Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Ray Harryhausen: A Tribute

Harryhausen at work
Ray Harryhausen 
1920 – 2013

A dashing hero steps from his boat onto a deserted beach, he walks inland and discovers a temple. He approaches the door and quickly draws his sword as he sees the creature that dwells within. The gorgon, half woman half serpent, with snakes for hair and a gaze that turns man to stone. Bravely he leaps in and the two are locked in combat to the death.

This scene and countless others like it, were the work of special effects legend Ray Harryhausen, whose highly detailed models came to life and thrilled audiences on the big screen since the 1940’s and have influenced several of our most famous film makers.

Yesterday it was announced through the Ray and Diana Harryhausen foundation Twitter and Facebook accounts the Harryhausen had passed away. He was ninety two.

Over his forty year film career, Harryhausen would breathe life into dinosaurs, aliens, giants, sea creatures and almost every creature from Greek mythology but he is perhaps most famous for the famous scene in Jason and The Argonauts that seen the eponymous hero battle an army of warrior skeletons, a scene which still holds up brilliantly to this day.
Jason battles the skeleton warriors

By today’s standards his techniques were fairly primitive. Original footage would be projected onto a screen, Harryhausen would then animate his models frame by frame in front of the projection and re-photograph the images. This is the reason that the image quality of the live action footage visibly drops whenever his creatures take to the screen.
Primitive or now however, these effects work brilliantly and still look amazing to this day. There are no computers involved in his films, every creature is a real thing brought to life through sheer hard work and determination.

While CGI may dominate the film industry today, his influence is still felt, with everyone from George Lucas to Peter Jackson to James Cameron proudly singing his praises and honouring his influence.
Harryhausen was one of films greats. He brought the magical to life and made us believe in the impossible. His work took us to other worlds and made us gaze at the screen in awe.
We have lost a legend, but the legends he brought to life will live forever.
Harryhausen with his creations

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