A Chat With Ray Harryhausen
(continued from page 4)

In fact, Ray saw the live-action shoot as more demanding of patience:

Ray: That's why I never became a director. I never had patience with people. My characters always did exactly what I told them to do.

Roger: That was one of our questions, actually, why didn't you just direct the whole film.

Ray: I'd like to have, but I thought something would suffer, the animation or the rest of it. Many times I felt like I'd do better than what the director did, but some of them got a little discouraged because they didn't have full charge of making the film, and sometimes there'd be battles of egos. We always had to lay out our films very carefully, because they were always made on a tight budget. Charles would always keep a tight reign on the live-action, and I did all the animation, and all the construction of the puppets. Sometimes I had other people model them, but I would in the end make the final puppet myself. When I started out, I couldn't find another kindred soul, and if you wanted something you couldn't just go out and find somebody who'd do it, so I had to learn to do it myself. I took courses at USC in film editing and art direction and photography when I was still in high school.

Roger: What did you do about foam casting?

Ray: I learned to do that with the Dunlop material. I cast most of them myself. I sometimes had people model the actual figure because the texture takes so much time. I sometimes had the staff sculptors do figures based on my drawings.

Roger: And who did the mechanics; who did the armatures?

Ray: I had the ball and sockets made, different sizes, and then I put them together to fit my particular needs. But I had to learn to do everything because I couldn't find another kindred soul. Now you see eighty people listed doing the same things I was doing by myself.

Ruth: You said recently that one of the reasons you retired was that you'd spent long enough working alone in dark rooms...

Ray: Yes, I got rather tired of that after a while.

Ruth: Were you literally alone? The way I know stop-motion studios to work is that there will be lots of other people setting up your shot, and then you're on your own while you animate, but at least you see people throughout the day. Were you literally setting your own camera, your own lights, and your own rigging?

Whereas Harryhausen worked virtually alone, current stop-motion productions like The PJs use many artists to bring their characters to life.
© Will Vinton Studios.

Ray: The only person I had with me was an electrician, to be sure the lights didn't blow out without my noticing. But I actually set the lights, I did my own camera work, my own animation, and my own sets. I did everything -- except on the last film, I had to bring in other animators because we got behind, we had a technical problem.

Ruth: How did you like working with other animators?

Ray: I preferred to do it myself. I don't like delegation because I find that particularly with a jointed figure so much of it is created on the set. You know the broad outline of what you're going to do but all the little nuances come from one pose leading to another and I find that's very hard to tell somebody else. They've either got to have a sensitivity to that or not. You don't want movement just for the sake of movement.

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