Ray Harryhausen


”They were considered B pictures because they were made on a tight budget. But we outlived many of the A pictures made at the same time.” – Ray Harryhausen

I heard on the news today that Ray Harryhausen had died, aged 92. He was an influential and inspirational film-maker.

Ray’s stroke of genius was to use split screen photography and rear projection so that stop motion models could ‘interact’ with live action footage.

This made for a more convincing effect and was cheaper because expensive minature sets were no longer needed. To learn more about Dynamation, click here.

My favourite Harryhausen movie is ‘Jason and the Argonauts’, which for me, is the ultimate lazy Sunday afternoon film. Of course, people say it’s a Harryhausen film because of the wonderful creature’s in the movie, forgetting that it was directed by Don Chaffey. I also suspect that the leading man in the movie is irrelevant to most audiences appreciation of the film.

In a world where CG can make any fantasy come to life on the screen with startling realism, it’s important to note that Harryhausen was not attempting to duplicate reality. Although the clay models were created to seem like living, breathing creatures, Harryhausen was looking for a stylistic and unnerving effect, saying that “If you make fantasy too real, it loses the quality of a dream.”

Although CGI has made stop-motion obsolete in major live-action motion pictures, the technique still holds a visual appeal and charm for animated movies. Aardman Animations famously use stop motion in their wonderful Wallace and Gromit films. In their recent ‘Pirates’ movie, they combine stop motion with CG imagery to great effect. Other recent stop motion movies include ‘The Fantastic Mr Fox’, the excellent ‘Coraline’ and Tim Burton’s ‘Frankenweenie’.

I’ll give Ray have the final word in this article…

I’m another snowball. Willis H. O’Brien started the snowball, then I picked it up, then ILM picked it up and now the computer generation is picking it up. Where it will end, I don’t know. Maybe in holography, although I’m not sure I’d like a grotesque monster appearing in 3-D in my living room. – Ray Harryhausen


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