Producer Anna Higgs and I had the absolute pleasure to interview the famous visual effects maestro/stop-motion wizard Ray Harryhausen at his gorgeous home in London today! We talked about visual effects over the last century, his influence on the current generation of filmmakers, and of course, George Lucas. Sitting next to him was the original Medusa puppet from Clash of the Titans and in his lap an original skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts! Medusa was one of my all-time favorite ‘creatures’ from that time period, a frightening interpretation of the deadly Gorgon that turned men to stone with a stare and was equally viscous with a poisoned arrow. So cool!
At almost 90 years of age, Ray is still sharp as a tack when discussing the history of stop-motion animation and visual effects, and shooting an interview with a legend such as himself was quite amazing! It certainly brought me back to my childhood!
For me it was one of those days when you remember how amazing it is to work in this medium. I remember sitting as a little kid, maybe 7, my dad insisting I watched Jason and the Argonauts instead of some cartoon or other, and being mesmerized from the word go. Today, I was lucky enough to be able to reach out and touch one of the skeletons that terrified me so much at that early age. It was just amazing.
More amazing still was Ray’s insight into his world. He was hooked by going to see the original King Kong at the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd., and did everything he could to gain the experience to work in this world – including night school and acting classes so that he could make his models behave more realistically. His biggest message for us was not to forget that films are made to entertain and engage, and whatever form that might take, collaboration between a good story and everything that goes into making the magic of film should never be lost.
A good message for anyone out there looking to make film and one that, as Ray himself said, is all the more important today given the amount of media out there competing for audience’s attention. And the really great thing, Ray, sitting moving the skeleton around in his lap, has lost none of the childlike joy in entertainment that hopefully all of us can find a piece of in ourselves.