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May 7, 2013

Ray Harryhausen
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:54 PM *

Ray Harryhausen died today at the age of 92.

I can’t stress enough how much a part of my life he and his work were. I remember being ticked at Lyndon Johnson for preempting Earth vs. the Flying Saucers in order to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Using … numerous pens. About half a letter per pen, then put that pen aside, pick up another, and write another half-letter… meanwhile my movie was playing on WPIX, New York. In those pre-videotape days, if you missed a film in the theaters during its first run, you might catch it in a second-run theater a year or two later. If you missed it then you had to wait for it to come on TV. And if you missed it on TV it might be years before it came around again. If ever. (I did eventually get to see it, when I was in college.)

I’d seen Jason and the Argonauts the previous year, in a theater, and the skeleton fight had made me into a Harryhausen fan.

Every Sunday the New York Times had a TV section listing for the following week: Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13. Channels 9 (WOR) and 11 (WPIX) had the Creature Features. 13 was PBS. 2, 4, and 7 were WCBS, WNBC, and WABC. Channel 5 was WNEW. I’d take the listing, and circle in red pencil the shows I wanted to watch. WOR and WPIX had most of them. Any time a Harryhausen film film was listed, it got circled.

(Channel 5 had Soupy Sales in the afternoon, which was the only thing worth watching if there weren’t any decent movies showing. Channel 11 had Ivanhoe, starring a very young Roger Moore.)

I remember seeing It Came From Beneath the Sea on a black-and-white TV that my father built. It Came From Beneath the Sea featured the giant octopus (which only had six arms if you got around to counting them) attacking San Francisco.

One of the disappointments of my youth was going to The Bedford Playhouse (in Bedford, New York, years before it was cut up into a two-screen theater, when movies were a dollar, and, on Wednesdays, when the show changed, they’d have a double feature for that same dollar) one Saturday afternoon, because they had a hand-lettered sign out front promising The Mysterious Island. Alas, the film that actual showed was some Brit invasion-from-outer-space/bodysnatchers-ripoff film.

On my wedding day my new bride and I, after the ceremony, went to a double-feature of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Warlords of Atlantis (along with many members of the wedding party).

You can keep your CGI for all that — the stop-motion animation that Ray Harryhausen did… that was real movie magic.

Comments on Ray Harryhausen :
#1 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 08:08 PM:

There was a kids' rhyme, to the tune of the Howdy Doody theme song:

It's Howdy Doody time
It isn't worth a dime
Let's turn to Channel Nine
And watch some Frankenstein.

Kids these days, they got their three hundred channels and their DVDs and their Internet. Back in my day we had seven channels (two, maybe three of them on a good day, without snow), and we were glad! (Waves ear trumpet. Pounds cane.)

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 08:34 PM:

We had a black and white TV. Until the TV had to be replaced. In 1973. (Channels: 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11. 2 was independent, 4 was NBC, 5 was CBS, 7 was ABC, 9 was PBS, and 11 was an ABC affiliate. Snow was usually part of the reception, rather than the weather.)

#3 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 08:56 PM:

I have enormously fond memories of PROJECT TERROR, the Friday night SF/horror movie on Channel 5 in San Antonio. Occasionally they would dig deep enough into their pocket to show some of the Harryhausen films.

Having a brother 13 years younger than myself meant I also saw the Sinbad films during the 70s, plus some re-releases (in 3-D!) of It Came From Outer Space and Creature From the Black Lagoon.

#4 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 09:27 PM:

Alas, the film that actually showed was some Brit invasion-from-outer-space/bodysnatchers-ripoff film.

Wait a minute -- I think I know what film you mean. Is it the one where the aliens, when separated from their human hosts, look like human brains with attached eyes and spinal cords?* If so, there was at least some stop-motion animation** in it, even if it wasn't up to Harryhausen's standard. It's really not a bad movie, for what it is. Still, it's not Harryhausen, and it must have been terribly disappointing.

* The film also featured a crusty old English senior scientist, a handsome young North American post-doc, and a beautiful female grad student. But that could be any Brit SF film, TV program, or radio play.

** IIRC, the brain monsters would scuttle about on their spinal cords like snakes before launching themselves into the air like springtails. There was also some graphic alien ichor, which earned the movie a British X certificate and a US children's matinee showing.

