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How Ray Harryhausen made a difference to filmmaking

by Ryan Lambie.

When you really think about it, there’s something quite innocent and childlike about the process of filmmaking. Actors put on funny costumes and makeup. Writers dream up make-believe dramas and arguments and fights. Set-builders construct pretend shops and houses for the characters to walk around in.

Perhaps this is why so many filmmakers have always been inspired by the movies they saw as youngsters; those images etch themselves on their young minds, and although they’ll come up with startling ideas of their own in their later careers, they’ll always be informed by the things they saw as children.

Ray Harryhausen was about 13 years old when he saw the original King Kong in 1933. He loved it so much that he went back and saw it again and again, and became fascinated by the process of stop motion animation. He began experimenting with the process himself, building his own dinosaurs and creatures and capturing their movements, one painstaking frame at a time, on 16mm film. One of his earliest surviving projects was a short called Cavebear, made sometime around 1935 or 1936, in which an animated bear attacked Ray’s pet dog, Kong.

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