Greetings my friends. It is with a very heavy heart that I write today’s column. No doubt, many of you have heard by now of the passing of the wizard of stop-motion – or as he dubbed it, DYNAMATION – Ray Harryhausen. I had the privilege of briefly making his acquaintance a few years ago at a local convention. And I mean brief. I got to shake his hand, and thank him for all the incredible movies he made that made my movie-loving youth enjoyable. I couldn’t get a picture taken, as he was on his way to a panel. It was only the second or third year that my medieval group, DragonWynde, was in existence, and I had to remain at my table. What kills me, is that I’d forgotten my DVDs, issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland and my copy of Ray Harryhausen – An Animated Life at home, so I had nothing for him to sign for me. The man was a magician when bringing things to life. Be it a 200 foot long dinosaur crashing through Manhattan, a 12 foot tall gorilla saving orphans from a fire or a pack of bloodthirsty skeleton warriors out to slay their foes.
I have been a Ray Harryhausen fan for as long as I can remember. JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) was actually shown in my 9th grade English class, to kick off lessons on mythology. I won’t go into too much about Harryhausen’s life, as it’s been covered by so many better writers than myself. Suffice to say, that if he hadn’t done what he had, movies would be a lot different and a lot less fantastic and awe-inspiring. Without his work, so many of today’s model effects technicians and even CGI artists wouldn’t have been as inspired as they were. Who knows what might have inspired Phil Tippet, Stan Winston or Dan Muren if not for seeing Harryhausen’s Sinbad films, or the Ymir in 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) or the Rhedosaurus in THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) – written by Harryhausen’s lifelong friend, the late Ray Bradbury.
So once more, I say as I did almost a decade ago – Thank you, Ray Harryhausen. Thank you for making the movies I love so much, and mean so much to me. On to Olympus, Ray. On to Olympus.