In my youth I had a vision of becoming a filmmaker. Not just your average Director however but one that focused on stop motion animation. This was because of a wonderful book from my Junior High School library that went into great detail on animation itself. Traditional cell, claymation, as well as the Pioneers of Stop Motion Animation. The major hurdle to this endeavor was the lack of getting my hands on a camera.
Although that would change when I made it to High School. However it is not as if I was able to produce animation worthy of those I admired. Of course I didn’t actually have a camcorder with which to attempt a short. My choice was an ancient camera that could be attached to an 100 lb VHS unit. I was forced to count to three seconds, since the VHS deck would roll back around two seconds after each “shot”. To add a little salve to my attempt, I will admit that at least I won an award for Gorp/Ed vs The Critters. I came in second place at the local public access awards show!
As a bonus you were able to see my Family moving about in the background while watching Dallas. As well as listening to the finest Commodore 64 music at the time, the second piece was from the game High Noon. Over the years I have managed to dabble in stop motion animation now and again, just as a hobby of course. Perhaps I will eventually piece them together for the internet to scoff and ridicule.
What no one in their right mind will scoff at though is Pioneers of Stop Motion Animation. Put together by Laird Jimenez for Birth.Movies.Death., it gives you a wonderful look at how the cinematic technique has progressed through the years. Ranging from the likes of J. Stuart Blackton’s The Haunted Hotel…
…Ladislas Starevich’s The Tale of the Fox and of course Willis O’Brien.
As well as his protege, the equally legendary Ray Harryhausen. The stop Motion animation maestro who brought us the likes of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Clash of the Titans, and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad to name a few!
Pioneers of Stop Motion Animation continues through artists like Art Clokey (Gumby), to Will Vinton and Phil Tippett’s work on Star Wars and Robocop!
Enjoy Pioneers of Stop Motion Animation and be sure to share your memories of the art form in the comments!
I can tell you truthfully that in 1976 I was all about the remake of 1933’s King Kong. In fact I had seen the original film thanks to a local channel’s midnight movie. I was of course at the tender age of four blown away by Willis O’Brien’s stop-motion effects. It also made me a lifelong admirer of that craft and of primates.
I was fortunate enough to catch the Dino De Laurentiis produced film at the 62 Drive-In. Moreover the weeks before it was released, I can recall staring at the one-sheets. You know what I’m talking about. The legendary posters featuring artwork by John Berkey!
That is to say nothing of how excited about the movie I was after watching the trailer.
Having said that and I know I’ve stated this before on The Retroist. I really didn’t see much merchandising for King Kong. Besides some awesome drinking glasses and a few T-shirts. I do however have very fond memories of the board game by Ideal.
There was much more than that, just none of it making it to my neck of the woods. So please try to imagine my surprise when I stumbled on the fact that Colorforms made a King Kong play set. Not just your average Colorforms set would do for something as epic as this, right?
Image courtesy of Jon’s Random Acts of Geekery.
That is why they released it as the King Kong Panorama Play Set! A 32-inch play set…but that is not all. This also happened to feature a reversible second side – so that you could have adventures on Skull Island and change the fate of the misunderstood Kong atop the World Trade Center.
Image courtesy of Jon’s Random Acts of Geekery.
We have Jon’s Random Acts of Geekery to thank for these last two images. Make sure to hop on over and check out more King Kong goodness. For example a 1976 belt buckle featuring some of the Berkey artwork!
Now here is a link to ebay if you decide you can’t live without a Colorforms version of Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange.
But I feel I better give you a slight warning. I have yet to find any for sale under the $160 mark…but on the other hand doesn’t Kong demand such a price?!
Ready for more 1976 King Kong awesomeness?
How about this 1976 interview between Dino De Laurentiis and Bill Boggs?
It is with sad heart that I report that the legendary special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen passed away yesterday in London at age 93. Harryhausen worked his visual effects magic on numerous classic sci-fi and fantasy film Many of those films having inspired modern filmmakers such as Tim Burton, Joe Dante, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Stan Winston, Frank Darabont, Sam Raimi, Rick Baker, and John Lasseter. Just a few of the many films that Ray worked on are Mighty Joe Young, 20 Million Miles to Earth, and Clash of the Titans,/em>.
For myself the first time I experienced the wonder of Ray’s stop-motion magic was one Sunday morning in my youth when TBS was showing the 1949 Mighty Joe Young. I had already seen King Kong on TV at that point. This film of just cemented my desire to work in that medium when I grew up. To which I haven’t done professionally but I still goof off with stop-motion animation when I can.
Soon after catching the television broadcast of the 1949 film. there was a re-release of Jason and the Argonauts at my local theater. This was of course a couple of years before the Clash of the Titans release in ’81.Furthermore it was probably around the same time as Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Which coupled with the release of Star Wars that year just completely blew my 5 year old mind and is probably a reason why I love films so very much.
I am very sad that we will no longer have new interviews or insights on stop-motion animation by Ray. However at the very least he has left us movie buffs a treasure trove of effects work to enjoy. I hope that wherever Harryhausen might be, he is talking about King Kong with his lifelong friends Ray Bradbury and Forrest J. Ackerman.