“Episode Seven: The Force Awakens” of the Star Wars series has opened to stellar acclaim and mass appeal. The last trilogy of Star Wars films were built largely on special effects, almost exclusively CGI. JJ Abrams the director/producer of this most recent effort decided (in a stroke of brilliance) to return to the original trilogy’s more authentic look of location shots, sound stage and stop motion style of animation employed in the much beloved original trilogy. The undisputed champion of the stop motion technique was the great auteur Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen’s work influenced all of the contemporary giants of fantasy and sci-fi film makers. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Guillmero Del Toro all list Ray Harryhausen among their biggest if not the biggest influence on their approach to special effects and fantastic film making. Harryhausen being a master and artist supreme across genres.
The films of Ray Harryhausen include Earth vs the Flying Saucers, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and the unparalled telling of the Greek myth Jason and the Argonauts. Every one of these films are marvels, viewed and treasured to this day with a worldwide and respected fandom. Harryhausen’s motion art is phenomenal and his drawings and studies are phenomenal as well.
The drawings; though less known of Ray Harryhausen’s achievements, are painstaking gems much in line with nineteenth century text book illustration. His dinosaurs, heroes, fantastic creatures and damsels ring true and make the man’s talent apparent as a supreme artist. His works are without color and give the illusion of fine art printmaking, harkening to an earlier era where color was more of a rarity. The look of the Harryhausen drawings add to their mysticism and their feel is for a time preceding even his own.
Ray Harryhausen films will stand as long as there are those that appreciate motion pictures, mythology, story-telling and art. The same should be true for his drawings. His creatures that date back in time immemorial will live equally far into the future. They enliven both our hearts and our imaginations.