Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ray Harryhausen Merges with the Infinite

I think I only checked out five books from the library at UT for pleasure reading while I was a student and, two of them were on Ray Harryhausen.  In college, I had dreams of becoming an animator- and then computers happened.  But until then, I really wanted to know how Harryhausen became the master he undoubtedly was when it came to creating fantastic imagery for the silver screen.

I was sad to hear of Harryhausen's passing when a tweet or two mentioned it and I saw the headline when I got back to my hotel room.


If you don't know Ray Harryhausen, he's easy enough to investigate.  He was one of the greatest FX artists in the world, spawning a world in which we eventually had movies with AT-ATs and Terminators, and his understanding of motion foretold what the CGI era would bring to the big pictures.  But he did it with tangible artistry in stop motion effects.

Harryhausen brought us Greek Titans, dinosaurs, Venusian aliens, angry skeleton armies and an endless stream of characters that mingled with live action players and fired the imagination.

I've only seen a handful of his movies (and I'm not even sure which Sinbad movies I have and haven't seen... I'd have to watch them again), but Clash of the Titans came out in 1981, and all we knew was that it was amazing.

If you've never tried to film animation by hand, it's a frame-by-frame feat of utter concentration and requires determination and love for what one is doing on a scale there whipper-snappers and their computers and whatnot from today probably get, but they do it at a monitor, not hunched over a table with lights, moving the neck of the monsters a tiny, tiny increment for every exposure - and every frame could be the last if something happens between clicks.

It's obsessive work, and craftsmanship that's fading from mainstream American film - especially as the

So long, Mr. Harryhausen.














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