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Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life Hardcover – April 1, 2004

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From the writer and director of Knocked Up and the producer of Freaks and Geeks comes a collection of intimate, hilarious conversations with the biggest names in comedy from the past thirty years—including Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Roseanne Barr, Harold Ramis, Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Lena Dunham. Learn more

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's mostly film buffs who will recognize the primary author's name, and they will rush out to buy this first-rate, heavily illustrated guide to the life and, more importantly, the work of arguably the premier special-effects master in Hollywood history. Harryhausen (b. 1920) is the undisputed master of stop-motion photography, the genius behind such memorable fabrications as the T-rex of The Valley of Gwangi, the giant ape of (the original) Mighty Joe Young, the fighting skeletons of Jason and the Argonauts and the giant crab of Mysterious Island. Harryhausen attributes his lifelong devotion to stop-motion to his initial viewing, at age 13, of King Kong ("I can remember every detail of that day quite clearly," he writes in the lengthy and deeply informative text that accompanies the book's hundreds of photos, b&w and color; "...I became obsessed with [the film's] magic"). This obsession led young Harryhausen to his first serious attempt at a movable model, of a cave bear, then to a teen friendship with Ray Bradbury and Forrest J. Ackerman of Famous Monsters of Filmland fame, some mentoring by King Kong effects wizard Willis O'Brien and his first special effects job, with George Pal. The book, co-written with film historian Dalton, goes on to cover each of Harryhausen's major films in tremendous detail, with great attention to the technical side of stop-motion work, making this volume a must for special effects fans, despite the recent computer revolution (which, Harryhausen argues, makes creatures appear "too realistic" and lacking in an essential "dream quality"). Through his work, Harryhausen has brought magic to millions; this terrific book is a fitting capstone to his brilliant career.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

