Ray Harryhausen's BAFTA/BFI Birthday Tribute
Posted on Tuesday June 29, 2010, 11:44 by Ian Freer in Empire States
The titans of the film fantasy world came out in force on Saturday night to celebrate stop motion legend Ray Harryhausen on the occasion of his 90th birthday (the actual big day is Tuesday June 29) at a joint birthday bash thrown by BAFTA and the BFI at the BFI Southbank.
Hosted by lifelong fan John Landis with wit, showmanship and a real passion for Harryhausen’s menagerie, the night saw the best of the best of the visual effects community (Dennis Muren, Rick Baker, Phil Tippett, Randy Cook, Ken Ralston), the Aardman troika of Nick Park, Peter Lord, David Sproxton), academics (Sir Christopher Frayling, Rolf Giesen), Harryhausen acting alumni (Gary Raymond and John Cairney from Jason And The Argonauts, Caroline Munro from The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad) line up to pay tribute to the only visual effects artist to become a brand name.
The rapt audience, including Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis and Reece Shearsmith (all soon to be seen under Landis’ direction in Burke And Hare) and directors Edgar Wright, Terry Gilliam and Nic Roeg, were also treated to touching tributes on tape (“because they were too cheap to make the flight,” according to Landis) from George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, John Lasseter (who revealed that the barkeep octopus in Monsters Inc. only has six tentaces in homage to Harryhausen’s creature in It Came From The Beneath The Sea that lost two tentacles to save money), Guillermo del Toro, Tim Burton and James Cameron (who chided Harryhausen for never making Sinbad voyages 1-6). In fact practically the only notable absentee was Bubo the Owl.
Highlights included ILM pioneers Muren, Ralston and Tippett — dubbing themselves The Three Stooges — leading the audience in a rousing version of Happy Birthday (Tippett could give Rolando Vilazon a run for his money in the booming voice stakes); a touching on-video reminiscence from life-long friend Ray Bradbury; and Peter Jackson, presenting Ray with a special BATFA, showing the audience his childhood mash-up of Jason And The Argonauts/The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad, with a 14 year-old Peter duelling with invisible skellingtons in between shots of a mightily impressive stop-frame Cyclops.
Yet perhaps the biggest treat of the night was seeing Harryhausen on such fine form and just watching clip after clip of his timeless genius; from Mighty Joe Young, the rhedosaurus and the Ymir to the Cyclops, Gwangi and Medusa, Harryhausen’s work is not only a deft, inspirational collision of craftsmanship, imagination and storytelling, it is the stuff that dreams are made of captured forged 1/24th of a second at a time.
Ray Harryhausen – Myths and Legends opens at the London Film Museum on Tuesday June 29.
Login or register to comment.
Posted on Tuesday June 29, 2010, 15:24
A fitting tribute to a living legend. Showed my 7 year old son "Jason and the Argonauts" recently. I thought he'd dismiss it because it wasn't "real" enough compared to some CG of today. He sat captivated. As did I!!! Thanks Mr Harryhausen.
Posted on Tuesday June 29, 2010, 16:52
I met him last year at a special screening of Jason and the Argonauts in Bristol. He signed my DVD.
Lovely man, but his assistant was doing all the talking for him and I got the impression that these days, not all his Argoanuts are rowing if you know what I mean.
It didn't matter anyway, it was just so cool to see so many people young and old turning out to meet the man, who has clearly shaped so many childhoods.
Posted on Tuesday June 29, 2010, 17:31
I met Ray a couple of years back at the Edinburgh Film Festival a lovely bloke, although like Timon I did find the dude with him was a bit keen. Ray was going to sign the base of a Talos statue for my mate but the other guy wouldn't let him "for contractual reasons" Looks like that was a great night.
Posted on Tuesday June 29, 2010, 20:29
We were there and it was indeed marvellous. Landis was hilarious, he could be a stand-up (the bit at the end with the chair was priceless). Caroline Munro... I still would. And the man himself, a modest genius.
Posted on Wednesday June 30, 2010, 12:12
It's 'skeleton', not 'skellington'.
Posted on Friday July 2, 2010, 13:20
I was fortunate enough to attend the official opening of the new Ray Harryhausen exhibition at the London Film Museum on Tuesday 29th June where I was able to give the great man a birthday card and thank him for all the hours of entertainment his films have given me over the years. A nicer man I have yet to meet. I'm looking forward to his 100th birthday celebrations now :-)