Harryhausen Animates Comic-Con

Legendary stop-motion animator and visual effects artist Ray Harryhausen made an appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con Int’l on Saturday. Fans of all ages turned out for his panel discussion, which also featured world-famous sci-fi author Ray Bradbury and beloved Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J. Ackerman. The three long-time friends discussed their classic works and the state of sci-fi, fantasy and horror in general. Moderating the panel was Sam Weller, author of the Ray Bradbury biography, The Bradbury Chronicles.

Harryhausen is known for bringing to life mythological creatures and visitors from outer space in such films as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. Often dubbed the "Father of Modern Visual Effects,” he continues to inspire artists and, at the age of 84, remains active in the creative community. His friend and manager, Arnold Kunert, assured the crowd that the master animator is still working on new projects during his so-called retirement. His recently published autobiography, Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, is set to get a companion release titled The Art of Ray Harryhausen, which will feature concept drawings he made for many of his films. The book is slated for release by the end of the year.

Bradbury is the author of such enduring works of literature as Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. He also penned the Saturday Evening Post short story that inspired the Harryhausen favorite, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. He told the audience that he has delivered to Universal five scripts for a planned film adaptation of Martian Chronicles, which he says has been in development for approximately 8 years, and worked on 15 scripts for Mel Gibson’s proposed adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. He urged, "I want you all to write letters to Universal and Mel Gibson saying, ‘Get off your ass.’"

Ackerman is a film historian and archivist who has also appeared in many genre films. He recently made his 209th cameo in a made-for-TV thriller titled "Scorned," and revealed that director Peter Jackson is flying him to New Zealand for a 2-day shoot on his remake of King Kong, set to arrive in theaters Dec. 14. Ackerman also mentioned that he is working on an autobiography titled My Life in a Time Machine.

Harryhausen noted how nice it is to see science fiction and fantasy so embraced today, considering how he and his fellow panelists were once looked upon as being odd for discussing such things as platforms to the moon and life on other planets. To this, Bradbury added, "The reason we’re here today is because it reminds us of when we were 19. We’re all crazy."

Asked to comment on Peter Jackson’s remake of a certain 1933 classic, Harryhausen stated, "There will always be only one King Kong," referring to the black-and-white original that spurred his interest in becoming involved in the film business. He did, however, offer a vote of confidence for Jackson, saying his version is sure to be better than the 1975 remake produced by Dino DeLaurentis. "If that one had come out when I was 13, I probably would have become a plumber," he joked.

Harryhausen will be in Santa Monica, Calif. for a gallery showing of his fine art work at Every Picture Tells a Story, located at 1311-C Montana Ave. (across from the Aero Theatre). More information on the event and print sales can be found at www.everypicture.com/artists/250/1/ray-harryhausen.html.