Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ray Harryhausen, 1920-2013

Visual effects pioneer and stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen died Tuesday at age 92.

In 1993, I visited Ray, who invited me to his London home. On the top floor was his studio, which he jokingly called his “den of iniquty.” He showed me many of the original models from his classic films, which were gathered together like aging actors waiting to be called back onstage.

I was thrilled to see the Medusa from the 1981 picture Clash of the Titans. I remembered her menacing gaze, with the twelve snakes writhing on her head—each with a head and a tail, each one moving independently—and that’s not including her arms and her tail and the flickering firelight, all of which had to be controlled one frame at a time. 

I asked Ray how he remembered where each snake was heading, how he kept track of all those separate elements. “How did you do it?” I asked.

He thought for a moment, closed his eyes, and smiled: “I just did it,” he said.

From my introduction to his book "A Century of Model Animation."


Nick said...

A true legend if ever there was one.
I had the fortune of seeing hid models in person at an exhibit in London a few years ago, a day after his 90th birthday. I never thought in my lifetime I would see them.

RIP Mr Harryhausen.

Ernest Friedman-Hill said...

Sad news; this man was a true genius,

Hate to be that guy, but *2013 .

Anonymous said...

When you think about what he did, how perfectly his timing was. How subtle his characters were. When you look at other forms of animation, those forms can "look ahead" they can make "key frames" and then go back and make "in-betweens" but with stop-motion -- especially when he was doing it, there was no way to even see the previous frames exposed. For instance the scenes in "Mighty Joe Young" with the lion in the cage at the beginnning. He had to time out when the live lion was going to react to Joe reaching in the cage... he had to know what frame the whole body of Joe was going to hit that -- and make it look convincing. He was the Master of it and he learn from the Grand Master Willis O'Brien. Rest In Peace Ray.

Keith Parker said...

1920-2013? Or was he a time traveller?

Tyler J said...

An instructor at my art school was talking about him and related a story about Harryhausen filming the Hydra shot for Jason and the Argonauts at his studio.

The phone rang during the session and he took the call. When he returned, he realized that he lost his place. Apparently he kept the movement of each head all in his memory("just did it," as James' story relates) and so had to re-shoot from the beginning.

Thanks for the memorial and relating the personal visit, too.