#5 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 09:29 PM:

It Came From Outer Space and Creature From the Black Lagoon were directed by Jack Arnold, and turned miniature budgets into classics by sheer talent.

Before he turned to low-budget SF, Arnold had been directing pro-Union documentary shorts. Pretty much anything he did (other than Monster on the Campus) was great. His best was probably The Incredible Shrinking Man.

#6 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 09:34 PM:

Producer, Agent, Maker, Animator:
we use these names in imitation of One Greater,
who now ordains that Harry's motions stop.

The armature that was a useful prop
and brought delight to viewers on the screen
will now be reconfigured for that scene
when all the cast and crew that was created
will move again with life, re-animated.

#7 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 09:53 PM:

Hah! I did the same circling movie names in the TV guide thing. Soupy and Howdy Doody and Ivanhoe were off the air by the time I made my own TV watching choices, but the ecosystem (NYC) was the same. (Although we got Channel 8 from Connecticut.)

A real frustration for a geek kid: Many genre movies and shows got stuck in the weekend afternoon doldrums, where they were liable to be preempted by ball games. I came to utterly detest some guy named Kiner, for his Kiner's Corner post-game show.

I saw two or three Harryhausen movies in the theater. Not Clash of the Titans, which I never have seen, but Sinbad movies.

HP: Could that have been one of the Quatermass movies? Try searching for that name on IMDB.

#8 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 09:58 PM:


Very nice!

#9 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 10:07 PM:

Stefan: Definitely not a Quatermass movie, and I don't think Nigel Kneale was involved at all, but a B-ark-class formulaic feature for the export market. Somewhere in my dusty old library, I have it on DVD, but haven't watched it in probably 10 years. "Doing a search" means manually flipping through pages of DVD albums that I've acquired. I think it had a completely anodyne title like "Invasion: Earth" or something equally nondescript. Give me an hour or two to poke around.

#10 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 10:44 PM:

Speaking of Nigel Kneale, he adapted HGWells's "First Men in the Moon" for Harryhausen.

#11 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 11:15 PM:

#4 HP

No, no brains on disembodied spinal cords. In that film the evil space aliens were pure electrical energy (which didn't show up on screen). They duplicated people at an isolated, modern-day, house. If I recall correctly there were four actors, but they played eight people: The original humans and their evil space-alien duplicates (who never appeared in the same shot together).

The last scene showed four burned outlines of the real people in the bottom of an empty swimming pool; the water rushes in and obliterates the ashes while the four space aliens, perfectly disguised, get in the car and drive off, presumably to infect the rest of the world. The end.

#12 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2013, 11:29 PM:

Ah, the Project Terror opening.

Project Terror

I remember one time when they lost the opening narration, so they had one staffer announce in a boring monotone:

"Project Terror, where the scientific and the terrifying emerge."

#13 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 12:01 AM:

With digital cameras, it is now practical for anyone to do their own stop motion, because you no longer have to pay for film.

#14 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 12:19 AM:

# 11 Jim: That actually sounds like a pretty cool movie. I'd like to see it sometime.

I am unable to turn up the stop-motion brain monster British SF movie. I thought I had it in my DVD collection, but either it never got filed or it got lost in a move. Now I'm tired and hungry and need to eat supper and go to bed. But c'mon, stop-motion brain monsters with spinal cords! Somebody must know! I didn't dream it.

#15 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 12:46 AM:

I remember the brains with spinal cords monster movie. As described. No help otherwise.

Did I confabulate them having googly eyes?

#16 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 12:55 AM:

#14 HP: If it helps any, it was in black-and-white, and the title was "The Mysterious...." something (but not "Island"). I'm certain that what happened was the distributor shipped the wrong print.

#17 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 02:05 AM:

PJEvans @2: San Francisco peninsula? (11 was the San Jose channel, which is what drops it to the south....)

#18 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 02:07 AM:

P.J Evans @2, Tom W. @17: Yeah, that sounds like what I grew up with. I lived in Berkeley where we didn't get channel 11, but did get UHF channel 44 from San Francisco.

#19 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 02:11 AM:

oldster, that was lovely.

#20 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 03:51 AM:

Sad news.

One of the first movies I saw at the cinema was a re-release of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (not the actual first movie, which was Thunderbird 6.

