Ray Harryhausen, 1920–2013


Concept art for Jason and the Argonauts (1963).

He could also draw, something the obituaries won’t necessarily mention. I wasn’t aware of Ray Harryhausen’s many detailed preliminary drawings until I had the good fortune to see him give a talk at the Preston SF Group in the early 1990s. I recall mention being made of Gustave Doré as an influence, something that wasn’t so surprising given that Harryhausen’s animation career began with Willis O’Brien, animator of the original Kong. The Skull Island sets for King Kong owed much to Doré’s illustrations, and the film also made use of equally detailed preliminary drawings by O’Brien, Byron Crabbe and Mario Larrinaga.

I was going to link to Jason and company’s celebrated fight with the skeletons but the only clips on YouTube at the moment lack Bernard Herrmann’s superb score. The Harryhausen/Schneer films always had low budgets but the producers understood the importance of music, and employed Herrmann on four of their films: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960), Mysterious Island (1961) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Miklós Rózsa provided the score for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) so here’s a favourite moment from that film with John Philip Law and Martin Shaw tackling Tom Baker’s sword-wielding Kali statue.

Ray Harryhausen’s production drawings can be seen in The Art of Ray Harryhausen (2005).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Swords against death

4 thoughts on “Ray Harryhausen, 1920–2013”

  1. Me and a few contemporaries have been reminiscing about those amazing days long ago before CGs watching Jason and the Argonauts and how that thrill has never left us. I imagine a young Nick Park must have felt the same and as Peter Jackson has said ‘We (meaning modern fantasy film makers) are standing on the shoulders of giants…’ RIP Ray Harryhausen who literally modelled a generations imagination…

  2. My favorite film growing up. Great music, great special effects, great acting, and great story line. Thanks for sharing Harryhausen’s drawings!

  3. Thanks for putting Brother Ray in context, the Preston SF Group sounds like a forward thinking association.

    So much of this culture which you highlight and put within a historical context is currently mired in the morass of fandom.

    Will anyone give a damn about who designed/ visualised Game Of Thrones or jacksons trilogy of tripe? More to the point, should anyone care?

  4. Dave: I think Nick Park is on record as saying how much he admired Harryhausen’s work.

    Scott: At least one name involved with Jackson’s Tolkien films is well-known, Alan Lee, who’s been a fantasy illustrator for decades. The difference with films today and Harryhausen’s productions is that no one is involved any more to the degree Harryhausen was. He was the instigator of each project (with Charles Schneer), the co-producer, and would have been involved with the writing and general production design in addition to animating everything himself. The division of labour in the Hollywood system doesn’t allow that kind of multi-tasking any more. If you work on a film today your credit is buried in a list with a hundred other names, so whoever the conceptual artist might be few people notice they were involved.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from { feuilleton }

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading