Dig a hole and Tulips Shall Grow: Ray Harryhausen

Never mind the above-the-line talent: Ray Harryhausen was one of the few special visual effects creators whose name in the advertising guaranteed butts in seats.

Harryhausen's Dynamation sequences, his patented brand of model animation, were the stop motion equivalent of Astaire and Rogers musical numbers, flashes of poetry scattered amongst the garden-variety dialog scenes.

There are others much better suited than I to chronicle the passing of the special effects wizard and his invaluable contributions to Jason, Gulliver, Sinbad, and more. Allow me to instead direct your attention to one of George Pal's Puppetoons shorts.

Madcap Models No. U1-5: Tulips Shall Grow was made to bolster the morale of Dutch resistance workers. The propaganda short was finished just after Nazi Germany had completely overtaken the Netherlands. The Puppetoons utilized replacement animation in which a series of different hand-carved wooden heads or limbs would move as opposed to having to animate the entire figure.

Hungarian born animator George Pal and his wife, Czoka, fled Holland just as the Nazis began to overthrow Europe. Tulips Shall Grow tells the story of two young, albeit wooden, Dutch lovers whose peaceful existence is shattered when the skies above their idyllic windmill let loose with a thundering downpour of tanks under the command of a battalion of goose-stepping mechanical men known as Screwballs.

Ray Harryhausen was assigned the job of chief animator. The short, nominated for an Academy Award, marked his first paying job in pictures.

Ray Harryhausen leaves behind his wife, Diana Livingstone Bruce, and an honor roll of students that include Joe Dante, Rick Baker, John Lasseter, Rob Bottin, Stan Winston, and just about every horror and sci-fi enthusiast who bothered to look behind the wire and modeling clay and find the artistry. He was 92.


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Harryhausen had only a handful of films to his credit but boy, what a list!

And what a wait. His meticulous special effects took years to create - an average of nearly four years inbetween his produced films from 1942 to 1981.

Harryhausen was the CGI in the pre-CGI era. Rest in peace, Harry.

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