? I copied the titles from the index and in those pre-home video days would scan the television listings every Sunday hoping against hope that one would appear.

Luckily I didn’t have to wait long as my local UHF channel aired a double feature of Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad a few months later. I sat (too close to our console television) totally transfixed as formally static pictures now moved and interacted with real actors. Harryhausen’s creations were things of beauty and horror. The image of the Cyclops cooking a sailor on a spit over a fire haunted my nightmares for months.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad provided me not only with thrilling creatures and swashbuckling action but was the source of my first crush. Caroline Munro was so beautiful that she almost outshined Harryhausen’s work. My 7-year-old self felt oddly uncomfortable sitting next to his mother. Ms. Munro haunted my dreams as well…but that is another story.

As the years went by my admiration for Harryhausen only grew as I learned the secrets of stop motion. He designed, sculpted and animated the creatures himself. I was flabbergasted by the fact that one minute of footage could take days to complete. How could one man have the patience and the skill to animate these fantastic sequences one frame at a time? The man was a complete genius and could do no wrong. I was appalled to learn that none of his films had ever been nominated much less won the Academy Award for Special Effects. In my eyes this was a greater sin than Hitchcock never winning Best Director. After all, did Hitch ever choreograph a fight between mythological creatures? The Academy did award Harryhausen the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for contributions to the technology of moviemaking in 1992 and I cheered this overdue recognition.

Harryhausen’s films are the fertile field where imaginations grow. Many artists cite one of his creations as the inspiration for their art. The Cyclops fight with the dragon; the statue of Talos coming to life; Jason fighting the many-headed Hydra; the Kraken rising to destroy Jappa; the terrifying Medusa stalking Peruses; the six-armed, sword wielding goddess Kali; the Ymir and numerous others are classic images that transport many of us to our childhood. I’ve purchased these films on VHS, laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray and will pay to have them directly downloaded to my brain when that technology comes on the market without regret because they are timeless reminders of what one man can accomplish with creativity and patience.

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Harryhausen's 7th Voyage

Post  BoG on Sat Apr 10, 2010 7:36 pm

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All Harryhausen creations

Post  BoG on Sun Jul 03, 2011 10:07 am

YouTuber Mat Bergman put together a compilation of all Harryhausen creatures:
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They Might Be Gigantic

Post  BoG on Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:53 am

FILMS OF SPECIAL FX ARTIST RAY HARRYHAUSEN @ MOVIE FANFARE


Guest blogger Blair Kramer writes:

Nope. There was no such animal. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was a total fabrication. But you sure coulda' fooled me when I was 10! And that's precisely what special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen did!

The magic of "The Beast," also known as the Rhedosaurus, began in the early 1930s. A young Ray Harryhausen was inspired by the wonderful special effects of Willis O'Brien in the original King Kong. Called "stop-motion," O'Brien's technique was a brilliant form of animation that utilized elaborately articulated gorilla and dinosaur models. The creatures were methodically moved ever-so-slightly before being filmed one frame at a time. When the finished film was projected onto a screen, the models appeared as though they were actually alive! They were living, breathing, rampaging giants! Basically, it was magic! Genuine magic
!


Harryhausen inherited the magic when he became the sorcerer's apprentice. O'Brien personally hired Harryhausen to assist in the making of another giant gorilla saga called Mighty Joe Young (1949). Of course, "Kong" remains the better film. Mighty Joe Young is just a little too sentimental and comedic. But it definitely offered the most realistic stop-motion animation of any film up to that time. In fact, it was so good that it garnered an Oscar for special effects. No doubt, the award was largely due to the efforts of Ray Harryhausen.
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