It started with a phone call
The day I called Ray at home in London and asked him to appear
in my George Pal tribute THE FANTASY FILM WORLDS OF GEORGE
PAL over 31 years ago was perhaps one of happiest most fulfilling
phone calls I ever made. It's not everyday one has the chance
to speak with a childhood hero. Other than George Pal or Walt
Disney, there are few other talents in the fantasy and sci-fi
field that can compare with Ray Harryhausen. His contributions
and body of film work stand alone for its sheer magic, originality,
resonance and technical achievement.
Story of Two Rays
Ray Bradbury - that other great SCI-FI
MASTER (Bradbury) talked to me about his life long friend
Harryhausen when they were both 17. Bradbury recounted watching
Harryhausen making his strange little dinosaurs and frightening
face masks in his garage that night the two rays went off to
the Paramount Theatre for a Midnight Show donning these masks
Ray had made to terrify the patrons. That was only the start
of a half century friendship between Bradbury and Harryhausen
sharing their creative dreams of fantasy. Bradbury going on to
realize his dreams penning some of the greatest science fiction
stories of all time and writing movies such as MOBY DICK
and FARENHEIHT 451 and Harrhausen going on to make THE
7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and
over a dozen other masterworks of screen fantasy.
Mesmerized In A Movie Theatre
When I was eight I went to a Saturday Matinee of THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) and sat there mesmerized. I must have gone back to a dozen other showings after that. The Cyclops, the dynamic Bernard Herrmann score, the color, the fantasy of Sinbad, those "Dynamation" creatures - it was pure and utter magic.
Only three other films had that kind of effect on me. SCI FI MASTERS George Pal's THE TIME MACHINE, Walt Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY, and Stanley Kubrick's 2001:A SPACE ODYSSEY.
The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal
(Ray Harryhausen and George Pal)
Ray flew in from London to visit with Willis O'Brien's wife
- which he did regularly until her death. The story of Willis
O'Brien (creator of King Kong) profound influence on young
Ray Harryhausen is well documented on Profile:Ray
Harryhausen. On that same trip Ray arranged to meet with
me at the late George Pal's Beverly Hills home to be filmed for
my tribute called THE
FANTASY FILM WORLDS OF GEORGE PAL. Mrs. George Pal, myself,
Ray and my crew spent several hours chatting and reiminiscing
about his days with Pal at the PUPPETOON
studios and his lifelong freindship with George.
That day at George Pal's home is now more than 31 years ago yet it is as vivid today as it was then. It was a precious moment in time. I can remember Ray's graciousness from beginning to end, his willingness to divulge his secrets, his love of George Pal, getting that first film break in the movie business making PUPPETOONS
I must have asked Ray a thousand questions. Many filled with my childhood passion for his films. Ray was kind to answer every single one of them thoughtfully and beautifully.
James Cameron turns to goo says it all
Many years have passed and I see Ray on many occasions and we speak often on the phone. The childhood excitement I have for him never wanes. And it never seems to wane for other fans as well. On one occasion I made a presentation of the GEORGE PAL MEMORIAL AWARD at the Academy of Science Fiction and Fantasy at Universal Studios (having received this presitigious award a couple of years earlier) and in that year James Cameron had been nominated for TERMINATOR 2:JUDGEMENT DAY. Arnold Schwartzenegger and dozens of other celebs were there. Mrs. George Pal, Ray Harryhausen and I sat at one of the tables and I can still remember Jim Cameron, a huge Ray Harryhausn fan, asking me like a little boy - if I could introduce him to Ray. He was like a pile of goo. I think that pretty much says everything!
And this Introduction to Harryhausen in Ray Bradbury's Film Fantasy Scrapbook :
"This is the proudest introduction I will ever write in my life. It is written by the boy in me who at 17, first fell in love with his genius (Ray Harryhausen) and the extensions of what genius, the delicious monsters that moved in his head and out of his fingers and into our eternal dreams. Long after we are all gone, his shadow-shows will live through a thousand years in this world"