This week (June 29th) marked Ray Harryhausen’s 90th birthday. It’s always a day appropriate to remember a Hollywood legend, but Ray Harryhausen is so much more.
It’s difficult to find a way to put this into words. Celebrities pass away all the time, the internet seems to mourn, and we all move on. Personally, I shrug and move on instantly. It is unfortunate, but people die everyday; that’s fact. When the sad time comes, and it’s Harryhausen’s turn, I will be crushed. Seeing him turn 90 is a joyful occasion.
It’s amazing how a little animated puppet can make you feel closer to someone. Harryhausen never just brought his creations to life. He put his personality into those masterfully animated puppets. In a weird way, it is almost like you know the man without having met him by watching a giant vulture prance around the screen.
Sure, it sounds stupid, but think about it. Here is a patient man, someone willing to devote hours of his life to amuse and entertain, maybe even scare. He loved what he did in the prime of his career, sadly retiring in 1981 with Clash of the Titans. There is little doubt he loved working solitary, the only way to really ensure the work was done correctly. He is passionate about detail, adding thousands of frames of animation to create an agonizing death scene, whether that be the wondrous Beast from 20,000 Fathoms or the Medusa in Clash of the Titans.
Overall, Harryhausen seems generous. Anyone who is willing to offer his skill (at this level nonetheless) to affect so many lives in filmland, truly cares about others. Kids growing up today with the hyper-realistic CGI monstrosities are missing out. Americans have this weird obsession with making the unreal real, and in the process sapping away the imagination. It’s a shame kids today are probably not growing up with the fascination of monsters and demons like a lot of people did, all because the pieces are put together for them.
That may sound like the ultimate “get off my lawn” statement, but it’s true. With the dazzling array of digital tricks now available, the creations seem to lack the thought process. That’s not to say digital effects are easy (hardly), but imagine having to leave the office at night with a piece of animation in progress, and continuing the next, right where you left off, without making a single mistake.
The care for his craft that Harryhausen showed is immense. He loved it, we love it, and to those kids who think “claymation” is lame, get off my lawn. Harryhausen rocks, and happy birthday. May you have 90 more.