Synopses & Reviews
Inspired by the film King Kong
at the age of 13, Ray Harryhausen knew his future lay in special effects. Throughout his long and storied career, Ray took the art and skill of stop-motion animation to new heights, weaving his magic on dinosaurs, aliens, and mythological creatures alike. In this enthralling autobiography, the last great animator before the introduction of CGI explains the pleasures and pitfalls of 60 years of bringing inanimate objects to life. He provides a range of insider secrets as well, including how Raquel Welch was picked up by a flying dinosaur in One Million Years BC
; why the octopus in Mysterious Island
only had 6 tentacles; and what Medusa's blood was made from in Clash of the Titans
. Ray also explains the basics of special effects and stop-motion animation and details what it like working with some of the biggest film stars of the day, including Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, and Lionel Jeffries. Anecdotal, insightful, and honest,
this essential autobiography also
features hundreds of photographs from Ray's personal archive.
It's mostly film buffs who will recognize the primary author's name, and they will rush out to buy this first-rate, heavily illustrated guide to the life and, more importantly, the work of arguably the premier special-effects master in Hollywood history. Harryhausen (b. 1920) is the undisputed master of stop-motion photography, the genius behind such memorable fabrications as the T-rex of The Valley of Gwangi
, the giant ape of (the original) Mighty Joe Young
, the fighting skeletons of Jason and the Argonauts
and the giant crab of Mysterious Island
. Harryhausen attributes his lifelong devotion to stop-motion to his initial viewing, at age 13, of King Kong
("I can remember every detail of that day quite clearly," he writes in the lengthy and deeply informative text that accompanies the book's hundreds of photos, b&w and color; "...I became obsessed with [the film's] magic"). This obsession led young Harryhausen to his first serious attempt at a movable model, of a cave bear, then to a teen friendship with Ray Bradbury and Forrest J. Ackerman of Famous Monsters of Filmland
fame, some mentoring by King Kong
effects wizard Willis O'Brien and his first special effects job, with George Pal. The book, co-written with film historian Dalton, goes on to cover each of Harryhausen's major films in tremendous detail, with great attention to the technical side of stop-motion work, making this volume a must for special effects fans, despite the recent computer revolution (which, Harryhausen argues, makes creatures appear "too realistic" and lacking in an essential "dream quality"). Through his work, Harryhausen has brought magic to millions; this terrific book is a fitting capstone to his brilliant career. - Publishers Weekly
For the past half century Harryhausen has been the foremost practitioner of the craft of stop-motion animation, the cinematic art of meticulously moving models, frame by frame, to create an illusion of motion. Inspired by King Kong, still the ultimate example of the technique, at age 13, Harryhausen soon became the protege of Kong's creator, Willis O'Brien. He progressed to bringing dinosaurs and giant, mutated animals to life in several fondly remembered 1950s horror films and hit his stride in a series of 1960s and 1970s period fantasy films that pitted such legendary heroes as Sinbad and Jason against harpies, centaurs, and, most memorably, sword-fighting skeletons. The advent of Star Wars and other increasingly technologically sophisticated sf movies rendered Harryhausen's painstaking, "homemade" approach prohibitively expensive. Harryhausen's anecdote-filled account of his career offers loads of technical details for those fascinated by specialized minutiae and hundreds of rare drawings and photos from his personal archives. In the age of CGI and digital animation, Harryhausen may be old school, but his art retains its appeal. - Gordon Flagg Booklist
From the age of thirteen Ray Harryhausen knew his future lay in special effects. Drawing inspiration from his mentor Willis O’Brien, creator of King Kong
, Ray took the art and skill of stop-motion animation one step further, weaving his magic on dinosaurs, aliens and mythological creatures alike.
From early experiments with animating fairy tales in his father’s garage to creating groundbreaking effects for blockbuster movies, Ray Harryhausen shares the fascinating story of his “animated life”. The last great animator before the introduction of CGI, he takes us through the pleasures and pitfalls of sixty years dedicated to making movie magic.
About the Author
Tony Dalton is a writer and film historian who has known Ray Harryhausen for over thirty years. They met whilst Tony was working for the British Film Institute and have been close friends ever since. Tony has worked as a film publicist, television researcher and producer. Today, in addition to writing, he is a consultant to The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta). He is also curator of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation.