“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.” — Terry Gilliam.
“The climax of the film is the battle with the children of the Hydra’s teeth. When Acetes catches up with Jason he scatters the teeth while calling on the forces of darkness to avenge him of the crime. From out of the ground appear armed skeletons. In the legend it is rotting corpses, but we thought this would give the film a certificate that might have barred children, so we decided on seven skeletons.
Each of the model skeletons was about eight to 10 inches high, and six of the seven were made for the sequence. The remaining one was a veteran from The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, slightly repainted to match the new members of the family. When all the skeletons have manifested themselves to Jason and his men, they are commanded by Acetes to “Kill, kill, kill them all”, and we hear an unearthly scream. What follows is a sequence of which I am very proud. I had three men fighting seven skeletons, and each skeleton had five appendages to move in each separate frame of film. This meant at least 35 animation movements, each synchronised to the actors’ movements. Some days I was producing less than one second of screen time; in the end the whole sequence took a record four and a half months.
How do you kill skeletons? We puzzled over this for some time and, in the end, opted for simplicity by having Jason jump off the cliff into the sea, followed by the skeletons. It was the only way to kill off something that was already dead, and besides, we assumed that they couldn’t swim. After filming a stuntman jump into the sea, the prop men threw seven plaster skeletons off the cliff, which had to be done correctly on the first take as we couldn’t retrieve them. To this day there are, somewhere in the sea near that hotel on the cliff edge, the plaster bones of seven skeletons.”
© Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton 2003. This is an edited extract from Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life by Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton, published by Aurum Press. (Courtesy of The Guardian)
I can’t begin to elaborate on the impact Ray Harryhausen had on my childhood. But I suppose I must start somewhere. To do this justice, here are a few on the glowing tributes pouring in from masters of the cinematic universe, of whom very little would be written about, were it not for Mr. Harryhausen’s imagination and influence.
“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much. Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS.”
“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’. Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least.”
“In my mind he will always be the king of stop-motion animation.”
“His legacy of course is in good hands because it’s carried in the DNA of so many film fans.”
“You know I’m always saying to the guys that I work with now on computer graphics ‘do it like Ray Harryhausen’.”
“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.”
“Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever.”
“I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”
(quotes courtesy of the Harryhausen family)
Today the eulogy will be given by Brother Phil Plait, Astronomy and Lecture, creator of Bad Astronomy.
“There is a hypothesis—out of favor now, but it had its heyday—that the universe was cyclical. Big Bang, expansion, slowing, stopping, shrinking, Big Crunch … and then kaboom, another Big Bang, and here we go again. Art imitates life. The TV show Futurama exploded in to the geek community, rose in popularity, then was canceled. Then it was reborn, only to be canceled again. And then for a second time it was reborn from its ashes. But this cycle may be the last. Perhaps it’s entropy. Perhaps it’s a network executive who thinks Scruffy hits too close to home…”
For the rest of the sermon, and other lectures, attend Bad Astronomy at Slate.com.
“In a book called “Saucerful of Secrets: a Pink Floyd Odyssey” it’s (sic) briefly told about a situation, when film-maker Stanley Kubrick was making “2001: a Space Odyssey”, he asked the band to contribute to the soundtrack. Obviously, they turned him down. Apparently, Roger Waters later admitted, that this was one of the few career moves he ever made that he truly regret. “2001: A Space Odyssey” was released in 1968, and “Meddle” with Echoes in 1971.” –BGawcio
In Memoriam: Roger Ebert (1942-2013)
“When I was eleven or twelve…I was reading all the prozines–Analog, F&SF, Galaxy, If, Infinity, Imagination, Imaginative Tales, Fantastic Universe . . . see how I can still name them. I waited impatiently for the installments of Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity in ASF. Emsh and Freas, tiny signatures at the bottom of the covers, began to mean a lot to me–and Chesley Bonestell on F&SF, of course. I have hundreds of mags in a closet even now, all with a little sticker on the inside cover that says Roger Ebert’s Science Fiction Collection. Every five years or so, in the middle of another task, I’ll look at them and a particular cover will bring memory flooding back like a madeleine. The cover of If, for example, illustrating the story about a toy that zapped paper clips into the fourth dimension–and what happened when they started leaking back into this one. I bought the Ballantine paperbacks by Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Sheckley, and the Ace Doubles by Murray Leinster and Eric Frank Russell. I bought the anthologies by Groff Conklin and H.L. Gold and the legendary John W. Campbell, Jr. I founded the Urbana High School Science Fiction Club; we rented “Destination Moon” and showed it in the auditorium, we went to a speech on the campus by Clarke and got his autograph, and we made a tape recording of H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, complete with sound effects and a performance by my classmate Dave Stiers, who later became David Ogden Stiers of M*A*S*H.”
–Roger Ebert, “Thought Experiments” Asimov’s Science Fiction
No film critic understood science fiction better than Roger Ebert. As a young boy growing up in Illinois he was taken in by the science fiction of John W. Campbell, among others. When films like 2001: A Space Odyssey hit theaters in 1968, his approach to its unique narrative was intelligent and apropos. Today, word has come that Roger has succumbed to the cancer that has dogged him for over ten years. Film literature has taken a devastating hit.
Enjoy the other side, Roger.