Ray Harryhausen – Goal Achievement At 24 Frames A Second?

"Ray Harryhausen"May 7th 2014 marks the first anniversary of the death of Ray Harryhausen. If you find yourself asking ‘Ray Harry Who Now?’ then read on for some great goal achievement tips from the world of the movies…

Ray Harryhausen saw the movie King Kong when he was 13, and little did he know that it would influence his whole life from then on! He read in a magazine about how the film used stop motion animation for the gorilla, and wanted to try it himself.

So, he started the hobby in his garage. When he found he needed to know about photography, he took a course in it. When he found he didn’t know anyone who would do the art direction, or the film editing, he just learnt how to do it himself – that’s a goal achievement tip right there that can take you on amazing rides, just with that one tip – learn how to do things yourself!

After the war he carried on with his hobby, with his father making the base structures of the models, and then, and here’s the next goal achievement tip…

He called up Willis O’Brien who had made King Kong and asked to go and visit him!
O’Brien was so impressed with Ray’s work that he ended up as his assistant.

His career progressed nicely, and to show a sign of the times, when he was making ‘It Came From Beneath The Sea!’ the police and city fathers in San Francisco refused permission to film the Golden Gate bridge, thinking the public would lose faith in the bridge if they saw it being destroyed by a monster in the movie! So Ray had to take footage on the bridge on the quiet from the back of a truck!

Ray developed a back projection technique which allowed an end result of the huge monsters and humans appearing to be on screen at the same time, and he became established in the industry.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though – when he took a 20 page outline around Hollywood for ‘7th Voyage of Sinbad’ no-one wanted to know, he was refused by everyone! He kept plugging away though, until Charles Schneer gave him a chance, and put Ray right in the heart of the film’s direction and production, another step forward for Harryhausen.

There are so many examples of him making adjustments when needed to achieve his goals. When studios were too slow to develop his films, he moved to England to use the better facilities there. When he didn’t have a facility to bake his sculptures off, he just used the family oven at home!

With ‘Jason And The Argonauts’ he stretched the single skeleton from ‘7th Voyage’ into seven, and that’s an iconic scene for many Harryhausen fans.

He carried on working well into his 70s, and his work has influenced many of the huge directors of today – Spielberg, Cameron, Jackson. I was interested to see in a documentary about him, that James Cameron said Harryhausen would *have* to use CGI techniques if he were making films today, that his imagination would demand he used the latest gadgetry. The documentary then cut to an interview with Harryhausen himself, who said ‘I don’t think so, I prefer to holds the sculptures in my hands, I’d hate just staring at a screen’ Fascinating – do not let others tell you how you’d do things – Harryhausen sure didn’t!

You may think stop motion is a dead art form with the advance of CGI, but think again – Wallace And Gromit? In fact the creator of that franchise, Nick Park, also says he needs to feel the models in his hands, to get a sense of their characters.

So, a number of goal achievement tips here…
– If you need to learn how to do something, put in the time and effort to learn it.
– Don’t be afraid to contact someone who has been there before you, you never know where it might lead.
– If you need to make adjustments to achieve things, make them, that may mean moving to another country, but it’s something that people do all the time, why not you?
– If your idea gets rejected, keep going.
– Be prepared to work hard, with stop motion Ray had to move the model, take one frame of film, then move the model again, take one frame, and so on. That’s 24 times for every single second of film!
"Ray Harryhausen skeleton fight"
Look to your own goals, then look at Ray Harryhausen’s jangly skeletons – what lessons can you apply from his story?

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‘Til Next Time,
Health & happiness,
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    • Indeed! It was only a brief couple of lines in the documentary about him, but the lesson stuck out to me like a sore thumb!

    • Thanks Kirsten,
      I watched a great documentary and love filling out the information I know about people in fields that interest me.

    • Thanks Doug,
      Yes, even though he was doing something he loved, he still had to show lots of both, and you are right that so many people could do amazing things by showing the same!

  • Oh my gosh! Those skeletons! Gave me the heebie-jeebies when I saw the film as a kid! It just goes to show that persistence and a willingness to learn reap rewards. It takes a lot of courage and sometimes you’ll get kicked back so hard, you wonder how you can get back up again – but if you’re prepared to take the risk, who knows? Good blog.

    • Thanks Katherine, the heebie-jeebies is exactly how I would describe how I felt too seeing them as a kid, I suspect we aren’t alone! His is a story full of so many positives, I love it!