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In Honor of Ray Harryhausen, My Favorite Stop-Motion Films

View Chris Kavan's Profile

By Chris Kavan - 05/08/13 at 12:42 PM CT

On Tuesday, May 07, 2013, we lost one of the great special-effects pioneers of our time, Ray Harryhausen. The 92-year-old was known for his stop-motion work, including work on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts and One Million Years B.C. He influenced such filmakers as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron. Here is my humble tribute - my favorite stop-motion achievements (old and new). So in honor of Harryhausen, pop in your favorite example of this art and remember a true genius in the field of film.

1) JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS

 photo JasonandtheArgonauts_zps749423d0.jpg

Where else would I start but with one from the master himself? Although he worked on numerous films from the 40s through the 80s, I think this is my favorite example of his work. The scene above with the skeletons is iconic, as is the many-headed Hydra. If you want to experience the man's work at the top of his game, look no further.

2) A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

 photo NightmareBeforeXmas_zpsfde559c3.jpg

Tim Burton is no stranger to the use of stop motion. From Corpse Bride to last year's Frankenweenie, the animated movie I most associate with him is A Nightmare Before Christmas. It is pretty dark for an animated film, but the design, the story and the characters are all amazing. If you want to experience stop motion at its best, this is truly a unique and gorgeous film.

3) KING KONG (1933)

 photo KingKong_zps3c2a6ec8.jpg

Harryhausen didn't invent stop motion, but he certainly perfected it. The 1933 version of King Kong (with Fay Wray) features a lot of screaming and one of the best movie monsters to be put on screen. For all the special effects wizardry we have gone through in many years, I still prefer this version of Peter Jackson's 2005 version.

4) The Pied Piper of Hamelin

 photo PiedPiper_zps8a1b82a8.jpg

If you haven't heard of the Czechoslovakian filmaker Jirí Barta, that is okay. His animation style is unique - often quite dark and a bit disturbing - but also breathtaking in what he can create. Pied Piper is one of his longer films and, using wood-carved characters and quite real (stuffed) rats it makes for a wondrous experience. I stumbled across this on Netflix by chance and I was immediately hooked - I hope Toys in the Attic (2009) is made available because his work should be seen.

5) RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER

 photo RudolphRed-Nosed_zps1fef0390.jpg

There are a handful of Christmas shorts that are timeless. The Grinch, Frosty the Snowman, A Charlie Brown Christmas and, of course, Rudolph. The shunned deer who finds himself with misfit toys only to save the day in the end - it's a simple story, but there is a reason it remains popular to this day.

6) WALLACE & GROMIT

 photo WrongTrousers_zps71f4386f.jpg

Another great addition to animation is Aardman Animations - best known for the Wallace & Gromit series of shorts and Curse of the Were-Rabbit film. They also have Chicken Run and Pirates! Band of Misfits to their name, but nothing is quite as memorable as the adventures of a man and his dog. In an era where CGI has taken front and center stage, sometimes it's nice to take a step back an appreciate a more hands-on approach.

There you have it - my tribute to the man who make stop motion such a treat and provided so much inspiration to future filmmakers. Ray, you will be missed - but your legacy will live on in every film you worked on - and those you influenced.

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Chris

Wrote on 05/22/13 at 11:18 AM CT

Absolutely it would - but I admit it is the one Wes Anderson film I still have to watch. It could very well take a spot on this list.

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View Daniel Corleone's Profile

Daniel Corleone

Wrote on 05/19/13 at 11:51 AM CT

Would the Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson) count? Great tribute. An innovator that will always be remembered.

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