Ray Harryhausen a master of his art – his art lives on

ray-harryhausenI was writing today about Star Wars and mentioned Ray Harryhausen.

His films filled my childhood with joy and I still marvel at the techniques he used. I studied film making at school and did some stop motion filming of my own, so I understand first hand the difficulties.

I’m not sure which of his films I saw first, it may have been Valley of the Gwanji, though at the time I didn’t understand how brilliant what I was seeing actually was.

However by the time I saw Clash of the Titans in 1981 I was starting to understand exactly what I was watching. I’d seen many of his films by this point and it was for his artistry that I wanted to watch this particular film.

Ray Harryhausen was one of the reasons I studied film making. I didn’t continue with film making after school, if I had I it would not have been in the same field. His style of stop motion, putting animation seamlessly with live action was called Dynamation. I just barely achieved the version known as Claymation.

In the days before CGI Dynamation, renamed as SuperDynaMation and Dynamara im later films, was one of the most advanced techniques. Putting seven animated Skeletons in the same scene as three actors in Jason and the Argonauts was something no other person could achieve in 1964, three years before I was born.

The technique, simply put, used the original live footage as a backdrop to the stop motion. This would put the animated characters in the foreground. Portions of the film were blacked out to put the live action portions of the scene in to the foreground.

Ray Harryhaussen died on 7th May 2013. His work however lives on, not just in the films that brought so much joy.

He established The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation in 1986. The Foundation owns in excess of 50,000 items including the original wire frame models, armatures (plain wire frame models), sketches, equipment and more. This is a Scottish registered charity that is working to preserve and conserve his work.

In many cases the models require renovation work, though some are in amazingly good condition. Another aim is to bring new blood in to the industry with two Scholarships hoped to be created, one in the UK and one in USA.

You can also find The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.


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