Monday, 28 April 2014

My Inspiration - Mr. Ray Harryhausen

As you will probably know, last May was a sad time for the Entertainment industry as we lost a great figure in cinema history. Ray Harryhausen passed away on the 7th of May, 2013 at the age of 92, and I was absolutely devastated.
I first saw Rays work when I was about 7, when "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" (1958) came on TV. I just remember seeing the Cyclops sequence, but I was glued to the TV screen. I had yet not heard the name Ray Harryhausen, but a few Christmas' later I would be introduced to the amazing work he produced.
I can't remember what Christmas it was, but I must have been around 12 or 13 when I got the book "Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life", and what a book it is! I didn't know who this man was, but I was interested! Stop motion was on my mind!
Adding final details to the Calibos puppet from "Clash of the Titans" (1981)

The iconic one-eyed Cyclops from "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" (1958)

Sinbad and his men fight the six armed statue, Kali in "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" (1974)

Ray's first movie job, as an assistant to Willis O'Brien (King Kong), "Mighty Joe Young" (1949)

One of Ray's most realistic creations, Medusa from "Clash of the Titans" (1981)

Ray poses with the Skeleton from "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" (1958). This Skeleton, along with six others would go onto fight Jason and his men in "Jason & The Argonauts" (1963)

So after reading about all these wonderful films he worked on, it was my job to go out and watch them all! I had already seen the first Sinbad film and "Jason & The Argonauts" (1963) at school for an Ancient Greece topic. Years would pass, and Channel 4 and 5 would occasionally do showings of his films, but there were always a few that never showed, those I had to get on VHS or DVD.
Probably one of the most amazing moments that I will treasure for the rest of my life, was when I finally met the man himself. It was a talk at the Edinburgh Film Festival (in 2008, I think) and Ray was being interviewed by Tony Dalton (curator of The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation). Not only was it great to hear/see the man talk about his work, but also just watching his reaction to his work, when it was projected onto a big screen. He didn't show much expression, but I'll bet he was proud. Then when the talk was over, I nervously approached Ray and his wife Diana. I regret not saying much (I was pretty shy), my dad did the talking, saying how much he inspired me to pursue a career in stop motion animation. Ray, as I remember was very supportive, which was a huge confidence booster! Then I got a photo with Ray and Diana (which I NEED to find!) and later on, my "Art of Ray Harryhausen" book signed by Ray and Tony.

Now that Ray is gone, it is amazing to know that I actually met the man, so I hold that very close to me. Also the fact that I have met a man that inspired the likes of Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Forrest Gump), Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park) and George Lucas (Star Wars), so many famous faces! So, there we go. I could fill a whole book with my admiration for this man, but I feel that I have said enough for the time being and I hope Ray's work is never forgotten, and is admired by many in the future.

R.I.P Mr. Harryhausen 

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