What better way to kick this blog off than with a tribute to a true legend of imagination and movie monster magic?
May 7th of this year, we lost a true legend in Ray Harryhausen.
From the original Mighty Joe Young (1949) to his first color film, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) to the incomparable Jason and the Argonauts (1963) to his last film, Clash of the Titans (1981), he gave us so many truly memorable movie monsters. His work still inspires me as a digital artist today. I feel so strongly that for all of our capabilities in the digital space, Harryhausen’s work retains a tactile quality, a “realness” that remains absent in so much of what we see in today’s over-juiced CG blockbusters. In short, the scenes have SOUL because his hands were in everything he did.
I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Mr. Harryhausen person here in St. Louis a few years ago at a special screening of Jason and the Argonauts with the Webster University Film Series. It was a magical night and as a fan, it was so incredibly gratifying to see Ray get a standing ovation after each effects sequence in the film. He was humble, relatable and undeniably awesome.
Who can ever forget the work on Talos in the Argonauts? It still gives me chills.
Annnd, the work on the final skeleton fight scene in Argonauts is just incredible. I attended the evening with a good friend and talented animator who remarked that the all the scene needed was some motion blur and it would be completely viable as a contemporary effects scene. I couldn’t agree more. WATCH THE SCENE and think about the fact that they had to choreograph the actors and hand-animate to that action. Matching the two with that limited technology is simply astounding, yet it is done SEAMLESSLY in this scene. Truly amazing.
That wouldn’t be easy to do today, but he did it with models, one frame at a time. Multiple camera angles. Integration with very fast-live action. Variable terrain. All quite seamless. It really is almost a feat of true conjuring.
Ray, you will be missed. Thank God you have left us with so much work to continue to go back to for inspiration and wonder. I know I will always return with a child’s smile.