Ray Harryhausen & me
Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013 Tribute – John Cox introduces Ray Harryhausen at the 3rd Brisbane International Animation Festival – 5 May, 2000.John Cox, Ray Harryhausen & Diana Harryhausen at BIAF 2000
‘I am very honored to be here tonight to introduce a man who, unbeknownst to him, was the sole reason for the path my career has taken. Last year (1999) I met Ray Harryhausen for the first time and I was fortunate enough to talk to him for about five minutes .. something which took me 25 years to do. It was only a ‘Hi, love your work’ sort of a talk … there just wasn’t enough time in those 5 minutes to tell him what he had meant to me and how he was the beacon that I had followed.
Well, I’ve got a few more minutes now, so I’ll tell you the story of Ray Harryhausen and me.
When I was 14, living in the southern suburbs of Sydney, there were two things that consumed my every waking moment … magic and Ray Harryhausen. The two went hand in hand.
Ray had the best job in the world and, as a fourteen year old, I decided that his profession was the one I was going to follow. What could be more fun than making monsters come to life? And getting paid to do it?
What I then needed to figure out was … how was it done??
It was easy to get books on magic and find out how the illusions were achieved, but in 1975, finding information on visual effects was extremely difficult. Most of the information I had to work with came from fan magazines, and they didn’t always get the techniques or the facts right. And Ray’s Film Fantasy Scrapbook gave absolutely nothing away, however, it did have great photos that I could study for hours on end.
At this time videos weren’t around, but super 8mm movies were, .. and in order to better study stop motion techniques I bought the 4 x 8 minute parts of the 7th voyage of Sinbad and spliced them together. Every Saturday afternoon for the next three years I watched those 32 minutes of The Seventh voyage of Sinbad and also the 1933 B&W uncut version of King Kong.
These films inspired me to persevere in a field where there was little information available, and the only way to learn was through trial and error – experiment, make mistakes and try again. Using an 8mm camera it took several months before I could successfully walk a plasticene dinosaur from one side of the frame to the other, let alone synchronizing three guys sword fighting with seven skeletons that each have 5 moving appendages.
The deeper I delved into the magical world of special effects, the greater my admiration for Ray Harryhausen became, and the more determined I was to succeed at this choice of a career. Of course my parents always supported me but gently tried to persuade me to study surveying so that I could have a real job to fall back on should things not turn out the way I expected them to.
Well things didn’t turn out the way I expected, in 1977 when I left school stop motion animation was non-existent in Australia and so I had to let go of following directly in Ray’s footsteps. But this didn’t stop me from getting involved in visual effects in other ways.
My story is similar to that of many people who are involved in visual effects today, they all cite one or another of Ray’s films as being the reason for them getting into this industry. Ray has been instrumental in leading a wealth of talent to the visual effects arena.
His job description on each of his films was to be a designer, creator, director, cameraman, technical consultant and often the initial writer, …. and this was before he even began animating and creating all the characters and other visual effects for his films.
During his career Ray has brought to life many mythical characters in many ground breaking films that have themselves become legendary.
And so, without further reminiscing by me, would you please welcome the inspirational Mr Ray Harryhausen.’