Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Animator and Animation Reviews... Willis O'Brien...

Willis O'Brien was an Irish American pioneering motion picture special effects artist who specialized in stop-motion animation. He was born in 1886 and before he began working in film, he was a cartonist for a newspaper and a professional marble sculptor. For his early short films, O'Brien created his own characters out of clay, although for much of his feature career he would employ Richard and Marcel Delgado to create much more detailed stop-motion models with rubber skin built up over complex, articulated metal armatures. He went on to work on films like The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933), and Mighty Joe Young (1949). Ray Harryhausen was O'Brien's Protege and became his successor. In 1997 O'Brien was posthumously awarded the Winsor McCay Award in recognition of lifetime or career contributions to the art of animation.

King Kong follows a film crew that travel to a remote island, which they discover is ruled by natives and giant creatures like dinosaurs and Kong, a giant 30 foot ape. Kong, the ruler of the remote island is held in captivity by the natives and when they see the film crew, they capture the leading lady as a sacrifice for the beast. Instead of taking her life, the beast falls in love with the woman, similar to the story of the the Beauty and the Beast, as referenced in the film. From here-on-in the story is much about the love that cold never be. In particular Phil wanted us to focus on Willis O'Brien's stop-motion work, specifically pointing out the battle between the dinosaur and Kong. It is clear that this was groundbreaking stuff for 1933 and although it may seem less impressive in a modern digital era, it was the paving stone and inspiration for many animators, in particular Ray Harryhausen. I can't say i enjoy the storyline of Kong very much because it never focuses on a specific genre, it becomes a fantasy in the middle, but loses that when we are taking to New York city. However, i can admire the work and groundbreaking animation in this film, particularly the way the animation has been composited with the live footage, which must have been way ahead of its time.

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