For the past half century Harryhausen has been the foremost practitioner of the craft of stop-motion animation, the cinematic art of meticulously moving models, frame by frame, to create an illusion of motion. Inspired by King Kong, still the ultimate example of the technique, at age 13, Harryhausen soon became the protege of Kong's creator, Willis O'Brien. He progressed to bringing dinosaurs and giant, mutated animals to life in several fondly remembered 1950s horror films and hit his stride in a series of 1960s and 1970s period fantasy films that pitted such legendary heroes as Sinbad and Jason against harpies, centaurs, and, most memorably, sword-fighting skeletons. The advent of Star Wars and other increasingly technologically sophisticated sf movies rendered Harryhausen's painstaking, "homemade" approach prohibitively expensive. Harryhausen's anecdote-filled account of his career offers loads of technical details for those fascinated by specialized minutiae and hundreds of rare drawings and photos from his personal archives. In the age of CGI and digital animation, Harryhausen may be old school, but his art retains its appeal. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Billboard Books; First Edition edition (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823084027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823084029
  • Product Dimensions: 11.5 x 10 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #688,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Sauropod on March 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's all here - behind-the-scenes info on every one of Ray Harryhausen's films, including his early experimental short subjects and unfilmed projects like FOOD OF THE GODS and THE ELEMENTALS. Lots of preproduction sketches and storyboard art, photos of models and miniatures, a reasonable amount of technical detail, and a much more revealing, personal tone than we have heard from Ray before. (But, ever the gentleman, he simply omits mention of any people he disagreed with - like the clueless director of VALLEY OF GWANGI who, rumor has it, tried to get Ray fired from the film! Neither the director's name nor the rumor appears in the text.) There is a respectable number of color photos and a huge assortment of black and white pix, all very well reproduced. Particularly interesting is a section at the end summarizing all the various projects that never made it past the development stage - and there were a lot! Also fascinating is the discussion of how the storylines of the movies changed dramatically through various drafts of the scripts. Giant rats in 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD? A Valley of Vipers in a later Sinbad movie? (Producer Charles Schneer nixed both concepts, the latter because of "some extraordinary idea that it would frighten pregnant women," according to Ray.) My only gripe, and it is minor, is that some of the photos are very, very small. There's a shot of the clay sculture of a Sphinx modeled for the unmade FORCE OF THE TROJANS that is about the size of a postage stamp! Larger would be better, but I can't quibble much with a book that covers so much territory and gives us a glimpse of an era and style of filmmaking that will never be repeated. For those who cherish the hand-crafted excellence of Harryhausen's work, this is a must-buy, and a huge improvement over his much less comprehensive FILM FANTASY SCRAPBOOK.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Claude Avary on April 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Ray Harryhausen towers like a titan over the world of film special effects. This genial genius was the single-handed creator of brilliant, imaginative stop-motion and optical effects on a long series of fantasy movies. The films molded the dreams of many generations of children, writers, special effects technicians, and moviemakers. Harryhausen's best films, like "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," "Jason and the Argonauts," "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad," and "Clash of the Titans" still thrill viewers today. You can feel Harryhausen's personal magic coming through in his creature effects.
This long-awaited book is a great combination of three concepts in one: a beautiful art volume, an artistic biography, and a behind-the-scenes tour of movie effects. Harryhausen himself, along with film archivist and researcher Tony Dalton, guides you through the length of his career, examining everything from his major motion pictures to his short Mother Goose films and work for the military. Each chapter goes into extensive detail on the origins, realization, and aftermath of each of his films. At over 300 massive pages, there is a flood of material here. Learn the tortures of achieving the brilliant skeleton fight from "Jason and the Argonauts!" Find out how cowboys managed to rope a dinosaur in "The Valley of Gwangi!"
Ray Harryhausen comes across as incredibly personable in these pages; it's almost as if he were sitting beside you telling you stories of his achievements, and sometimes taking swipes at himself. (For example, he admits some disappointment with some of the directors, films, and some of his own unfortunate decisions.)
The balance between the pictures and the text is perfect, unlike many other film-art books I've seen.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Gentile on March 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Fans, here is the book we've all been waiting 25 years for. The Crown Prince of stop motion animation has revealed all of his secrets in this 300 plus glossy paged volume with hundreds of color and black and white photos and drawings, many of which have never been seen before.
If you've ever been amazed at how Harryhausen manages to make the sword of his heroes penetrate a stop motion creauture, the secret is here. Harryhausen also reveals some of his favorite scenes, and comments on actors, directors, the Oscars and gives his opinion about some of the current dinosaur blockbusters.
This is head and shoulders above his past release "Film Fantasy Scrapbook". I especially like the movie posters for all of his films in FULL COLOR, but "Animal World" is missing.
Die hard fans will automatically spend the $50 to buy this book, and it is well worth the price. Casual fans might find the price steep, but at Amazon's price, it's a steal!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Computer generated effects are standard in movies now, and any big-budget action film can be expected to have plenty. We didn't always have computers, so the effects such as putting fantasy creatures on the screen, like King Kong, had to be done with meticulous stop-motion filming, whereby a movie frame picture would be made of a model Kong, then the model's arm would be slightly raised, one more frame of the movie shot, and the process repeated until a smooth arm movement could be seen when the entire strip of film ran. It was Willis O'Brien who animated Kong and many other creatures in early movies. It was Kong who inspired Ray Harryhausen to start making stop-motion films. In _Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life_ (Billboard Books), Harryhausen and Timothy Dalton tell the story of Harryhausen's entire career, including his humble beginnings. He was crazy about dinosaurs as a kid, and at the age of thirteen, he was taken by his mother and aunt to see _King Kong_. He studied up on the movie's techniques afterwards, and started making his own movies, first using a home camera that he could merely hope took only one frame at a time when he tapped it, and then purchasing his own 16 mm camera with a one-frame shift. He was one of those lucky kids who knew early what he wanted to do in life, and was able to do it; Harryhausen was the special effects wizard behind _Earth vs. The Flying Saucers_, _Jason and the Argonauts_, and _Clash of the Titans_, among many more. This beautiful book, filled with photographs and drawings to show how the models and effects were made for each of Harryhausen's films (and pictures of the artist's work as a thirteen-year-old as well), is a fascinating record of a career that could only have taken place in a restricted window of time.Read more ›
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