Vale Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen at work

Ray Harryhausen at work

It was with great sadness that I heard of the overnight passing of master animator Ray Harryhausen.

I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with Ray a number of years ago when he came as a guest of the Brisbane Animation Festival.

I was engaged to look after his Western Australian leg of the tour. He came to Australia with his wife Diana (who incidently is a direct descendant from Stanley Livingstone) and bought with him the most exquisite of models and drawing – as well as brand new prints of Jason and the Argonauts and Sinbad.

I have two great memories (well more actually) but one was seeing a line of people snaking well outside the cinema to get his autograph. All types too from families to Slayer shirted rockers.

I also have this memory of screening the films then Ray doing a Q&A. It was great…basically we had Ray behind a trestle table answering questions and talking very candidly with the sold out audience. Then at one point he decided to open his Pandora’s box – which I don’t think anyone thought he had – and began pulling out model after model and explaining their mechanics and purpose. As the lid was lifted there was a collective gasp from the audience as if the Arc of the Covenant was somehow unsealed – and like Raiders, the spirits unleashed.

Unleashed they were but in a much different way. The stories behind the Medusa from Clash of the Titans with three ball joints in each snake, the fantastic UFO from Earth Vs the Flying Saucers and of course the fighting skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts were all equally riveting and hilarious and built a picture of an artist and visionary. But of all the artifacts that have stayed with me is his beautiful concept drawings. The detail was just incredible – works of art in their own right. These were really something and collectively his treasure trove kept audiences enraptured for hours looking at these beautiful things. One thing that surprised me though was how small they were.

One of the things that always makes me smile too was how riveted my young children were with his films despite of course being able to watch any amount of more contemporary work anytime. Instead over and over again they chose Ray’s works. The great adventures and fantastical storytelling combined to create worlds where viewers of any age were able to be excited by… and you know what, they’re still great!

Thank you Ray.

– Richard Sowada, Head of Film Programs, ACMI

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One Response to “Vale Ray Harryhausen”

  1. Gianfranco Urlini 22. May, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Whilst i have not seen it since it was released (saw it as a kid at the Ascot Cinema now sadly specialising in wedding receptions) i still recall the marvel that was Sinbad fighting a skeleton…chilling and rivetting. I have yet to see jason fighing a small army of same. But the magic is still with me after such a long time. What a great artist and what a great influence on many of his successors. How lucky you were to have met him



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