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 Ray Harryhausen: 1920-2013

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kurt wilcken

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PostSubject: Ray Harryhausen: 1920-2013   Tue May 07, 2013 5:26 pm

I learned today that Ray Harryhausen died. He was truly one of the Masters of Imaginative Cinema and his films were a joy to me when I was growing up.

Several years ago I wrote a review of a book of Harryhausen's work for a Role-Playing Blog I wrote for one of Alex's websites. In it I touched on a bit of his career and what made him so great.

Quote :
One of my pet peeves is when people equate Dungeons & Dragons with J.R.R. Tolkien. I suppose it’s my Inner Pedant coming out. Sure, D&D borrowed a lot of material from Tolkien; (it borrowed too much, to the dismay of TSR’s lawyers), but it borrowed from other sources as well, like the Conan stories of Robert Howard, the Lahnkmar tales of Fritz Leiber, the Arabian Nights and the stories of King Arthur.

Then there was Ray Harryhausen.

He may not have been a literary figure like Howard or Tolkien, but the fantastic creations of his films established the visual vocabulary of generations of science fiction and fantasy fans. Long before the digital age, his skill in the magic of stop-motion animation brought myths and legends to life. He made skeletons fight and made Pegasus fly; he besieged the Golden Gate Bridge with a giant cephalopod and razed the Capitol with flying saucers; he mixed cowboys and dinosaurs and brought a behemoth from Venus to the Roman Coliseum. Some fans even use the term “harryhausen” as a verb, describing the peculiar jerky motion his stop-motion creations had.


The Art of Ray Harryhausen by Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton is a celebration of the craft behind his fantastic creations. It’s a companion to his autobiography, Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, also published by Billboard Books. This book takes us behind the scenes, showing how he went about building his creatures. It contains photos not only of the models themselves, but of the conceptual sketches and production art that went into making them. It shows us some of the early models and puppets he made as a child, (including his very first skeletons; work he did with his idol and mentor Willis O’Brien, (the master animator behind King Kong); and conceptual sketches for unfinished projects such as his version of War of the Worlds.

Along with the illustrations, Harryhausen describes his idols and influences; the techniques he used and some of the background behind his incredible creatures.

The book is a treasure for anyone who, like me, grew up loving Sinbad movies and rubber dinosaur flicks. Those of us who create our own fantasies rolling dice around the dining room table owe Harryhausen a debt of thanks for years of inspiration.
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Terry M (Ditko Fan)

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PostSubject: Re: Ray Harryhausen: 1920-2013   Wed May 08, 2013 4:42 pm

Sad news. What a great man. What a great life, A Hollywood technological innovator that got to play with monsters for a living!
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kurt wilcken

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PostSubject: Re: Ray Harryhausen: 1920-2013   Wed May 08, 2013 6:36 pm

Oop! Forgot something important! Can't have a Harryhausen tribute without a clip! There are so many to chose from, but I think probably the iconic Harryhausen scene has to be the Skeleton Battle from Jason and the Argonauts. This is why Skeletons are considered monsters in Dungeons & Dragons.
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Joe Lee
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PostSubject: Re: Ray Harryhausen: 1920-2013   Thu May 09, 2013 11:28 am

What a wonderful creative man, "Mighty Joe Young, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Jason and the Argonauts" and all those Sinbad voyages were such a big part of my childhood inspiration.

The first thing I always think of at the mention of his name is that awesome skeleton swordfight from "Jason and the Argonauts!"
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