I’ve always believed that a good movie can change your life. This was the case for Ray Harryhausen, who saw King Kong when he was 13 and was never the same. He would go on to inspire so many with his films. In Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan, we hear from some of the filmmakers Harryhausen inspired, including Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Henry Selick, and many others. Each one candidly talks about how their films wouldn’t have been possible without Harryhausen’s inspiration.
We also see Harryhausen’s process, drawings, early camera tests. He pushed the technology and made advances in special effects and stop-motion animation. Stop-motion is a technique where an inanimate object is brought to life on film by shooting one frame at a time, moving the figure slightly each time. The technique seems primitive compared with the today’s computer animation, but there’s something magic about it.
Bringing characters to life one frame at a time is painstaking and time consuming, but the hours spent to get each second of film are worth it when the illusion of movement is created. Harryhausen had the ability to make you feel for his characters. They had real personality. Something about the way he animated them gave them real emotion.
My first encounter with Ray Harryhausen’s work was when I saw Clash of the Titans on television as a kid. He created Medusa, the Kraken, Pegasus and other fantastical characters for the film. It was an amazing feat, and I was amazed by all the creatures and the epic tale of mythology.
The techniques he created were used in some of cinema’s greatest blockbusters like Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Even the computer animated dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were based on his dinosaur animations. Stop-motion is still being used today and can be seen in films like: Kubo and the Two Strings, Coraline, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Ray Harryhausen died in 2013 at the age of 92. To many he was an inspiration, a mentor, and a teacher. This movie is a love letter to him and his legacy. I highly recommend it.