I later saw The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Wrath of the Titans at the cinema, too, during their first runs.

I have several of these on DVD, but my philistinic children roll their eyes at the special effects, and prefer the recent CGI remake of Wrath of the Titans (which is not as bad as some reviews make it out to be).

Same children are looking forward to Star Trek: Into Darkness, but nearly died laughing the other day when we watched the original series episode with the Horta (and this is the DVD version with all new space effects!).

#21 ::: Ralph Robert (Rob) Moore ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 06:44 AM:

Jim, that movie was The Day Mars Invaded the Earth (1963). Actually not too bad as I remember, but of course it would be disappointing if you were expecting Harryhausen.

#22 ::: Dave H ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 08:48 AM:

I think my favourite was Jack the Giant Killer. Haven't seen any of them for years...

#23 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 09:36 AM:

Ralph Robert (Rob) Moore #21:

Yep, that sounds like it! Now I wonder why I remembered it as British....

Back to Mysterious Island (which, alas, I still haven't seen), one of the user reviews says,

"...stop-motion isn't an effects technique. It's an art form. If you can't enjoy it for it's own sake, then you can't enjoy it.


"We go to a Harryhausen film for Harryhausen, just as we go to a Chaplin film for Chaplin. If you came in for some other reason, then you picked the wrong movie."

#24 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 11:05 AM:

Dave H @ 21... "Jack" was animated by Jim Danforth though, not by Harryhausen.

#25 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 11:21 AM:

Oldster, may I have permission to quote #6 on my journal? (And if so, how would you prefer I attribute it?)

#26 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 11:57 AM:

Elise @25--

How sweet! I am very touched that you would like to quote it. When you do, could you clean up the second line? I realized later that it has too many feet--my bad ear for meter. Revise however you like.

Attribution should go to Ben Franklin, who gave me the idea for an epitaph that puns on livelihood of the deceased. You remember his, right?
"The Body of B. Franklin, printer
Like the Cover of an old Book
Its Contents torn out
And stripped of its Lettering & guilding
Lies here food for worms
For, it will as he believed appear once more
In a new and more elegant edition
Corrected and improved by the Author."

I wonder if there are even older versions of that joke?

#27 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 11:59 AM:

Yup. We didn't get 11 until we moved over the ridge to San Jose - we'd been to the east, where even the UHF channels could get snow.
We got color TV - and cable - in time to see all those lovely pictures of Jupiter come in. (Live unprocessed feed from NASA: the wow factor was impressive.)

#28 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 12:47 PM:

"It's. An." --he paused-- "iL-LUS-ion!" And guffawed,
delighted and perplexed at my belief,
"you really thought those mannequins, this fraud,
had life and being? moved, and--? Oh, good grief!
There's no persisting entity--each frame
was built around a different blob of clay
that holds a pose. Does each one have a name?
Well, why not? Call that 'Bob'! And that one 'Ray'!
Each lives no longer than a shutter flash,
Inside your eyes a thousand flickers merge.
The clay goes back to earth, or burns to ash
A trick of lighting makes the 'Rays' converge.
No; none of it endures. But here's the deal:
the kids out in the audience? They're real."

#29 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 12:50 PM:

In the 1970s/'80s, my parent's house was a bad TV paradise. In addition to the three majors and PBS, twice, we had Metromedia on 5 and the locus classicus of reruns, Channel 20 in DC, plus 45 in Balto. They later added 54 to all that. Now digital/UHF has pretty much trashed our TV reception. I personally didn't see much Harryhausen at the time but I saw all his Japanese competitors at length.

And a comment on color, TV, and movies: It wasn't until I was close to forty that I realized that Dorothy Gale's pinafore was a gingham check. I might have been thirty before I knew it was even blue.

#30 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 12:53 PM:

As long as some of us here are in search of old horror movies, does anyone know the name of the one where the aliens are floating eyeballs? I saw it years ago on WTVN's "Chiller Theater."

Bless Channel 10 -- Flippo the Clown aired movies every afternoon from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. That was where I saw the Douglas Fairbanks "Thief of Baghdad" for the first time. Between that and "Chiller" I got to see most of Harryhausen's films and some wonderful pirate movies too.

(Dare I admit that I'm old enough to remember when American Bandstand was on for two hours every afternoon?)

