Harryhausen, the cat at the center of This Must Be the Place, is a living totem of his owner's patron saint, the real-life animator Ray Harryhausen. Ray Harryhausen was a pioneer in the field of animation, and the inspiration behind Racculia's Amy, who builds her life around the surreal art of making model monsters for the movies.
Racculia writes on her blog of discovering Harryhausen's work in the form of his last major film: "The Clash of the Titans, Harryhausen's 1981 epic ode to Greek mythology and Harry Hamlin's magnificent perm, were on HBO approximately eight bajillion times in the mid-80s, and all eight bajillion of those times, I was there to watch it." Oh, the heady early days of cable. Racculia was not the only one to overdose on Titans at a tender age the image of Harryhausen's writhing Medusa maybe a generational marker. We 80s cable subscribers could not get enough of that last gasp of handmade movie-making, even as computer animation was well underway on the other cable channels and had thoroughly co-opted Saturday morning cartoons.
Harryhausen is best known for the animated gorilla in Mighty Joe Young (1949), the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), and the clattering, sword-wielding skeletons in 1963's Jason and the Argonauts. He worked in the painstaking medium of stop-motion animation, which requires moveable models to be shot frame-by-frame. He pioneered inexpensive techniques for blending animation with live action (as in that famous skeleton scene), and the effects he created were revolutionary. His work has informed and inspired many of the fantasy filmmakers who have come after him Peter Jackson, James Cameron, and Tim Burton, to name a few.
One of Harryhausen's life-long friends and fellow travelers is Ray Bradbury, the science fiction author, who collaborated on a biography called Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life (published in 2004). Harryhausen celebrated his 91st birthday on June 29, 2011.
Ray Harryhausen's website
A 2004 NPR interview with Harryhuasen
This article was originally published in August 2010, and has been updated for the
July 2011 paperback release.
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