On this day in Film History, back in 1920, a man named Ray Harryhausen was born. Harryhausen became legendary for his use of stop-motion animation in such films as Clash of the Titans (1981), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) (among many others).
Stop-motion animation is when you take one or more figures and move them a little bit at a time, filming the figure each time a position is changed. When all the shots are strung together, it creates the illusion that the object is moving. In the many years before computer animation was invented, stop-motion was the best way to bring larger-than-life creature to life onscreen. The most famous example of early stop-motion would have to be King Kong (1933), where the titular character was brought to life by the genius of Willis O’Brien (whose work inspired Harryhausen to start on his own career in stop-motion).
Kong was considered “state of the art” in 1933
Films featuring Harryhausen’s work were among my favorites growing up, and I was delighted to discover that they all had this animator in common between them.
Talos looms large in the film’s poster
One of my favorite Harryhausen characters is Talos from Jason and the Argonauts. Talos is a giant man made of bronze, designed to protect the treasures of the gods on a distant island. When Hercules takes a giant pin made of gold from one of the storehouses, Talos awakens and begins pursuit. The film is highlighted with a fantastic all-brass and woodwind score by Bernard Herrmann, and the scene where Talos’s head moves to look at Hercules always sends a chill down my spine (motion begins at 3:01 in the video)
Another favorite that I’d like to share is Pegasus from the original Clash of the Titans. While I have seen the remake, and it’s not bad as far as remakes go, I prefer the original Pegasus, because he feels more real. Towards the end of this clip, Perseus goes to find the last Pegasus, taking his magic helmet of invisibility with him.
Sadly, Ray Harryhausen passed away in 2013, but his legacy lives on in the many films he worked on, and in the fantastic creatures that only he could have brought to life on the silver screen. I highly recommend any film that Harryhausen worked on. -Bex
*King Kong originally the property of RKO Radio Pictures
*Jason and the Argonauts released by Columbia Pictures
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