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Classic Hollywood: Ray Harryhausen and Chuck Jones animation exhibitions

The motion picture academy salutes the stop-motion pioneer and Warner Bros. cartoon kingpin.

May 19, 2010|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times

What's your favorite animated movie? Chances are, the team behind it was influenced by stop-motion and visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, with maybe a dash of Looney Tunes titan Chuck Jones thrown in. And now you can see why.


FOR THE RECORD:
Classic Hollywood: The Classic Hollywood column in Wednesday's Calendar said that visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen worked on 1955's "It Came From Outer Space." He worked on 1955's "It Came From Beneath the Sea." He did not work on "It Came From Outer Space," which was released in 1953. —

Two exhibitions curated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — "The Fantastical Worlds of Ray Harryhausen" and "Chuck Jones: An Animator's Life From A to Z-Z-Z-Z" — will display sketches, animation cells, dialogue sheets and more from the two master craftsmen through Aug. 22.

A veritable one-man shop, Harryhausen, the stop-motion animator of such classics as 1955's "It Came From Outer Space," 1958's "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad," 1963's "Jason and the Argonauts" and 1981's "Clash of the Titans," created Dynamation — a technique that allowed models to be integrated into live-action film footage.

Save for "Titans," Harryhausen, who will be 90 in June, worked on all the special effects himself. "I don't have a crew," he said by phone from his home in London. Any given effect, he said, could take months for him to complete — like the classic skeleton army battle sequence in "Jason and the Argonauts."

"It took four months to put the skeleton fight scene together and it lasted less than five minutes," Harryhausen said. "I remember working in my house as an amateur; I got mad at something and I threw the hammer on the floor and it went through a glass painting that had taken me a long time to make. I had to develop patience."

Chuck Jones fans, meanwhile, will be impressed with the detail he brought to every drawing, says the animator-director's daughter, Linda Jones Clough. "There was one scene in one of his cartoons called 'Feed the Kitty,' where the dog points to himself and his eyes get huge and he basically says, 'Me? I'm guilty?' He drew that expression over 100 times to get the expression he wanted in that moment," she said.

The exhibition is titled after Jones' 1954 short of the same name and features some 150 sketches, animation cells and storyboards from the man behind such classic characters as Bugs Bunny, Pepe Le Pew, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote. Each item on display, added Clough, an only child, "feels very much like my own brothers and sisters, mostly my brothers. All of my siblings were cartoon characters."

Clough said that though her father did keep a lot of material, "he didn't keep as many cels as some of the other animators. He didn't think they were particularly important, at least for his own reference. He kept most of the layout drawings that he used to give his animators for every scene and all the dialogue."

The Harryhausen display will be in the academy's Fourth Floor Gallery, with the Chuck Jones exhibit in the Grand Lobby. For more information, go to http://www.oscars.org.

Fan magazines at USC

Fan magazines get their due with "Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine," the title of film historian Anthony Slide's new book and the inspiration for an exhibit at USC that covers the launch of Motion Picture Story and Photoplay magazines in 1911 to the genre's decline in the 1960s.

The highlight of the exhibition is the gorgeous cover art from the magazines. "The covers are amazing," Slide said. "People don't realize some of the cover art was by incredibly famous people like [Alberto] Vargas. James Montgomery Flagg, he did a series of fan magazine covers for Photoplay in 1936-37."

Some major novelists also wrote for the magazines including "An American Tragedy" writer Theodore Dreiser and "Of Human Bondage'' scribe Somerset Maugham.

"I think the fan magazine really kept America informed about what was happening in Hollywood in small towns across America," Slide said. "It was really providing ordinary people in the U.S. with a unique glimpse of Hollywood."

"Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators and Gossip Mongers" will be at the USC Library through July 30. For more information, go to http://www.usc.edu/calendar.

susan.king@latimes.com

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