Guest Author - Amber Grey
From Mighty Joe Young to the Cyclops in "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" (1958), to the incredibly lifelike skeleton soldiers in "Jason and the Argonanuts" (1963), Ray Harry Hausen is known as one of the chief visionaries of special effects in film history.
Now, he is considered the father of stop-motion animation, but it all started when Ray was a young boy, utterly fascinated by dinosaurs and all kinds of fantastical creatures. The first time time he saw dinosaurs was due to seeing "The Lost World" (1925). From then on, he was hooked and his family encouraged his passion - taking him to museums, marionette shows and to the movies. In fact, he shared his love for monsters with his father. The moment Ray was introduced to models was while in school when his class learned model miniature set pieces, that he developed his skills in creating three dimensional figures and sets.
When Ray was a teenager, another film inspired him to further his dedication and that "King Kong" (1933). After seeing the film, the burning question was, 'How did they make the figures move?' It lead Ray to investigate and research, finding what the studios used was stop-motion animation. However, he was able to meet his idol and creator of the stop motion animation effects for "King Kong", William O'Brien, who encouraged him to do whatever he could to improve his skills. As Ray described, "I took courses at USC in film editing and art direction and photography when I was still in high school."
Ray once explained, "I had to do everything because I couldn't find another kindred soul. Now you see eighty people listed doing the same things I was doing myself." A lot of times, the only other person Ray would see while working on a project was the electrician for safety precautions. The rest was left up to Ray including the lighting and the sets. As for the construction of his models, his father helped machine the mechanical armatures and his mother helped with certain textures on the projects.
One of the main things that Ray always tried to focus on was the character of the animation, to make sure that the animation had a life of its own and that that it did not move in a mechanical way. In an interview with "Animation World Magazine", Ray admitted that it was hard working with flying saucers for "Earth vs The Flying Saucers" (1956) because, in his own words, "...Just a metal disc. I had to try and put character in it as if they were intelligently guided."
Today, Ray has since considered himself retired from the motion picture industry. He now lives in London and partakes in his own foundation, "The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation" to preserve his work for future generations.