Saturday, May 18, 2013

 

Bye to a Sci Fi Legend

Ray Harryhausen, the legendary animator of numerous films and an Academy Award winner, has died at the age of 95.

I am a longtime fan of his, having loved his first film, Mighty Joe Young, since I was a kid. That was his first film, done in collaboration with his mentor, Willis O'Brien, who animated King Kong.   He also animated such films as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans.

He was a long time friend of the late, great sci-fi writer, Ray Bradbury.

Harryhausen's skill was to build three dimensional objects and animate them onto the big screen.  He did this by positioning a creature, clicking off six frames of film at a time, and then repositioning the creature for the next set of frames. It takes 24 frames to make one second of film.

If you watch King Kong or Mighty Joe Young, you will see evidence of this meticulous process. Watch how the ape's fur seems to be blowing in the wind.  It happens when the animator touches the object to reposition it.  The man's fingers leave an imprint on the fur.

Harryhausen won many awards over his career, but was probably denied many more because he lived and worked mostly in Europe since 1960. His is a lost art that has been largely replaced by computer animation. Not an improvement.

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