Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013

Visual effects pioneer and legendary stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen has died.
Before CGI made dinosaurs walk, Iron Man soar, and Gollum creep about, the illusion of fantastic creatures and characters that could not exist were brought to life by Ray Harryhausen. His brand of stop-motion animation, known as “dynamation”, used realistic miniature models mixed with live action to bring about some startling visuals never before seen; humans interacting with winged horses, sword-fighting skeletons, and oversized sabertooth cats suddenly became a reality. But it wasn’t just his talent to make things move which made an impact; it was his ability to make those things behave in a way their real-counterparts would behave…that added element of reality was what made his films so special.

His career spanned five decades and blazed new trails in films such as MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958), JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963), SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977), and CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). He was a multi-award winner and is cited as a major influence by filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and John Landis.

As a wee-lad growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, having access to movies was nowhere as easy as it is today. It was therefore always a treat to catch Harryhausen’s old films on a new service called HBO. This Blogger quickly became educated in the ways of stop-motion wizardry with the marvelous SINBAD films, which still hold up well today. It was eventually CLASH OF THE TITANS which really opened up the imagination and popped the eyeballs; someone had finally managed to bring the Greek gods and their creatures to life, and the film probably stands as Harryhausen’s lasting legacy. It is from that film that this Blogger must borrow a quote from to properly send him off:
“Even if we gods are abandoned or forgotten the stars will never fade. They will burn till the end of the time.”

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