Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Ray Harryhausen in the UK: The 3 Worlds of Gulliver

Earlier this month the animation community mourned the passing of Ray Harryhausen, the American animator who created an entire pantheon of stop-motion monsters.

After a string of productions in his native US, Harryhausen moved to the UK in 1960; this was partly to give easier access to Mediterranean countries (it is notable that his move from America to Britain coincided with a general shift from "invading monster" films such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms to adventure films in exotic locations) and partly because of a special matte process offered by Britain's Rank Film Laboratories.

Over the next few months, I will examine the films which Harryhausen worked on while living in Britain. The first of these was The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, helmed by the American writer-director Jack Sher. Sher and his co-writer Arthur Ross previously had offered the script, unsuccessfully, to Universal before it ended up with Harryhausen and his longtime collaborator, producer Charles H. Schneer.

Unlike many film versions of Jonathan Swift's novel, 3 Worlds follows the Lilliput sequence with Gulliver's voyage to Brobdingnag, the land of giants (despite the title, however, he doesn't reach Laputa - the third world is presumably England). This gives Harryhausen the opportunity to create two giant animals, namely a squirrel and an alligator. The squirrel is unusual in that it is not a model built from the ground up, but rather a stuffed squirrel which Harryhausen obtained from a taxidermist before inserting a metal armature with sponge padding.

Sketches for the alligator sequence, published in the book Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Margaret Thatcher: Where am I Now? by Bob Godfrey and Steve Bell

Margaret Thatcher: Where am I Now? was a 1999 collaboration between Bob Godfrey, who directed, and the political cartoonist Steve Bell. It took the form of five episodes, each one three minutes long, which were screened on Channel 4.

The first episode can be viewed here.