Ray Harryhausen-The Early Years Collection (2005)

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Released 13-Feb-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary
Featurette
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 221:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ray Harryhausen
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Forrest J Ackerman
Jim Aupperle
Rick Baker
Craig Barron
Doug Beswick
Ray Bradbury
John Bruno
Bob Burns
Tim Burton
Mark Caballero
James Cameron
Charles Chiodo
Edward Chiodo
Case ?
RPI ? Music John W. Morgan
Miho Nomura
William T. Stromberg


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio Varies
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Danish
Dutch
Arabic
Finnish
Hindi
Norwegian
Romanian
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes, though it is actively not condoned
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Ray Harryhausen has long been regarded as a legend of stop motion animation. His special effects work has influenced generations of movie-goers and film producers. His credits include such classics as Mighty Joe Young, Jason and the Argonauts, One Million Years BC and Clash of the Titans.

    After viewing King Kong as a teenager, upon its original release, Harryhausen became obsessed with stop motion animation and began his own experiments into the art. He joined Frank Capra's Army Motion Picture Unit during the second world war, where he honed his skills doing animations for potential military training and propaganda. During this time he built an enviable demo reel.

    This DVD set collects a wide assortment of Harryhausen's pre-motion picture work (including his Army Motion Picture Unit work and his subsequent attempts at animated shorts, as well as earlier demos and concept art) and a veritable assortment of biographical featurettes.

    This is a must-have collection for back-yard film historians as well as animation and effects fans.

    This collection features:

Stories and Tales (68:50)

    These shorts include Harryhausen's Mother Goose shorts and a number of fairy tales.

    The Mother Goose shorts were originally designed to be played together. They include Little Miss Muffet, Old Mother Hubbard, The Queen of Hearts and Humpty Dumpty.

    The fairy tales shorts include Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel, King Midas and the recently completed The Tortoise and the Hare

    The animation is top notch throughout, both incredibly smooth and stylish.

    Though these shorts are family friendly, they will probably bore a lot of kids to death. They are certainly cute and have a distinct style, he material is fairly slowly paced and each short is longer than would probably hold a child's attention. That said, grown up kids at heart and anybody watching for the animation itself will be Wonderland.

    These shorts can be played together with introductions from Ray Harryhausen or individually.

Early Films (22:25)

    This set of film comprises two shorts made for the Army Motion Picture Unit (How to Bridge a Gorge and Guadalcanal), a demo advertisement for cigarettes (complete with an "I don't condone the product" intro!) and three short advertisements for the Lakewood housing estate.

    These shorts are visually quite impressive and display a wide variety of camera and animation tricks. The demo cigarette advertisement, in particular, throws every trick in Harryhausen's arsenal together.

    The originally silent military shorts feature new scores which add significant atmosphere to them.

    The pick of the bunch, and probably the whole DVD, is Guadalcanal (despite it having the worst transfer quality of any of them). It is a 10 minute short depicting the construction of a Japanese military outpost and airfield in the Solomon islands, followed by their capture by allied forces. The emphasis being on forces, as the short does not feature any people in it whatsoever - only terrain and vehicles. Set to an influential and emotive score, it makes for a surreal journey.

Tests and Experiments (15:44)

    Ray Harryhausen presents an assortment of test reels and concept art for a wide variety of concepts that never made it beyond the initial concept stage. From early footage of dinosaurs and the like through to some demos based on classic literature such as War of the Worlds and Baron Munchausen.

Ray Harryhausen: Hollywood Walk of Fame Featurette (12:48)

    Footage of the unveiling of Ray Harryhausen's star on the Hollywood walk of fame, along with speeches given at the ceremony

Harryhausen's Livingstone Statue Featurette (4:27)

    A featurette on how Harryhausen designed a statue for David Livingstone Park, named after the famed explorer, in Glasgow.

The Clifton's Cafeteria Reunion (22:26)

    Old friends and science fiction legends Ray Bradbury, Forrest J. Ackerman and Ray Harryhausen chew the fat on science fiction "back in the day" at a cafeteria where they had regular meetings in the 1950s.

In The Credits Featurette (9:29)

    A brief interview with Harryhausen about his career, conducted in 2004 by Arnold Kunert, his long-time producer. Stepping through a couple of career highlights, this interview covers both the history around some of Harryhausen's major productions and explains some of his frequent techniques. The interview features demonstrations of the miniatures from several films including one of the instantly recognisable skeletons from the Jason and the Argonauts and the Medusa model from Clash of the Titans.

    This interview is good, but far too short and only covers a couple of Harryhausen's productions.

An Evening with Ray Harryhausen Featurette (9:17)

    An interview conducted by film critic Leonard Maltin for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This interview centres around how Harryhausen taught himself to animate and got started in the motion picture industry. It covers a lot of very similar ground as other featurettes on the disc, but has one or two new anecdotes.

Harryhausen's Bronzes Featurette (2:56)

    A documentary about how Harryhausen repaired and recast many of his favourite creations, and a few others to boot, in bronze for his own posterity.

