Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2013)

Harryhausen touching up the Kraken

I got tired of waiting for the US release and ordered a Region 2 DVD of Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2013) by way of Amazon UK. The 97 minute documentary is essential viewing for stop-motion and Harryhausen fans. It traces the history of Ray’s filmmaking from the earliest home-movie animation of a cave bear, George Pal puppetoons, his collaboration and friendship with Willis O’Brien on Mighty Joe Young (1949), and a lengthy partnership with producer Charles H. Schneer. Ray has brief comments on most, if not all of his theaterical films. Director Gilles Penso and producer Tony Dalton have also assembled interviews from several notable Harryhausen fans, including Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Guillermo Del Toro, Nick Park, Steven Spielberg and others.

The documentary also contains rare footage from the Harryhausen archives, such as this home movie of Ray and his father Fred, who machined most of the armatures for Ray’s puppets.

Titan_Ray with Dad

The film is insightful and explores Ray’s dedication to the craft. I particularly like comments that special effects artists, clearly inspired by Ray, such as from animator Phil Tippett who tells young filmmakers crafting a career in CGI to study Ray’s work and that “less is often better”. The film also shows many of the tricks Ray used in crafting his films.


Here we see a glimpse of an aerial wire rig used to hold the spacecraft from Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956).

Titan_Saucer with Rigging

Ray was a multi-faceted filmmaker and “Titan” richly paints a portrait of a man dedicated to his art. Early on in his career Willis O’B recommended that Ray study anatomy to refine his sculptures and create more realistic creatures. Harryhausen notes that he was clearly inspired by artist Charles R. Knight, associated with Chicago’s Field Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. Here we have Ray sketching a triceratops.

Titan_Ray at Museum of Natural History

Disc 2 is crammed full of interviews, Q&A’s with Ray, tributes and unboxing of Ray’s creatures. Drool away…

Titan_Hydra Puppet

You don’t need to be a Ray fan to enjoy this documentary (see the deleted sequence from Douglas Trumbull who isn’t a fan of stop-motion). This is essential viewing for film lovers of all ages. “Titan” is a warm tribute to an extraordinary filmmaker who just resently passed away at 92. His legacy is carried on in many films by inspired directors. They don’t make ’em like they used to!

Ray with Kraken

One Response to “Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2013)”

  1. I can’t wait to get this!

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