The first recollection I have of Ray Harryhausen is watching the Mother Goose short “Little Red Riding Hood” I remember being absolutely entranced by the characters, especially their quirky, cartoonish takes on the human face; their large eyes, well rounded cheeks and curved mouths making their expressions a little cheeky, somewhat mischievous in appearance. I couldn’t have been much older than 6 when I first discovered this world which was, in the most literal form of the word, magical. I would often wake up on a Saturday and run downstairs to put in the disk of his shorts, all of which I had watched multiple times and, in most cases, memorised.
After a while, I borrowed out from the local video library Ray’s original “Mighty Joe Young”. I was, again in awe of Harryhausen’s ability to sculpt a creature and, in a godlike manner, breathe life into this wad of mere clay and wire. This man, in my mind, must have been one of the great geniuses of the world to be able to create such fluid, lifelike motion from an inanimate puppet. This gorilla, maybe because it moved in such a human way or perhaps because it had the trademark Harryhausen semi-cartoonish look, was an incredibly sympathetic character that I could laugh with and cry with as if he were an old friend.
Years later, I got a box set of his best action/fantasy movies for my birthday. In this was “Jason and the Argonauts”, “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”, “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad”, “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger” and “The 3 Worlds of Gulliver”. I was, as you can imagine, ecstatic. I stayed up long nights to live these adventures, to sail the seas and meet the Cyclops, the giant squirrel and the eternal swashbuckling skeletons. These movies were more immersive and more enjoyable than just about any other films that I had and have ever watched. The vivid colours and the exciting action just overwhelmed me.
I was obviously upset when I found out that the great pioneer of animation had passed away. He had a good run. 92 years’ worth of great entertainment for all ages. He was a truly great man in the animation realm; he brought many new animating tactics on to the table. I would like to finish up by saying may you rest in peace you magnificent man. Your work will always be remembered. May you continue to animate in the land hereafter.