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R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen (1920 – 2013)

by on 2013/05/08

Ray Harryhausen (1920 - 2013)

I’m certain my first thought about Ray Harryhausen is not the prevailing one. I credit him with giving me a reason to accept (some) colorization.

In the documentary extras of his Legend-distributed films, he speaks at length about his frustrations with budgetary restrictions, and their impact on his creativity. He was grateful for the technology allowing him to restore the colour he imagined for his fantasies.

Of course, most viewers will remember him for stop-motion special effects. He may be the single person most associated with them.  I always found his efforts intriguing, even philosophically.  Is stop-motion animation or is it live action, both or neither?

His once-secretive process was not exactly his own invention, appearing in classics which influenced him, including the original King Kong.  Now it’s far more common, especially for fans of Tim Burton and Henry Selick, in movies like Coraline, James and the Giant Peach, 9 (2009), and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Though I mostly love his science fiction — The Beast from 20,000 FathomsIt Came from Beneath the SeaEarth vs the Flying Saucers, and 20 Million Miles to Earth — there’s an easy argument to be made that he kept high fantasy’s flame alive through the long dark times before films like Excalibur, Princess Bride, and (Peter Jackson’s) The Lord of the Rings.

Or especially the dark times before we got Robot Chicken.


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