Ray Harryhausen Turns 90

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.

Matt Paprocki is a 12-year movie and video game critic. His work has been featured on a variety of websites, and he currently edits DoBlu.com and Multiplayergames.com.

  • LisaM

    Wow he is still around. His films have entertained me for years. And they still hold up well in this age of CGI. Best wishes, Mr Harryhausen!

  • Mason

    I recommend checking out the Earth vs. the Flying Saucers Blu-Ray not just for the movie, but for the special feature documentary on Harryhausen. It features some recent interview footage with him and is a great watch.

  • TheAllKnowingGod

    Wow, he looks like old Lo Pan.

  • Michael Jameson

    For a wonderful look at Harryhausen’s pre-feature film days, I heartily recommend the 2005 two-disc DVD, “Ray Harryhausen: The Early Years Collection,” produced by Arnold Kunert in collaboration with Ray Harryhausen. Mr. Kunert was the person responsible for getting Ray his Oscar in 1992 and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003.

    Happy Birthday, Ray, from all of us who love you and your joyous films!

  • Feed Rarrington

    Whoa ! He looks like the grandfather from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

  • the one they never ask about

    ghoulish…he is starting to look like a Ray Harryhausen creation…

  • illux

    Happy Birthday Ray!
    The guy is still a living legend & is already immortal in the film he animated!

    I clearly remember Clash of the Titans as the film that started my interest in art & animation. (Before I was reading movie credits, I always thought there was a huge team behind those creature effects, so its still amazing he achieved so much)

    I highly recommend the artbook “The Art of Ray Harryhausen” it’s awesome.

  • RC

    In tribute to Ray, I would like to say his version of Clash of the Titans is superior in every way over the remake. Thanks Ray for making movies with heart and soul.

    Other favourite Harryhausen movies:

    Jason and the Argonauts
    Mysterious Island
    The 7th Voyage of Sinbad