Dynamation Cinema: Ray Harryhausen

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Guest blogger: Jorge Harada

In celebration of the most excellent Ray Harryhausen and his stop motion animation techniques, the Ruiz Branch Library is hosting a movie series every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in July. This is family friendly fun at its finest! Come show those young whippersnappers just how awesome the movie magic was before CGI was invented.

About Ray Harryhausen

In the pantheon of movie magic, Ray Harryhausen was a master at his craft and influenced the likes of Steven Spielberg, John Landis, and George Lucas. Harryhousen’s stop-motion animation process called "Dynamation" has become the stuff of movie legend, and pioneered movie making technology which still holds up when compared to computer generated imagery.

Ray Harryhausen was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1920. As a boy, his passion for dinosaurs and fantasy creatures was encouraged by his parents, and they took him to films and theater regularly. They were also very enthusiastic about his experiments with marionettes and models. His first models were miniatures of California missions, and he soon began to model three dimensional figures, including dioramas of prehistoric creatures.

Early Beginnings

Inspired by the film “King Kong” on its initial release in 1933, Harryhausen started experimenting with animated short films using stop-motion animation with a borrowed camera. After meeting King Kong creator Willis O'Brien, Harryhausen began taking night classes at Los Angeles Community College studying art, sculpture, and anatomy while attending high school during the day. At that time, he met burgeoning science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, and they both joined Forrest Ackerman in the Science Fiction League of Los Angeles; the three became lifelong friends.

Willis O’Brien also explained the process of illustrating his shots (also known as storyboarding) to help visualize what he was going to animate. Harryhausen realized he needed to learn proper filmmaking technique, so he attended classes (again at night) at USC and studied art direction, editing, and photography. He also sharpened his observation skills by regular visits to the Los Angeles Zoo to watch how animals moved and behaved.

Dynamation

Ray Harryhausen’s career began in earnest when he worked on Mighty Joe Young (1949), with his mentor Willis H. O'Brien, which won the Academy Award for special effects. Following Mighty Joe Young, came a fabulous run of classic science fiction and fantasy films, including: Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953); 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957); The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), his first color film; Jason and the Argonauts (1963), featuring the spectacular sword fight with skeleton warriors; and Clash of the Titans (1981), after which he retired. Clash of the Titans also featured the gorgon Medusa and the Kraken, a gigantic sea monster sent by Zeus which demolishes the city of Argos in a terrific action sequence.

 Harryhausen was awarded the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for "technological contributions [which] have brought credit to the industry" bestowed to him in 1992 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for technical excellence.

 For further information and a complete filmography, visit Ray Harryhausen’s official website at www.rayharryhausen.com.

The Movies

Tuesday, July 2
6:30 p.m.
One Million Years B.C.

Tuesday, July 9
6:30 p.m.
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

Tuesday, July 16
6:30 p.m.
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 23
6:30 p.m.
Jason and the Argonauts

Tuesday, July 30
6:30 p.m.
Clash of the Titans

Related Books:
Cover of the book Ray Harryhausen's fantasy scrapbook : models, artworks and memories from 65 years of filmmaking
By by Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton ; [foreword by John Landis].
Ray Harryhausen is one of the most innovative and influential film animators in the history of the medium, responsible for such classic films as 'Jason and the Argonauts', 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' and 'Clash of the Titans'. This book reveals a wealth of fascinating artefacts relating to his films that has never been seen before.
Cover of the book The art of Ray Harryhausen
By Ray Harryhausen & Tony Dalton ; with a foreword by Peter Jackson.
In this current era of CGI (Common Gateway Interface) special effects, the serious film student will often overlook the history of earlier animation techniques. This lavishly illustrated book chronicles the oft-forgotten work of the master of stop-motion animation, Ray Harryhausen. It discusses his techniques from rough sketches to final filming and explores his creations in bronze sculpture. All of his film work is represented, from his Mother Goose adaptations (1946) to Clash of the Titans (1981), with particular emphasis on the Sinbad films (1950s-70s). Of notable interest in this volume are the full-color photographs of Harryhausen's models and drawings, plus illustrations from works of his influences, including Gustave Dore and Willis O'Brien. Peter Jackson, director of Lord of the Rings and King Kong (2005), contributes the foreword and discusses the impact of Harryhausen on his own directorial style. A must for all film and 20th-century art collections, this is highly recommended for undergraduates interested in the technique of animation and sculptural modeling.
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