Five-Spot: Ray Harryhausen (2005)

Stop-motion animation legend Ray Harryhausen takes a look back at his five favourite special effects movies.

Dante’s Inferno (Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan, Giuseppe di Liguoro, 1911)
It’s an Italian adaptation of Dante’s epic poem, but what fascinated me was that it’s based on the work of Gustav Dore, an artist who’s a massive influence on me. I once thought about making Dante’s Inferno in stop-motion, but then I started thinking “will people want to sit through a whole movie of tormented souls?” so I abandoned it

The Lost World (Harry O. Hoyt, 1925)
My parents were great cinemagoers, and they always took me along, even when I was four. This was the first genuine stop-motion movie, but it didn’t have a huge effect on me- partly, I think, because there wasn’t any sound, just this tinkling piano accompaniement! It wasn’t as vivid, but seeing those dinosaurs definitely stayed at the back of my mind.

King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933)
I saw Kong when I was thirteen, and I haven’t been the same since. Nothing like it had ever been seen, and the sequence where Kong fights the Tyrannosaur was just so overpowering. It was the biggest honour of my life when I worked on Mighty Joe Young with Willis H. O’Brien, the man who did the Kong effects. I’m sure Peter Jackson’s remake will be good, but there’ll always only be one true Kong!.

Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
It wasn’t just special effects films I watched while growing up- the dramatic qualities and performances would also impress me, and Gone With The Wind was amazing stuff. The sequence where Atlanta burns is wonderfully convincing, and it’s actually part of the Wall set from Kong that’s burning, as they were made on the same backlot.

Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
I get letters from fans who say they prefer my creatures to computer generated images, but I do have a lot of respect for what CGI can do, and Jurassic Park was truly astounding. Trouble is, then came the hype, and instead of the ‘dream quality’ stop-motion has, it’s all about making things photo-real. If you make fantasy too realistic, though, you bring it down to the mundane. It’s a difficult balance to maintain.