Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life

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9780823084029: Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life

Ray Harryhausen is arguably the greatest stop-motion animator in the history of motion pictures, blazing new trails in special effects from the 1950s to the 1980s creating realistic dinosaurs, fantastic aliens, and imaginative mythological creatures. In the animator's own words, accompanied by hundreds of previously unpublished photographs, sketches, and storyboards from his personal archive, this book details Harryhausen's entire film career, from 20 Million Miles to Earth and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers to Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts. In words and images, this book explains the basics of special effects and stop-motion animation, along the way telling entertaining tales of working with the film stars of the day, such as Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, and Lionel Jeffries. Film buffs will relish such revelations as how Raquel Welch was picked up by a flying dinosaur in One Million Years B.C., why the octopus in Mysterious Island was really only a sixtopus, and what Medusa's blood was made from in Clash of the Titans.

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About the Author:

Ray Harryhausen continues to provide talks and lectures on animation. An American now residing in London, he is the author of The Tortoise and the Hare. Tony Dalton is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and poet who has written for Broadcast and Variety magazines. He was involved with the publicity for Star Wars, Towering Inferno, and The Omen. He lives in London. Ray Bradbury is the legendary author of fantasy and science fiction works, including The Martian Chronicles. He is a winner of the Nebula, Prometheus, O. Henry Memorial, Balrog, Bram Stoker, Benjamin Franklin, Aviation-Space Writers, and World Fantasy awards. He lives in Los Angeles.

Review:

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

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Ray Harryhausen; Tony Dalton; Foreword-Ray Bradbury
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