A Ray Harryhausen 100th Birthday Celebration

Steve Vertlieb and Ray Harryhausen at Temple University in
1981 during the national “Clash Of The Titans” tour

By Steve Vertlieb: Ray Harryhausen remains one of the most revered figures in fantasy/sci-fi motion picture history. Born June 29, 1920, Ray was not only a childhood hero, but became a dear and cherished friend of nearly fifty years duration. Today fans will commemorate his genius, as well as the joyous centennial of his birth with numerous remembrances, events, and exhibitions in celebration of his 100th birthday throughout the wondrous months ahead.

His work in films inspired and influenced generations of film makers, and garnered him a special Academy Award, presented by Tom Hanks, for a lifetime of cinematic achievement. Steven Spielberg joyously proclaimed that his own inspiration for directing Jurassic Park was the pioneering special effects work of Harryhausen.

Published shortly after his death on May 7, 2013, here is a celebration and loving remembrance of the life and work of cinematic master, and special effects genius, Ray Harryhausen. It is also the tender story of a very special man, as well as an often remarkable personal friendship. I love you, Ray. You filled my dreams, my life, and my world with your wondrous creatures.

In remembrance of this wonderful soul, here is my affectionate tribute to my friend of nearly fifty years, and boyhood hero of interminable recollection and duration…the incomparable stop-motion genius, and Oscar-honored special effects pioneer, Ray Harryhausen.

Journey with me now to a “Land Beyond Beyond” where dreams were born, cyclopean creatures thundered across a primeval landscape, mythological dragons roared in awe struck wonder, and magical stallions ascended above the clouds…Once Upon A Time.  “From the Land Beyond Beyond: An Intimate Personal Remembrance of Ray Harryhausen” at The Thunderchild.

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5 thoughts on “A Ray Harryhausen 100th Birthday Celebration

  1. I swear I really don’t want to start a fight, and there is artistry in CGI, etc, but, man, there’s something magical about those stop-motion figures that is basic to the medium of film.

    Of course, who uses film anymore anyway?

  2. In my mind the magic is that they ARE real. You can’t actually look at countless modern movie monsters/creatures/aliens for the simple fact that they don’t exist except in a computer file, and therein lies a tale.

    Ray Harryhausen came to I-Con at Stony Brook in 2001. I was a Media Guest assistant assigned to escort Mr. Harryhausen around our very large campus to his various appearances. He had with him a small green rolling travel bag that he towed behind him as we walked to the Lecture Center for his presentation. After the talk and slide show was over he invited the few people who stayed behind with questions to come down to the lectern to “see some props”. On a table nearby he had placed the little green case and, unzipping the top, peeled back some layers of foam padding and revealed four stop-motion models. There were two i remember very clearly: The sword-carrying Skeleton was about a foot tall. The Medusa was about the size of a grapefruit. “Are these copies?” i asked. Ray then surprised the heck out of the eight of us there. “No, they’re the real thing.”
    Decades later i can still remember the chill i got. Not copies. Not ‘faithful’ reproductions. The real, original, screen-used Ray Harryhausen maquettes.

    I stared into the eyes of THE Medusa, and came away happy.

    Magic, (movie).

  3. I’m sure George Lucas is a fan. There’s a big bronze statue of Ray Harryhausen, tweaking King Kong’s pose at the top of the Empire State, in the lobby of Industrial Light and Magic.

  4. @Cliff

    There’s a big bronze statue of Ray Harryhausen, tweaking King Kong’s pose at the top of the Empire State, in the lobby of Industrial Light and Magic


    Do you think maybe that this statue is of Willis O’Brien? And that the Harryhausen statue is one of him holding a skeleton?

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