Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan

Synopsis: This is the definitive documentary about Ray Harryhausen. Aside from interviews with the great man himself, shot over five years, there are also interviews and tributes from Vanessa Harryhausen, Tony Dalton, Randy Cook, Peter Jackson, Nick Park, Phil Tippet, Peter Lord, Terry Gilliam, Dennis Muren, Rick Baker, John Landis, Ken Ralston, Guillermo Del Toro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Robert Zemeckis, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and many more. For the first time Ray and the Foundation have provided unprecedented access to film all aspects of the collection including models, artwork and miniatures as well as Ray's private study, where he designed most of his creations, and his workshop where he built them. In addition the documentary will use unseen footage of tests and experiments found during the clearance of the LA garage. Never before has so much visual material been used in any previous documentary about Ray. This definitive production will not only display a huge part of the unique coll
Director(s): Gilles Penso
Production: Frenetic Arts
Rotten Tomatoes:
90 min

- Ray Harryhausen.

- Ray Harryhausen.

Ray Harryhausen monsters,

you know, they're all beautiful.

- (Dragon roars)

- (Woman screams)

(Creature snarls)

(Dinosaur roars)

(Creature roars)

I love Ray Harryhausen films,

those were a huge influence on me

as a kid.

I never knew who Ray Harryhausen was,

I just saw these things happening.

It was only later that I discovered

it was one guy giving life to these things.

(Man) That is very difficult,

to define myself in two words.

I would say I was a filmmaker

rather than just an animator

or a special effects person.

I'm in on the story at the beginning.

Sometimes I initiate the story.

I wear many different hats

in the production.

I even, at the end of the day,

go out and help sell the picture.

Ray is the only technician really

who is an auteur

It is a very unique position.

There really isn't anyone else like it.

He has a huge body of work.

There was nobody else

who was doing that sort of work.

I mean, he's the only person.

He himself is deeply influenced

by the master Willis O'Brien,

who had done King Kong.

(Ray) When I first saw King Kong

in 1933,

I wanted to do something

in the film business.

Well, in 1933, when I was 13,

King Kong nothing like it

had been put on the screen.

(Narrator) 'Truly

the thrill of thrills.

"Don't miss it

this time."

And it haunted me for years,

even though it was a little jerky.

This creature is amazing, you know,

it's so big, you know.

It just left an enormous impression.

It wasn't only the technical expertise,

it was the whole production of the Films.

They took you by the hand

from the mundane world of the Depression

and brought you

into the most outrageous fantasy

that has ever been put

on the screen.

It really set me off on my career.

I didn't know how the film was made

when I first saw it.

Finally, it came out in magazines

how King Kong was stop motion.

And that intrigued me,

so I started experimenting on my own

as a hobby, in my garage.

I took courses in photography

at USC at night school

and I studied various things,

art direction and film editing.

It gradually developed from a hobby

into a profession.

I couldn't find anybody

to make the figures

so I had to learn

to make them myself.

I couldn't find anybody to photograph it,

so I learned photography

and learned to do things myself.

Stop motion animation

is really basically

the same principle

as the animated cartoon,

only instead of using flat drawings,

you use a dimensional model.

This has a rubber coating

on the outside of a metal armature

and as the shutter is closed

on one frame of film,

you move it slightly,

you move the arms

and you have to keep it all

in synchronization.

And then when you get hundreds

of these still pictures,

it gives the illusion that

the thing is moving on its own.

In my early days,

I did mostly experiments with dinosaurs.

(Man) We were both 18

and we both loved King Kong

and I met his dinosaurs in his garage.

I said, "Oh, God, this is incredible!

"You build these, do you'?"

He said, "Yes.

Let me show you a piece of film I did."

And he showed me

a little tiny piece of 5mm film

with his dinosaurs

roaming over a prehistoric landscape.

I said, "You know something

I got to tell you?"

He said, "What?" I said, "I think

you're gonna be my friend for life."

I wanted to make

a film called E Evolution.

It was about the development

of life on Earth.

And then Fantasia came along

and so I abandoned it.

They could do it so much better

with Disney.

But I had all these tests that I had made

for dinosaurs for Evolution

and I showed them to George Pal.

(Man) George Pal was

a European animator

who went to America

to make a series of films there

and was commissioned by Paramount

to make the Puppetoons series.

My first professional job

was with the George Pal

Puppetoons before the war.

The George Pal technique,

all the models were cutout

ahead of time in wood.

So there wasn't much creativity,

you simply substituted a new figure.

There was very little for an animator

to put his own personality into.

But it was an enormous part

of Ray's early career.

When he came out of the army

in around about 1946,

he found a thousand foot

of Kodak 16mm footage.

It was out of date,

so they were throwing it out.

So he used that for his first films,

and those were

the Mother Goose stories

that became the first

of the fairy tales.

The fairy tales were really

what I call my teething rings.

(Tony) That's where he really learnt

so much about film making.

And he went on to make

Little Red Riding Hood,

Hansel and Gretel

Rapunzel King Midas,

and eventually,

The Tortoise And The Hare.

His mother and father helped him.

His mother made a lot of the clothes

for the fairy tales

and his father obviously did

a lot of the machining,

the armatures and everything,

based on Ray's designs.

Fred and Martha, his parents,

were a huge part of his life.

Most parents would have said, "No, no,

you've gotta be a doctor or a plumber."

I was very fortunate, I should say,

that my father knew a lot

about engineering and machine work

and he used to make a lot of my armatures

on the lathe at home.

(Tony) And Fred

continued to make the armatures

until just after hours! Men In The Moon,

when he died.

So all the armatures seen in all

the feature films were made by Fred.

My first introduction to

the work of Ray Harryhausen

was the Mother Goose stories, actually,

which at the time I was not aware

that they were Ray Harryhausen's work.

(J' Frantic orchestral music)

I was about nine or ten years old

and, you know,

it was all cozy, Christmas Eve,

and this Films came on,

which was Hansel and Gretel

And I could not believe it, I was just

so drawn into it, the magic of it.

I don't know back then if I knew

how stop frame animation was done,

but I could see there were no strings.

I think Ray Harryhausen is really

the grandfather of stop frame animation.

I mean, I know that there was

Willis O'Brien as the great-grandfather.

I'd kept in touch with Willis O'Brien.

I had met him

when I was still in high school.

I called him up at MGM

and he kindly invited me over.

I brought some of my dinosaurs

in my suitcase and showed them to him.

And finally,

after Merian Cooper and Willis O'Brien

were going to make

Mighty Joe Young,

I became Willis O'Brien's assistant.

(Whistle blows)

(Sirens blare)

(Gorilla roars)

Here we were

making another gorilla picture,

which wasn't quite like King Kong

but it had a gorilla.

And gorillas are my best friends.

(Narrator) 'See Mighty Joe Young,

enraged by Hollywood pranksters,

'destroy film-land's swankiest nightclub

on the fabulous Sunset Strip.'

Willis O'Brien was busy

getting the next set-ups ready

and making tests and everything,

so I ended up doing

about 90 percent of the animation.

I think that's some of his best stuff,

cos the personality in Joe Young

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Gilles Penso

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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