01/02/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Aurum Press. 192 page illustrated indexed hardback. Price: GBP30.00 (UK) ISBN: 978-1-84513-557-7.
check out website: www.aurumpress.co.uk
When I was young, I remember pulling Ray Harryhausen’s ‘The Film Fantasy Scrapbook’ from the local library on a rainy afternoon and got totally lost in it for a few hours. Now, nearly forty years later, this book is practically a companion piece, although because of the modern age, is in full colour and with sharper pictures throughout. I suspect in the years to come, this book could become equally rare.
In many respects, stop-animation combined with live-action is something of a rarity on the cinema screen these days and Ray Harryhausen having contributed to fourteen films is a legend, even among current day animators let alone amongst the rest of us who admire his work and patience as he worked alone.
We should also be grateful that Harryhausen shares a trait with us genre fans in not getting rid of anything, although his collection was stored in a variety of garages across the world. The material used in this particular book was sorted out from his California garage. Makes you wonder what’s in his other garages.
Looking at the discoveries here, for Jim Danforth and Randall Cook (stop-animators themselves), it must have seemed like they’d found Aladdin’s cave with illustrations, letters and models. Harryhausen demonstrates how good an artist he is, as well as the motivation behind the kind of plots he wanted to animate. Apart from the main fourteen films here, there is also material from some more stillborn films that didn’t make it so you really are getting a look at all aspects of Harryhausen’s career and is a real jaw-dropping treasure trove. Seeing some of his early models here, there is an amazing development jump from his early models to his later ones. We know that Willis O’Brien had advised him on animal anatomy but the change is more startling with his human models. His humanoid fox looked so good that I scouted around to see if Harryhausen’s early shorts were available. They are. Expect a review of that DVD next month.
What this book reveals is just how good an artist Harryhausen is in his own right and his ability to ensure that the animated figures emerge from his designs. There are also some of Willis O’Brien’s paintings on pages 36-37 as well which must surely have been a find in themselves.
Picking out favourites here is harder than choosing films. There is so much here that gives an insight not only into Harryhausen but also how a film back then was put together. Aurum have three other books and this is the fourth in that series. I suspect if you only buy this book, you’ll be aching to look at the rest. It is no wonder that modern animators are in awe of Ray Harryhausen. Looking at the contents of this book will make you an instant fan and chaining it to your coffee table so your ‘friends’ don’t walk home with it. A really stupendous book.
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