#31 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 01:05 PM:

Lori, the first movie I'd check for that would be Jack Arnold's It Came From Outer Space (1953). That one was good enough that it would stick with you.

On other themes -- we didn't get a color TV 'til I was in high school.

#32 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 01:19 PM:

Jim Macdonald (31): We didn't get a color TV until I was in college, and I'm younger than you are. In related news, I didn't realize that Sam the Eagle was blue until I was in college. I had always thought he was yellow.
In Atlanta, the old-movie station was Channel 17. When I was in high school, it was bought out by a fellow who eventually took it national. You might have heard of him, his name was Ted Turner.

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 01:31 PM:

For signing the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, and the Medicare Act, LBJ gets a pass from me, Jim.*

Mary Aileen #32: The only time I've seen the Ted he was in tears listening to our university's choir.

* I have good friends who served in Vietnam and, in consequence, have other opinions. Their worst anger, however, is reserved for Tricky Dick and Henry the K.

#34 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 01:32 PM:

I'm pretty sure my parents didn't get a color TV until I was in college.

#37 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 05:29 PM:

I don't remember brains with googly-eyes, and I don't think it was British, but I think that in the last scene of The Fiend Without a Face, the, er, faceless fiends reveal themselves to be disembodied brains . . . of course, I was about six the first (and last) time I saw that movie, and I seem to remember describing them to other people later as "giant invisible mittens that ate people," so I could be remembering pretty much everything incorrectly.

#38 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 05:32 PM:

Well, I'll be--just did a quick google, and The Fiend Without a Face is indeed British, and the brains had both stems and googly eyes! How about that? One of the three horror movies I've seen in my entire life, and it may be the right one!

#39 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 06:45 PM:

I didn't have a color TV in my home until 1987. My then roommate got one just in time for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

#40 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 07:08 PM:

In 2004 the Eastman Museum named Ray Harryhausen a 'George Eastman Honorary Scholar'. For the event, a showing of 'Jason and the Argonauts' was scheduled, with Harryhausen speaking afterwards (tickets $10). An unannounced speaker before the movie was Phil Tippett, who was accompanying Harryhausen to present his award (in a Cinefex feature on Phil Tippett's career in 2010, he describes his friendship with Harryhausen and mentions this event). At the end of the event, Harryhausen signed posters, books, laserdisc and VHS covers for members of the audience. I didn't bring any such thing, but I did get his and Tippett's signature on my ticket stub (said stub was about the size of an index card).

Several years ago, I was putting together a portfolio page with descriptions of animation and modeling projects on my Time Warner homepage — with links to YouTube for the actual animations. Here is the description of a dancing skeletons project, and the corresponding YouTube link. This had got more attention than any of my other projects — because, skeletons, I imagine.

Also more dislikes — I figure from people who know square-dancing, and know this isn't it, and maybe people who think I'm abusing hip-hop dancing (which was the source of the motion capture).

At one point, Phil Tippett's website had a skeleton homage on Harryhausen's birthday — skeletons wearing party hats which collapsed into a pile of bones spelling out 'Happy Birthday Ray' (can't find a link just now, sorry).

On the topic of TV movies, in the 60s we had 3 channels. One of the stations regularly showed SF and horror movies in the afternoons after school. A couple of movies would be shown Saturday afternoons, and one or two more Saturday nights.

The demise of this charming custom I blame on Ronald Reagan and his administration loosening the FCC regulations. When station owners needed to have content to embed their commercials in, there was an incentive to show these old movies. When they were allowed to show commercials in half-hour blocks, so long to all of that.

#41 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 07:10 PM:

My husband didn't have a color TV when he was growing up; his father was colorblind and saw no sense in spending more money for a worse (to him) picture. I'll never forget watching the annual rerun of The Wizard of Oz in a dormroom at college, and my (eventual) husband turning to the rest of us viewers with a tone of mild bemusement half an hour into the picture. "Isn't this movie in black and white....?"

#42 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 09:27 PM:

I remember I had a DVD of King Kong with Harryhausen doing a commentary on the animation on the optional soundtrack. There is a moment in the Empire State Building scene where Harryhausen says "In this shot Fay Wray is being projected onto a card" and for a moment you can see King Kong's hand slip behind the card. It's a little rough around the edges but it still captivated the audience.

