Sunday would have been Ray Harryhausen the father of stop-motion’s 99th Birthday.
Ray’s work has influenced animators, filmmakers and host of other creatives across the globe. Ray’s incredible work in bringing to life monsters and creatures is the number one reason I wanted to become an animator and started a stop-motion studio. As a child, I sat for hours watching his Sinbad films and Jason and the Argonauts knowing these monsters weren’t real but at the same time not knowing how they were moving on screen. As I grew older and experimented with a VHS camera creating my own stop-frame films I found a new appreciation for his work.
As a graduate, I found Ray’s contact details to my surprise listed in the yellow pages. He was living in London so I sent him a copy of my film along with a short note. One morning in the post I received a beautiful hand typed reply from Ray himself, who had taken the time to give a short critique of my film. It’s a letter I’ve treasured for years and something I will always hold dear. He invited me to London to meet him but was something which unfortunately never happened. His notes, which can be seen below, were kind, interested and very encouraging for a young animator experimenting with my first short film.
When I came to direct an animation festival, the first focus I wanted was to be of Ray’s model making and stop-motion work. I contacted Ray’s foundation who sent the head of the foundation at the time, Tony Dalton, to come and speak and he brought along Ray’s famous armatures and models. It was a dream come true to see these creations in real life and share them with an audience. During the talk, Tony showed photos of Ray’s early creations which he created in his father’s home. My own father, who was attending the festival, reminded me that that’s exactly where I started, in my dad’s shed!
Ray’s genius, creating special effects on his own will never be seen again with stop-motion productions now including hundreds of crew members. His imagination used in his storyboards and designs through to his model-making and stop-motion is something any creative can learn from. His work inspired and entertained me enough to know I wanted to be a stop-motion director, something I’m so grateful for. He may not be around to celebrate his 99th birthday but his work lives on and his legacy will be around forever…
Happy Birthday Ray from a fan, Dan Richards.
More information can be found about Ray’s work on the Foundation website here: www.rayharryhausen.com