My Cinematic Influences: Ray Harryhausen

Growing up…the movies of Ray Harryhausen were a huge influence on me. I was an imaginative kid…always making up stories, having imaginary friends pretending I was on fantastic adventures. When I grew up I wanted to be the captain of a sailing ship so I could go on adventures like in Jason and the Argonauts or the Sinbad movies that Harryhausen created. I didn’t realize that when I was a kid in the 1970’s sailing ships had long since become floating museums and not a realistic means of transportation or exploration. Exploring the seven seas by sailing ship as a swashbuckling adventurer seemed like a realistic career path for me. I watched most of Harryhausen’s movies on a little television with “rabbit ears” we had growing up. I remember seeing Jason and the Argonauts and being amazed when the gigantic statue of Talos came to life or in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers because I thought the flying saucers were real. Mostly I remember the Sinbad movies on television. When I would see a commercial that one was coming on I would get insanely excited. The monsters he created seemed so life like armies of battling skeletons, a fight between a dragon and a cyclops…it was the stuff little boys dream of.

The only movie I saw on it’s original release on a big screen was Clash of the Titans in 1981. I remember seeing it at a Drive-In Movie Theater along with two other movies. We used to pop our own popcorn at home and bring it in a big paper bag in our station wagon. I don’t remember the other two movies that played but I will never forget Clash of the Titans. I was amazed at Pegasus the flying horse, completely frightened by Medusa and I admit I secretly wished that I had a golden mechanical owl named Bubo.

When I was in college I came to admire Ray Harryhausen even more because growing up…I just thought it was normal to go on a sailing trip and get attacked by a giant squid. I went to school for graphic design and I worked on an animation that was only a few seconds but the drawing of 30 pictures to get 1 second of animation left me in awe of Harryhausen’s stop motion animation he used to bring all of these monsters he created to life. If you needed a creature or monster created for a movie in the 50s through the 70s – Ray was the man. His stop motion animation and movies entertained and inspired the likes of future fantasy story directors like George Lucas, Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg all of whose work were also great influences on me. Once I realized that sailing the seven seas as an adventurer wasn’t really a career choice…Harryhausen’s movies provided me an inspirational direction for me to get involved in doing creative design work in print, online and with video.

As I write this blog post…it’s making me want to go back and watch all of his movies again because they are still that good. In the coming weeks I am honored to include an interview with Marc Lougee who directed an amazing short stop-motion animation film called “The Pit and The Pendulum” based on the Edgar Allan Poe story which was produced by Ray Harryhausen. Marc utilized stop-motion animation for the creation of his film and utilized social networking sites such as Twitter and YouTube to do some of his film promotion online. Stay tuned!