#43 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 10:28 PM:

My Color TV Deprived Childhood story:

My parents didn't get a color set until the mid to late 70s.

As a geek in a geek-culture-deprived decade, I watched anything remotely fantastic. This included the 60s TV version of Batman. Somewhere along the way I watched the flabby, low-budget Batman movies. In one of these, the villain kidnaps a dozen or more UN diplomats by zapping them with a devices that reduces them to powder.

By the end of the episode the vials of powder are retrieved and set out in a conference room, where a device simultaneously drips sufficient water into the vials. The diplomats appear and immediately begin arguing. Batman and Robin crack a joke that didn't really make sense. End of movie.

Fast forward to the mid 80s. I'm in the college SF club, BSing with friends about the 60s Batman.

And I learn that the diplomats at the end of that movie had been reconstituted with red, blue, green, and etcetera skin.

#44 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 10:39 PM:

I seem to recall the joke being that the diplomats were all suddenly arguing in different languages than the ones they'd originally been speaking (i.e., their speech centres had got swapped around while they were in powdered form.)

#45 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 10:40 PM:

Speaking of CGI skeletons, I have been in a fruitless search for an animation of running skeletons and robot lions that was in the SIGGRAPH 1984 demo reel. I think it was done by a company called Toyo Links but I am not sure.

#46 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 10:43 PM:

One of my favourite making-of featurettes is the one that comes with Army of Darkness (AKA Evil Dead III, Bruce Campbell Vs. the Army of Darkness, Mediaeval Dead,, etc). Sam Raimi and the effects-makers mostly had to use puppets and stuntwomen in costumes for the movie's skeleton army, but at one point they point out that the skulls have all been sculpted with brow ridges modeled on the children of the hydra's teeth in Jason and the Argonauts.

#47 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 10:51 PM:

I'm of the opinion that the Terminator's skull in the first Terminator movie bore a resemblance to the skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts.


Back in New York, it seemed to me that every time Channel 11 couldn't find a film for their Creature Feature they showed Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. They showed it a lot. It wasn't that good the first time....

#48 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2013, 11:39 PM:

I know someone who was in Siggraph and have put out a request.

#49 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2013, 09:04 AM:

Erik Nelson writes in #45:

Speaking of CGI skeletons, I have been in a fruitless search for an animation of running skeletons and robot lions that was in the SIGGRAPH 1984 demo reel. I think it was done by a company called Toyo Links but I am not sure.

Is this the film you want? "Osaka University Computer Graphics Research Group along with Toyo Links Corporation... Bio-Meta Team" presents "Bio-Sensor" (1984), along with a 1988 parody of it by Fantom, "Sio-Benbor." Don't skip the parody.

"Bio-Sensor" mostly features a motion-capture mechanical tiger, walking along an endless mirrored plain. Eventually it gets to a truncated pyramid. I won't spoil the plot, because there isn't much to spoil!

At one point the tiger acquires ghostly flesh by "blobby modeling." With hindsight, one can glimpse a thousand CGI creatures descended from this one in the decades to follow.

I was at the 1984 SIGGRAPH in Minneapolis, serving as a superannuated gopher-- though I don't recall anything about this particular film.

I believed that the theater where the SIGGRAPH annual films were shown was the coolest room in the entire world on that night. And I have had no reason to revise that opinion since. It was clear to me that computer animation would be big, someday.

Another notch of coolness was achieved because on one of the nights of the conference, we filed into the Omnimax domed theater at the Science Museum of Minnesota. A small number of research groups had submitted films to be rendered on the gigantic sideways 70mm frames used by an Omnimax projector, with its nearly-hemispherical lens system. For a while, we were surrounded by computer-generated images. Glorious.

#50 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2013, 10:18 AM:

Jim Macdonald @ 47...

How can you say such awful things about Bert I. Gordon?
Last week's meeting of the SF club included the showing of Bert's "Village of Giants", which featured Tommy Kirk in hot pants, Beau Bridges in an improvised peplum, and, hey, that's Bladerunner's Tyrell as the sheriff.

#51 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2013, 02:25 AM:

I trust all the fans of Jenny Agutter from "Logan's Run" have noticed that she's playing Sister Julienne in "Call the Midwife" on PBS.

