Research – Ray Harryhausen

27 07 2011

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Ray Harryhausen (born Raymond Frederick Harryhausen on June 29, 1920 in Los Angeles, California) is an American film producer andspecial effects creator. He created a brand of stop-motion model animation known as “Dynamation.”[1]

Among his most notable works are his animation on Mighty Joe Young (with pioneer Willis O’Brien, which won the Academy Award for special effects) (1949), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (his first colour film) and Jason and the Argonauts, featuring a famous sword fight against seven skeleton warriors.

Before the advent of computers for camera motion control and CGI, movies used a variety of approaches to achieve animated special effects. One approach was stop-motion animation which used realistic miniature models (more accurately called model animation), used for the first time in a feature film in The Lost World (1925), and most famously in King Kong (1933).

These are just a couple of the movies Ray Harryhausen is famous for.

Stop-motion animation

The work of pioneer model animator Willis O’Brien in King Kong inspired Harryhausen to work in this unique field, almost single-handedly keeping the technique alive for three decades. O’Brien’s career floundered for most of his life—most of his cherished projects were never realized—but Harryhausen was the right person at the right time, and achieved considerable success.

Harryhausen draws a distinction between films that combine special effects animation with live action and films that are completely animated such as the films of Tim BurtonNick Park,Henry SelickIvo CaprinoLadislav Starevich and many others (including his own fairy tale shorts) which he sees as pure “puppet films”, and which are more accurately (and traditionally) called “puppet animation”.

In Harryhausen’s films, model animated characters interact with, and are a part of, the live action world, with the idea that they will cease to call attention to themselves as “animation”, which is different from the more obviously “cartoony” and stylized approach in movies like Chicken Run and The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc.

Springing from O’Brien’s groundbreaking work, Harryhausen continued bringing stop-motion into the realm of live action movies, keeping alive and refining the techniques created by O’Brien that he had first developed as early as 1917. Harryhausen’s last film was Clash of the Titans, produced in the early 1980s. Recently[when?], he was involved in producing colorized DVD versions of three of his classic black and white films (20 Million Miles to EarthEarth vs. the Flying Saucers, and It Came from Beneath the Sea) and a film from the producer of the original King Kong (She).




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