By James H. Burns
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There will be many accolades in the months to come, paying appropriate tribute to the fantasy filmmaking legend, Ray Harryhausen, who passed last month, at 92. As a master of stop motion animation, Harryhausen helped create such movies as “20 Million Miles to Earth,” “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” “The Three Worlds of Gulliver,” “Jason and the Argonauts,” “One Million Years B.C.,” and “Clash of the Titans.”
Harryhausen wasn’t simply the special effects man on these movies, but — almost always in partnership with producer Charles Schneer — inspired their conception, and oversaw their delineation into celluloid wonderment. But it should not be overlooked that Harryhausen’s incredible worlds of imagination were also a significant part of the New York landscape.
For well over a decade, Harryhausen’s films would become the subject of a full week of “screenings” on the old 4:30 movie: A veritable science fiction, fantasy and creature paradise, for fans of the genres! In the days before cable, when there were essentially only seven TV stations available in New York, these movie shows were part of the backbone of local broadcasting. (Harryhausen’s films would also be seen on what were once the morning movie series, as well as late night “special events” on all three of the major network local affiliates.) It is safe to say that there wasn’t a kid in the Greater New York area who hadn’t been exposed to at least some of the magic of a Harryhausen opus.
Harryhausen himself fell in love with the stop-motion animation medium when he saw, upon its first release (in 1933), another film that would become a New York, and international staple, “King Kong.” Soon, the 13-year-old Harryhausen was a budding filmmaker: And while still a teenager, he began serving as an animator on a theatrical shorts series that would ultimately also run for years on local New York TV, “George Pal’s Puppetoons.” In late 1945, he went to work as an assistant to the effects genius who had given life to Kong, Willis O’Brien, on “Mighty Joe Young,” for which Harryhausen animated several of the key sequences.