The Ted Newsom Interview Featurette (8:57)

    A documentary, produced for this DVD set, about how Harryhausen came to make the Mother Goose and fairy tale shorts and some of the techniques he used. This documentary has a more directed focus than the others and provides a lot of interesting bits not found in the other interviews.

The Academy Archive Restoration Featurette (6:02)

    A short featurette about the restoration process undertaken to produce the masters used for the transfer of all the shorts on this DVD set, and to produce archival copies of the films.

Filmmuseum Berlin Featurette (3:06)

    A featurette about the permanent Ray Harryhausen exhibit at Filmmuseum Berlin. This features plenty of great shots of the armatures and sets on display in the exhibit.

Birthday Tributes Featurettes (5:38)

    Three tributes produced by various effects houses for Ray Harryhausen's video birthday card for his 80th birthday. Entitled Stumbling Skeletons, Coffee Break and Harryhausen: The Time Traveller

An Appreciation Tribute Featurette (20:06)

    A wide assortment of notable directors and effects wizards chip in their thoughts on Ray Harryhausen. There's a veritable list of who's who featured (Peter Jackson, Tim Burton, John Landis and Wes Craven to name a few), though they weigh in little more than an endorsement of the legend's work.

Harryhausen Tribute by David Allen (4:27)

    A brief tribute speech from the late stop motion animator David Allen, filmed on a home movie camera at a convention.

Photo Galleried

    6 image galleries are included focusing on a number of the shorts and concept art that appears elsewhere on the DVD.

Trailers

    Original theatrical trailers for several of Ray Harryhausen and Charles Schneer's co-productions are presented. Each features an excellent transfer. Featured are: The Three Worlds of Gulliver, First Men on the Moon, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Jason & the Argonauts, Mysterious Island and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality varies considerably between featurettes, but is generally good given the source material. There is no particularly noteworthy film to DVD or analogue to digital artefacts visible in any of the transfers

    The animated shorts have mostly been cleaned up quite well and sourced from good masters. They all display a modest number of film artefacts, but none are visible for terribly long and really do little more than accentuate the archival nature of the material. Telecine wobble is visible on most of the title cards for the shorts but it is not typically noticeable during the shorts itself, no more than is reasonable to expect from a stop motion short at any rate. One exception to this being Guadalcanal, which displays reasonably regular wobble due to the condition of the archival footage. The colour in the transfers is reasonable, but does not appear to have undergone a frame by frame colour balance. The colours are quite vibrant although the brightness level of particular areas fluctuates a small degree from time to time.

    The video quality of the documentary featurettes varies considerably more than the shorts as they are from a wide assortment of sources. Most appear to have been shot on high quality professional video, however some, such as the footage of the unveiling of Harryhausen's star on the Hollywood walk of fame, are more comparable to home movies shot on VHS. The transfers of each are very true to their source material.

    The white English subtitles are available throughout and are generally easy to ready. I found these genuinely helpful on one or two of the featurettes that had quite poor sound.

    The discs are dual layered, but layer breaks occur in-between featurettes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kbps) on all featurettes and shorts.

    Much like the video, the audio quality varies throughout. For the most part it is no frills but adequate, however there is one notable exception. A featurette that presents the unveiling of Ray Harryhausen's star on the Hollywood walk of fame appears to have been shot on home video equipment and several tribute speeches are barely audible above background noise.

    The audio for the shorts sounds dated and there is a degree of crackle occasionally noticeable, but the content is readily discernable.

    There are no issues with audio visual synchronisation.

    There is no surround channel or subwoofer usage, but that would be a tad excessive on this kind of compilation.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The main content of these discs is the sort of fare generally considered to be "extras". Despite this, there are a number of bits that are labelled as "special features".

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    There is a fairly bold menu introduction followed by some fairly standard animated menus with an brief section of rather irritating music. To be fair, the music is quite fitting and sounds quite magical, but it is guaranteed to drive anyone who leaves the menu on for any prolonged period crazy. The menus are available in a variety of languages.

The Making of The Tortoise & The Hare Featurette (13:21)

    When he started feature film work, Harryhausen was partway through making The Tortoise & The Hare. Thanks to his immediate success, he didn't get around to finishing the short at the time. It remained known to fans as Ray Harryhausen's unfinished film until 2002 when Mark Caballero and Seamus Walsh, two young animators, met Harryhausen and convinced him to let them finish the job. This featurette explains how this all came about.

Audio Commentary for The Tortoise & The Hare with Ray Harryhausen, Mark Caballero & Seamus Walsh

    A reasonably interesting commentary that explains the effort spent making the new footage look like the old footage (which comprises about 3 of the films 11 minutes), right down to the grain level in the film stock, and discusses aspects of Harryhausen early technique.

Alternate Ending to Bridging a Gorge (0:58)

    Harryhausen himself admits that this alternate ending was so cheesy it embarassed him that he even filmed it. Bravo for having the guts to put it on this collection!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    An identical edition is available in Region 1.

Summary

    A fascinating collection of memorabilia that comes highly recommended to animation fans. The content is a mixture of shorts and featurettes.

    The video and audio quality varies significantly throughout, but is typically dependant on the source material. In each case, a good job has been done in restoring the source material to, at the very least, an acceptable standard.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDLG V8824W, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D512
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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