#52 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2013, 07:31 AM:

Linkmeister @ 51... And *I* trust that fans of Jenny Agutter noticed that she was in Joss Whedon's "Avengers".

#53 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2013, 09:52 AM:

My college friend Jeff Warner recalls Harryhausen's visit to I-Con 20:

'I was there too. He was tall and instantly recognizable. He pulled behind him a smallish green or brown roll-y suitcase, about a foot and a half by two feet. Completely mundane and i had wondered why he had brought his luggage from the hotel. He gave his slide show talk in one of the smaller lecture halls in Javits, and then invited everybody to gather around the bag he had put on a table next to the lectern. Unzipping it and taking off a few layers of black silk, he pointed down and said "That's the Medusa."

"A model?" somebody asked.

"No. that's the Medusa."

(As in: straight from the set, in living color, CAMERA ORIGINAL.)

My hair stood on end.

Next to the Medusa was a skeleton, or should i say a Skeleton! from the landmark fight sequence in "Seventh Voyage of Sinbad." If i remember correctly he didn't take them out of the bag but everybody gathered around and looked in.

Afterwards a security guy and i watched that nondescript bag like a hawk, and i marveled at how ordinary it looked and how priceless it's contents were. The Lead Curator at the Smithsonian would have gibbered and drooled with joy at the thought of adding those national treasures to the collection.

I-Con Memories,
Jeff TheSmofThatTalks W.'

#54 ::: Stefan Jones, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2013, 09:53 AM:

I posted a friend's account of a visit to I-Con by Harryhausen.

Go figure.

[The word "I" uncapitalized. -- Moroi Risoe, Duty Gnome]

#55 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2013, 04:57 PM:

Oh, Harryhausen & stop motion; one of my great loves in film. I saw "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" on a b&w TV when I was maybe 14, and loved it*. When I came to study film, and animation in particular, it was clear, to me anyhow, that he was one of the 3 great stopmotion artists of the 20th Century, along with Mike Jittlov and Norman Maclaren (the latter two, oddly, are not even mentioned in the Wikipedia Article on stopmotion animators).

* I didn't have a color TV until after I left the Army, and spent my spare time that summer building one.

#56 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2013, 04:58 PM:


Both those poems are lovely. Thank you for them.

#57 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2013, 05:07 PM:

Bruce Cohen @55: you wouldn't include Tim Burton in the list of great stop-motion animators? I would.

#58 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2013, 09:42 PM:

My spouse saw the contents of that outwardly non-descript bag in Toronto, a few years ago.

#59 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2013, 10:52 PM:

Will Vinton, anybody?

#60 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 12:17 AM:

Hmm. Wikipedia claims to have a List of stop-motion artists, but it's a mess. "Disney" (no first name) is included for very minor work and Mike Jittlov's name is buried within Disney's entry. Worse, Art Clokey's name is misspelled "Klokey" and is inexplicably embedded within Jules Bass's paragraph. For some reason, Jim Danforth does not rate his own list entry either.

I am not familiar with Lou Bunin's work, but I am suspicious of this sentence:

Another early stop motion piece by Bunin, also in the 1930s was Bury the Axis, a short, satiric film about World War II probably commissioned for the US Government as a WPA grant.

Perhaps one of Fragano's students spends his or her spare time editing animation articles on Wikipedia.

I'm afraid to look at "List of stop motion films."

#61 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 12:46 AM:

It's not bad. Whoever put that page together seems to have known what they were doing.

#62 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 01:00 AM:

Last weekend I bought a DVD at Goodwill grandiosely titled "SCI-FI: The Greatest Sci-Fi Cartoons of All Time."

There are two Fleischer Superman cartoons, which are indeed gems, but most of the rest are ludicrously bad. A heavy handed public service cartoon about a dragon who refuses to smoke in spite of heavy peer pressure. An episode of "DoDo, The Kid from Outer Space," and another of "Colonel Bleep." An George Pal Puppetoon featuring a embarrassing racial stereotype.

But . . . it's got a genuinely cute and well done Ray Harryhausen short, "King Midas."

I really enjoyed watching that tonight. Thanks, Ray. You really cared about your art.

#63 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 07:22 AM:

Hey oldster at #6 - I'm a bit late to the party, but that was rather fine.

