May 8, 2013
Stop Motion God Ray Harryhausen, Dead At 92
Artist, father, and stop motion god Ray Harryhausen has passed away at the age of 92. Harryhausen should be an echoing voice at the back of every film and animation student and enthusiast across the planet for his innovation in Clash of the Titans and Mighty Joe Young. Like all of us, Harryhausen started his career as an aspiring student of animation.
Harryhausen got his first inspiration for animation when he saw King Kong for the first time back in 1933. Like many of the audience members walking out of the theater, Harryhausen was intrigued by the magic that King Kong presented. No one had ever seen a 200 foot tall gorilla before, much less a 200 foot tall model of a gorilla. To replicate the wonders of such a gigantic creature, Willis O’ Brian created a model of the eight world wonder and snapped hundreds of thousands of photos, each with a successive progress of motion to give life and depth to the monster.
This was simply the beginning. Since the Internet didn’t exist back in the 30s, we can imagine how enthusiastic an individual needs to be to truly aspire to create stop motion animation. Unlike the audience members walking out of that theater, Harryhausen decided that he would learn it.
There’s a saying, quoted to me by redOrbit’s own John Valenzano, who just happens to be my animation professor; “That you are creative is simply not enough. There are millions of individuals like yourself with either as much, or more talent than you. What truly makes a director and artist shine is the amount of work that you put into your vision. Work requires a sacrifice of time, and a sacrifice of time truly denotes love for one’s passion.” No truer a statement can be said of Harryhausen.
After meeting Willis O’ Brien, Harryhausen was set on a track to re-imagine his own interpretation of the magic of animation. Let’s be frank here; the same nerds and science fiction geeks that you pushed around in high school, the guys voted least likely to lose their virginity before 40, were the guys that went out and changed our imaginations. Playing with modeled action figure sets and spending hundreds of hours out of the month snapping photos for a career isn’t the most glamorous of jobs to most of us. But for Harryhausen, it was a dream come true.
The real vision of stop motion animation is that it is so easy to visualize a satic image. A ball that won’t role, the snake that won’t slither, and the sun that doesn’t orbit and shine on the planet. The very fabric of stop motion is to give life and character to an inanimate object, so that you can believe, for just a short amount of time that they are alive. It’s different from 2D and 3D, obvious realms of animation that play upon the human mind’s perception of reality and single plane characters. To simply view the world from a plane surface is all too simple, stop motion would be the area of the world where real love for an art form would exist, but nearly none would bother to show.
Harryhausen made due with his career in 1949 when he was put on as the assistant manager of the production of King Kong, unexcitingly being his first major film. The rest is history.
His works in Clash of the Titans and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad are engraved in the archival minds and history of all those who admired him; George Lucas, Ralph Bakshi, Willis O’ Brien, among many others.
Thank you, Ray Harryhausen, for making us believe in that which does not live. We will forever be grateful to your work and life.
Image Credit: IMDB.com