Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An open letter to Ray Harryhausen, 1920-2013

Dear Mr. Harryhausen,
I was coming in from my workshop this morning when my wife informed me that she had very bad news.  Her sympathetic smile informed me it was something I very much didn't want to hear.  I asked her...

"Has someone died?"

"Yes" she replied.

"Is it Ray Harryhausen?"

"Yes, I'm sorry."

She knew that of all the bad news (aside from family related) that could break my heart it was this.  You see Mr. Harryhausen, you were my hero.  Words can't describe my appreciation for you and your work, but I will try.  I do not remember when my mom showed me your films for the first time, like Dr. Seuss and Kermit, they were always there.  I do remember those glorious Saturdays, wary as the Argonauts awakened Talos, and wondering how those cowboys could ever think their lassos and six-shooters were a match for Gwangi.  I remember my sister watching Clash of the Titans, and me thinking the romance was just fodder between the good scenes with The Kraken, Calibos, and Bubo.  I remember drawing dinosaurs and minotaurs and giant apes.  I remember making my teenage friends watch skeleton fights when they'd rather be talking to girls.  I remember starting the Harryhausen section of the cult video store I worked at.  And using the black market cinephile connections I made there to get my hands on low quality vhs tapes of fairy tale adaptations you had made 50 years before.  I remember discovering all the work of your mentor, Willis O'Brien, and reading about how, when you were a kid, someones little animated figures had affected you so deeply, that it changed your life.  I remember seeing your original sculptures in Paris and New York, and marveling at the detail that still clung to your aging armatures.  I remember a life full of the gifts you gave the world, but that I always felt were mine.

I remember having the sincere honor of meeting you a couple times, Mr. Harryhausen.  You were just as friendly as I could have hoped, and kindly listened while I told you how great you are.  You signed a book for me that you couldn't believe I found, an old dusty paperback about the techniques you and O'Brien used.  I don't think enough people realize the astounding level of your technical genius.  I guess you'll have to settle for world renowned creative genius.

I guess all I'd like to say really is thank you.


You blew a child's mind, and turned a little boy into an artist.  I can say with confidence that i wouldn't be who I am without you.  Your adventure in this life may be over, but I hope your now somewhere full of (friendly) dinosaurs and robotic owls.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have some old movies to watch for the millionth time.

Rest in peace.

-Cody Vrosh