Ray Harryhausen

The Storybook Review (1946, Ray Harryhausen)

The Storybook Review consists of four nursery rhymes told in stop motion animation. Director and animator Ray Harryhausen has a varying degree of success with the four, usually due to storytelling.

For example, the Mother Hubbard entry goes on way too long even though it’s shortened from the original. Some of the problem is the lack of Mother Hubbard’s personality–Harryhausen animates the eyes beautifully (especially on Little Miss Muffet in the first one), but not much else on the face. There are eerily real movements to the body, but the faces are rigid except the eyes. Or when Harryhausen fades to a different head.

The use of fading only really works on Humpty Dumpty, as Harryhausen makes what appear to be a real egg (albeit a very large one) come to life. The fades work okay on the eggshell.

Review is expert and fun, but the form constrains it.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Produced, directed and animated by Ray Harryhausen; released by Bailey Films.


How to Bridge a Gorge (1942, Ray Harryhausen)

How to Bridge a Gorge isn’t just an instructional video about how to, you know, bridge a gorge… it’s Ray Harryhausen showing off the possibilities for what the short calls “three dimensional animation.” In a lot of ways, the possibilities he suggests in this short–made to showcase stop motion to the Army during World War II–have never been realized.

There are no people in Gorge, there are no stand-ins for them. The objects move of their own volition, but some of these objects are recognizable vehicles–there’s an amazing plane too; there’s never the feeling Harryhausen’s being cartoonish. Instead, his craft is so strong, his proof of concept short transcends his ambitions for it.

The crisp color photography, the shot composition, the awkward bookends of narrative… they all contribute to making Gorge surreal. The technical methods are so obvious, they never factor into the viewing.

Gorge’s glorious.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Produced, directed, animated and photographed by Ray Harryhausen.


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