On special effects & Jason and the Argonauts

Posted by David Konow

Ray Harryhausen, one of the geniuses of modern special effects and film geek icon, recently turned 91 years old. 

Harryhausen is the master of stop motion animation, which for those who aren't effects inclined, means animating a model a frame at a time. 

On special effects and Clash of the TitansHarryhausen didn't invent this innovation, but he did it marvelously throughout this career in such films as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Mysterious Island, One Million Years B.C., Jason and the Argonauts, and his swan song, Clash of the Titans.
Harryhausen's work has been a huge inspiration to many film fans turned pro, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, Tim Burton, make-up master Rick Baker, and many, many others. Harryhausen himself was blown away seeing the original King Kong in 1933, and remained determined to follow in its footsteps.
Certainly compared to today's technology, stop motion animation may seem special effects 101, but as critic Dave Kehr wrote in the New York Times, "Harryhuasen's work retained a disarmingly personal, handmade touch, a grain of humanity so often missing from the seamless, sophisticated computer generated images of today."

Funny enough, using stop motion animation in a movie can actually be more expensive than using CGI, because stop motion takes up more time.

Supposedly Tim Burton wanted the aliens in Mars Attacks to be stop motion as a nod to Harryhausen, but did them CGI because it cost less.

"Each segment took a different length of time," Harryhausen says. "From one month to four months."
Harryhausen's greatest moment in FX?

"I'm proud of all my work," he says. "But I suppose the skeleton sequence in Jason and the Argonauts gives me the greatest satisfaction. It was certainly the most time-consuming and elaborate sequence I ever designed."

As far as today's CGI effects, Harryhausen also says, "Nothing has changed in the last 70 years except the sophistication of the technology. The real question one must always ask is: Does the film work as entertainment or not? If it doesn't work, all the expensive technology in the world won't make a difference."
Looking back on his influence, Harryhausen says, "I'm very proud and happy that my work has had such a profound influence on such important filmmakers as Spielberg, Lucas and Jackson, not to mention the dozens of special effects and makeup artists who have told me that I was their inspiration. It's very gratifying to know that one's efforts have been appreciated."