#64 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 07:51 AM:

Harryhausen came out to Australia a decade or so ago, sponsored by a local animation festival. We went to a screening of Jason and the Argonauts (or was it Sindbad? - it's the one with the famous skeleton swordsmen) which was shown right after a talk by Harryhausen.

I was more than surprised to have him turn up in Melbourne, and felt privileged to see him.

#65 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 03:04 PM:

We own Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts, and our kids love them. The CT remake takes every chance it was handed to out-Harryhausen Harryhausen and flushes it right down the dumper.

It's a D&D adventure log from a gaming group I wouldn't want to join; the kind that regards gurlz as weird alien beings from another plane of reality, for one. Also the DM is so in love with the Warforged (magic-based androids, for those who don't play) that he even tried to shoehorn them into his Greek myths campaign . . . by putting them in turbans and caftans. And don't ask why they ride giant scorpions, theyjustdoooo. OTOH, he is trying to top the last guy to run a campaign using this setting, which is why he borrows the other DM's cool idea for a mechanical owl just so he can make fun of it; real mature there, yep. Did I mention that he is also very Grim! Dark! and Serious! so that he portrays everything as Grim! Dark! and Serious!, even the weather in Greece? Plus the players can't speak in character even with a copy of Bulfinch open on the table, so they talk like angry guys in a spy flick. And the guy playing Perseus wants everybody to know that he has a high'n'tight manly haircut like a high'n'tight red-blooded manly hero, not like those Greeks, we all know what they were.

#66 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 03:37 PM:

"I was partial to tragedy in my youth. That was before experience taught me that life was tragic enough without my having to write about it."

I think Burgess Meredith's Ammon was my favorite character in "Clash of the Titans".

#67 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 09:38 PM:

The big skeleton fight was in Jason and the Argonauts, but I'm pretty sure there was a one-on-one skeleton fight in at least one other Harryhausen movie.

#68 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2013, 11:56 PM:

"Sinbad" had one skeleton. (And Bing Crosby's future wife.)
"Jason" had seven.

#69 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 07:50 PM:


I believe the real animation genius behind Burton's films was Henry Selick, now at Laika here in Portland (the studio Phil Knight of Nike ripped off from Will Vinton). I agree he's very good, but IMO the three I named are the ones most responsible for creating and extending the techniques and art of stop motion. I could name a lot of others who were great, including Lotte Reiniger (paper doll animation), Will Vinton, George Pal, Jiří Trnka, and Oskar Fischinger, but you have to stop listing somewhere.

Incidentally, one of the great things about stop motion is that it's fun to do. I've done some paper cutout and some clay experiments, and I enjoyed doing them as much as looking at the final result.

#70 ::: Bruce Cohen Speaker to Gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 07:53 PM:

Don't know what I did, but I'll gladly share some of the chicken cacciatore I'm making for dinner.

[Mentioning "Nike," a brand of shoes, makes the gnomes' nose-hairs tingle. -- Norie Boriito, Duty Gnome]

#71 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2013, 05:03 PM:

A couple of years ago, I mentioned Harryhausen's film version of "First Men in the Moon" to Kathe and discovered she had never seen it. We quickly corrected that failing, and went on to watch most of his oeuvre.

Harryhausen made a significant contribution to our culture.

#72 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2013, 07:49 PM:

Oldster @26, I can think of some epitaphs which play on the name, if not the profession itself:

on a Mr. Potter:

Alack and welladay
Potter himself is turned to clay

On a Ms. Fuller:

Here lies Fuller's earth

Stefan Jones @43, I think your memory must be slightly garbled, unless there is an alternate ending to the 1966 Batman movie that I don't know about. What I remember was that the reconstituted diplomats wound up speaking in one another's voices and languages, and Batman's comment was that "this strange mixture" might be the best hope for world peace.

#73 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2013, 09:39 PM:

#72: I got the language bit . . . but they weren't different colors?

Mind you, I'm going on the word of someone else. I don't think I've seen the movie since.

#74 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2013, 09:45 PM:

John M. Burt #72:

My favourite in that line was not occupationally related. It was an epigram on the suicide of a gentleman named Munday:

Hallowed be the Sabaoth, and farewell all worldly pelf,
The week begins on Tuesday for Munday hath hanged himself.

#75 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2013, 01:11 PM:

John @72, Fragano @74

Thanks, that's the kind of stuff I was referring to.

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