To the land beyond, beyond – Remembering Ray Harryhausen

Ray HarryhausenI haven’t posted in quite a while because I have been busy with my other writing. However, I do feel compelled to say a few words on the passing of special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen.

Ray first came into my life when I was a very young boy. I was sitting wide-eyed in wonder near the front of the Geneva Theatre in Orillia watching THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD on a cold winter night. This was a seminal experience in my life. Not that things before SEVENTH VOYAGE were a gray wasteland or anything, but after seeing the film a whole new world opened up for me.

It was a world of monsters and fantasy, of imaginary creatures lovingly rendered and brought to life by this humble man who spent his career mostly in isolation meticulously moving his actors one frame at a time.

In 1977, ironically on the same weekend that STAR WARS was released, I got to meet Ray in person at a small convention in Michigan. He showed us a reel of animation tests and rare footage.  He even brought along some of his creations including one of my favourites – the fire breathing dragon from SEVENTH VOYAGE. What we didn’t know at the time was the the winds of change were swirling around Ray and that his next movie THE CLASH OF THE TITANS would be his last. The age of artisan special effects was coming to an end, replaced by the new era of digital wonders.

There was a continuity however and that was the influence that Ray had on all those filmmakers who would soon rise to dominate the box office. Everyone from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to James Cameron and Peter Jackson acknowledge Ray’s inspiration on their careers.

While Ray did not receive an Oscar for any of his films he was awarded a special technical award from the Academy. It was presented by a very excited Tom Hanks who was also a big fan.

Amid the bombast of today’s special effects extravaganzas Ray’s films still stand out. They have a heart and soul that defies definition. There is a quality about them that still captures the very young and transports them to magical lands populated with mythical beasts.

So long Ray, you deserve a very special place in the land beyond, beyond.

A list of Ray Harryhausen’s Feature Films

  • MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)
  • THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1952)
  • IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955)
  • THE ANIMAL WORLD (1956)
  • EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956)
  • 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957)
  • THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)
  • THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER (1959)
  • MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961)
  • JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)
  • FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1964)
  • ONE MILLION YEARS BC (1966)
  • THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969)
  • THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1973)
  • SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977)
  • CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981)

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