“Everyone has their own right way of doing things. I’d probably call myself a film-maker rather than just a special effects man. I’d often come up with the story, advise on the script, scout locations, design and sculpt the models. I’d have to be on the set to make sure the effects sequences were shot properly which was a problem for some directors – that never really got easier. And I’d do all the animation myself. It was just simpler to do all that myself than try to delegate.”
– Ray Harryhausen
To mark what would have been stop-motion guru Ray Harryhausen’s 99th birthday (born: Los Angeles, June 29, 1920 – died: London, May 7, 2013), original figures from his archive have been restored. Chief amongst them are those terrifying skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts. What was it that made those skeletons fashioned in metal with every limb jointed so compelling? For Harryhausen those models weren’t otherworldly and unreal but actors. “I took some acting classes, but that wasn’t really me,” he recalled in 2012, “although I did learn about movement and building character.” Each of his model’s movements was painstaking; a few minutes of footage took him days to make. Working alone, Harryhausen moved his handmade characters into position, each tiny shift enabling them to interact with one another and develop personality. Harryhausen had created a new reality. His special effects, story and characters became inseparable.
“The 8-year-old me was no longer sitting in my seat at the Crest Theater in West Los Angeles, I was on the beach of the island of Colossa and as awe-struck and fearful as Sinbad and his crew when the first Cyclops made his appearance. I was spellbound by Sinbad’s adventures and marvelled at the Cyclops, the Two-Headed Roc, the fire breathing Dragon and the Skeleton brought to life by the evil magician Sokurah. Only later did I learn that these extraordinary beasts were really brought to life by the magician Ray Harryhausen.
“The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was a truly life-changing experience for me. Thrilled by the movie I went home and asked my mother, “Who does that? Who makes the movie?” She replied, “Well a lot of people honey, but I guess the right answer is the director.’ And that was that – I would be a director when I grew up. All of my energy went into that goal and I read everything about film I could get my hands on.”
– John Landis, The Film That Changed My Life by Robert K. Elder.
“Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars”, whilst Jackson called The Lord of the Rings his, “‘Ray Harryhausen movie’…Without that life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling, it would never have been made – not by me at least”.
– George Lucas
“He stands alone as a technician, as an artist and a dreamer. He breathed life into mythological creatures he constructed with his own hands”.
– Ray Bradbury
Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema will launch next May at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA). Stay in the loop via nationalgalleries.org.
Via: Creative Boom