The great Ray Harryhausen died on Tuesday. The pioneering animator and special effects artist visited us at the Dryden Theatre nine years ago this month to receive the George Eastman Honorary Scholar award. The house was sold out for this very special event. Harryhausen was a major influence on virtually every science fiction and fantasy filmmaker of the last 60 years. It was his imagination that created some of the most memorable and beloved creatures in the history of cinema.
Beginning with THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD he conceived ideas, drew conceptual artwork, supervised all animation sequences and served as co-producer of all his films. As John Landis pointed out in a Dryden interview only one week earlier, this fact makes Harryhausen that rare non-director to earn the designation of an auteur. It’s the realization of Harryhausen’s vision that you’re witnessing when you watch CLASH OF THE TITANS or JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. Those are his films.
Harryhausen was generous when he visited the Dryden. He signed autographs, posed for pictures and answered questions. His sense of humor put the audience at ease when he said
“Some people call me a geek. I don’t know what that means, but I guess it’s a compliment.”
He said that he will always be grateful to Kodak. When he got out of the Army he took with him 1000 feet of outdated Kodachrome stock that was going to be thrown out. He decided to try shooting some fairy tales and the color “still looks beautiful after all these years.”
It was the beginning of a legendary career in the movies.