Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ray Harryhausen...

...died today at the age of 92. Certainly, one can say it was the passing of a legend.

While I didn't dedicate my latest book/game to Mr. Harryhausen, he is one of a half dozen individuals whose names I cite as having works that greatly inspired 5AK. And this isn't just an Old School shout-out: Harryhausen's work was much more important to MY early fantasy roots than any of the sword & sorcery authors listed in the appendices of the Dungeons & Dragons books.
Comprehending the B/X medusa.
Hell, Harryhausen's work was more influential on my formative years than Tolkien...when I started playing Basic D&D circa 1981-2 I had yet to read any huge fantasy epics, but I'd certainly seen Clash of the Titans and at least a couple of the Sinbad movies.
Being a nine year old, the special effects and dramatic story-telling of the cinema had an enormous impact on my psyche...it helped create visual images in my imagination long before (and far more effectively) than the long-winded novels of words-and-words-and-words I would read as I got older. Harryhausen took fairy tales and myths (which I was familiar with) and gave them iconic images that would never leave me.

And still they haven't. When I cite Harryhausen's work as an influence on 5AK, I am not simply "blowing smoke;" several aspects of his films (though not the Kraken...long story) were directly incorporated into the game system that is 5AK. Which is only right, as it seems obvious to me that the original creators of D&D did the same thing.

For such a scurvy looking tiger, it sure scared me!

I'm not going to say much more right now. Only that he will be missed...though, of course, we've missed him and his cinematic magic a lot over the last few decades. People have attempted to create "historically accurate" depictions of fantasy myths and legends, or simply overwhelm viewers with over-burdened effects pieces; but outside of some Japanimation and perhaps Del Toro's work (he of Pan's Labyrinth) I haven't seen filmmakers really embracing the heart and soul and whimsey of folklore and fantasy in the way Harryhausen did. And that's okay...I mean, we are a constantly evolving species, right? Plus, we can always rent Harryhausen's films when we need our "fix." At least, that's what I usually do.

This one scared my son...a lot!
RIP Ray: you were a great inspiration to myself and to many, many others. Hopefully your work and your legacy will continue to do so for many years to come. Thanks for the good times!


  1. You know, everybody's trying to make CGI look more and more real. BUT, to me, the "fake-ness" (for lack of a better term) "jerkiness" of the stop-motion creatures Ray created only added to their fantastical nature. I'm not sure if that's just the imagination of the kid I was when I saw his stuff for the first time, filling in the "warts" that come with stop-motion, but the very "limitations" of the special effects actually created a wonderful strangeness and, at least for me, helped with suspension of disbelief. These were mythological creatures, and they looked/moved like it.

  2. Like I said before, I prefer Sinbad to Tolkien... what I didn't mention is that when I say Sinbad I mean Harryhausen Sinbad! Fantastical creatures, monsters, Caroline Munro, what's not to like? If only I could get into a D&D game more like that than the typical Dwarf-Elf-Hobbit stew!

  3. Harryhausen was the man. It is humbling to consider the painstaking patience and creativity his work required.