And I think: Would any of my monsters exist without Ray Harryhausen?
The answer is: Probably not.
No parasite people from INFECTED. No Stilt-walkers (humans stretched out with long limbs). No towers of flesh born of amalgamated people. No hundred-foot-tall Hroza from EMERGENCE (my lumbering ancient creatures, spawned from crustaceans and arachnids and mammals). No gargoyles. No gremlins (Well, that was Joe Dante ... Who also would have nothing without Harryhausen). No Pilots from the forthcoming STRANDED and no warmachines from the same book.
The same goes for the humans. Who, though more in line with Elmore Leonard's palettes, fit the Jones-Harryhausen mold.
Chuck Jones and Ray Harryhausen are the reason those beasts -- all my beasts -- exist. Or, if not the monsters themselves, then, certainly, the personalities. Jones and Harryhausen are responsible for the emotive characteristics of those fuckers.
I'll quote myself here, from EMERGENCE:
I write cartoons. Just ... Y'know ... Horrible ones.
When the monster sneezed? That little bit of personality? I never would have thought about that without Jones and Harryhausen.
For me, it's all about watching Wile E. Coyote realize - rather late - that gravity will assert control. It's physics. Just in cartoon form.
It's the fantastic and the real. That's what made both of these men superb in their own right.
Have you ever -- especially with the utter ONSLAUGHT of CGI -- seen a creature as emotive as this?
It's perfect. The Ymir breathes. Responds. Wakes up -- not in the best of moods. And you know it's feeling something.
It's feeling something because Ray Harryhausen spent so much goddamn time animating it. One slight movement for every 24th of a second, so he could meet all 24 frames per second that would go on the silver screen.
Bringing it to life. It was, is, a being he birthed.
All of his creatures were alive, as Doctor Frankenstein said of both his monster and his monster's bride-to-not-be.
We don't see that now.
We have commercials telling us what decongestant we should buy because there's an animated snot rocket. Or maybe a bee voiced by Antonio Banderas because, hoo shit, our noses are stuffed up.
Ray Harryhausen gave his monsters soul.
They were awesome in their terror. Awesome in their celluloid life.
But there was a beating heart behind it. And it's gone now.
I was lucky.
I met Ray twice.
The first was at a SciFi horror convention in the apocalyptic Meadowlands. Me, being twelve, turned sponge the day before at the behest of my old man, who happened to be the right age to see this shit when it originally graced films reels
Still, I knew it was a BIG THING.
We spent the day before, when my brother was a mewling idiot infant and not the awesome person he is today, watching Ray work his magic.
King Kong was first, so that I understood some more about the history of the medium and who Willis O'Brien was (though this would doom me later). Then Mighty Joe Young, to keep the theme alive. Then, ye gods, it was a slew of awesome.
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and it's astounding cop-eating scene. It Came From Beneath The Sea (Tentacles! Kenneth Tobey!). Earth Versus The Flying Saucers. 20 Million Miles To Earth. First Men In The Moon. Valley Of The Gwangi (suck a dick, Cowboys Vs. Aliens) ... Then, man, the biggies.
Jason And The Argonauts.
Clash Of The Titans.
You can't touch that. Nothing you do will ever be as amazing as the skeleton-hydra scene from Jason or the Medusa scene from Clash.
I'm twelve. Thinking about this.
My own attempts at stop-motion had been met by "Ye gods, don't do that again" by my peers. So.
My dad has an interview lined up with Ray. Big thing. Gonna happen when some NBC asshole gets done.
Yeah, OK, it's a convention and blah blah. And my dad does blah blah.
I'm staring at some neoprene replicas of the facehuggers from Alien and a goddamn way-too-expensive custom model of Ripley's POWER LOADER from ALIENS when my dad taps me.
My old man says, "Hey. Stop. We gotta go up to talk to Ray."
I say, "Nyrrgh? Ray who?" Still looking at figures from the United States Colonial Marine Corps and the xenomorphs they'd face when I decided to have a war in my backyard.
The name goes off in my head.
Oh, Jesus. Oh, God.
It's the first time in my life I remember panicking. Real, bowel-stilling panic. Like a chunk of concrete had settled in my intestines.
But, hey, I'm twelve. So I go, "Yeah, cool." Like, hey, whatever.
Close to peeing myself the whole time.
And I go over all the movies I know are Ray's.
Just stay cool man. Just stay cool.
Clash Of The Titans. Jason And The Argonauts. Mighty...Something... Joe...Kong?
My brain poops itself.
I meet Ray Harryhausen, twelve years old.
He's huge. Tall. Towering over me.
My brain craps itself.
I blurt out: "King Kong was awesome."
Ray, with his perma-bald down the center head, laughs. "I didn't work on that one."
And I spend the next forty minutes watching my old man and Ray have a grand time.
Thinking: I screwed it up. I screwed it all up.
A decade later, I was lucky enough to get another chance. Thanks, again, to my father -- who had apparently vowed with Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen to never quite grow up.
We were at the Angelika in New York City.
My dad dragged me, already a journalist who'd spent time in the ditches, over to Ray.
Ray looks at me and smiles.
I grab his hand. Say, "You have no reason to remember this, but about ten years ago, I was small, and I said that your work on King Kong was awesome."
Ray says, "Did you?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry."
Ray laughs. I mean really laughs. This kind of deep chuckle that doesn't stop. A belly laugh that has nothing to do with his stomach. "There is no reason to be sorry. I wish I could take credit. You know what I remember?"
I shake my head.
Ray says, "I remember being young and I remember having a wonderful time doing what I was doing. It was different then. But ... Imagination is what matters. Use yours."
(I will amend this if/when my old man corrects me.)