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Archive for the ‘How I’ll Remember…’ Category

By Bob Clark

1933’s King Kong may very well ought to be noted as one of the most important and influential films of all time, and not just for the myriad of obvious ways in which it’s shaped the course of movie history by its most direct methods. As a pioneering feat of action-adventure storytelling and marrying live-action to all manner of special-effects, from matte paintings to stop-motion, it more or less invented a kind of American blockbuster that has come to dominate world box-office, for better or worse. Countless directors have counted the film and its innovations as crucial to their inspiration to become movie-makers, and have even called back directly to the movie when formulating the vocabulary of their own FX-enhanced set-pieces– it’s easy to see traces of Merian C. Cooper’s work in everything from Lucas & Spielberg to Cameron & Jackson, but likewise it’s impossible to look at a movie like The Prestige, with all those grand acts of magic performed on the curtained stage with full proscenium arch, and not think of the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Plenty of big-screen monsters have competed for Kong’s first-place spot on the stage of world attention, and a few have even matched it (Isihiro Honda’s Godzilla and other kaiju creations, even meriting a showdown with the great one himself), but for the most part any attempt to out-do or even place with the work that animator Willis O’Brien did here in bringing the Empire State’s aplha ape have been at best forgettable (if only the same could be said of Dino de Laurientiis’ or Peter Jackson’s dismal remakes). But if in all the years since there have been any movie-monsters that have had any real chance of outshining the great Khan of Kongs and O’Brien’s efforts to tame the savage beast one stop-motion frame at a time, then they can only be due to the efforts of a man who gladly claimed Kong and O’Brien as crucial inspirations to his own start as an animator, and who very well stands as the greatest gift that 1933 film has indirectly bestowed upon the culture of popcorn cinema. Without Kong, there wouldn’t have been a Ray Harryhausen, and without him, nothing would’ve been the same.

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By Bob Clark

Celebrity deaths, so the common wisdom of the morbidly curious goes, usually come in threes, and this past Christmas was no exception. We lost two of our best character actors in Jack Klugman and Charles Durning, whose collective contributions to film and television cover a generously wide span of content– everything from hardboiled dramas and lighthearted sitcoms to great American theater and raunchy modern animation. Both of them were lesser-known names than many of their contemporaries, but odds are you’d recognize them by their faces or the parts they played, which isn’t something you could say very easily about the third part of this mortuary trifecta. How many people nowadays know the name Gerry Anderson right off the tip of their tongues? Fewer still would be able to place his face, or even claim to have seen him on television or in a magazine. As a producer, writer and creator on television, he’s much more likely to be known by the works he made rather than any facetime with his audience, and for somebody engaged in creating works of children’s television you’ve got the automatically receding half-life of nostalgia. Unless you grew up withhis programs in their original runs or maybe in reruns, odds are you only know about them if making a concerted effort to track down all the curiosities of quasi-animation and puppet stylings on the big or small screens from the past half century or so. And perhaps the best thing that can be said about Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet is that, for all their flaws, they’re worth the effort.

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By Bob Clark

This week, the title is meant to be read in the future tense, an appropriate consideration, seeing as the person in question is a figure whose work always dealt with imagining the future in the most extravagant terms possible. A couple weeks back when Ralph McQuarrie passed away, I closed my short piece on him by wondering out loud how the Star Wars series might’ve turned out if another artist had been contacted by George Lucas to put pen and brush to paper and render production art for his big pitch at 20th Century Fox. I had only thought so far as to speculate the results if Frank Frazetta or Jim Steranko had teamed up with the young filmmaker, but almost as soon as I’d published the piece, I realized that I had overlooked another seminal sci-fi and fantasy artist of the time, and one whose work had already been shaping the look of genre films and would go on shaping them for years to come. Both directly through collaboration and indirectly through inspiration, Jean “Moebius” Giraud has very likely been more responsible for the look and feel of science fiction film, comics and animation than any other artist in the past thirty or forty years. And now, like Ralph McQuarrie, he is gone.

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By Bob Clark

The story is an old one, known to just about any fan of science-fiction films, or the genre in general, one of those behind-the-scenes cinema stories as easy to memorize, tell and embellish as Fritz Lang’s own tall tales about fleeing from the Nazis after being offered ultimate power over the German filmmaking industry. Ralph McQuarrie hadn’t had much background in the movies before being tapped to do concept paintings for what was then being pitched and turned down around Hollywood as The Star Wars. Oh, he’d done some art for a film that Matthew Robbins never got off the ground, but beyond that he was just something of a technical artist journeyman, having previously done work for a dental firm, Boeing and CBS’ coverage of the Apollo Space Program. It was Robbins who got the man in touch with George Lucas (Robbins having collaborated with Lucas on the original THX 1138 short), who was then having disastrous troubles communicating his vision for an epic space-opera to the heads of studios like Universal (where he’d just done American Graffiti) and United Artists. It’s hardly surprising, even when looking back at the monumental success that the films would become, how hard the filmmaker must’ve had it to get his ideas across to executives, with nothing but an elevator pitch and the script off his back to sell it with– Lord knows that words were never his strong suit. His has always been a primarily, even primordially visual imagination, and so as he prepared to mount another attempt to find a home for his passion project, he decided that he needed to bring a visual pitch, as well as a verbal one. And that’s where Ralph McQuarrie steps in.

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by Jaime Grijalba.

The last wednesday, when everybody was still mourning the loss of Ken Russell, british director of the violent and sacrilegous masterpiece that is ‘The Devils’, a news piece from Japan went unnoticed until the next day, December 1st, that certain niche places that admire the works of the great animators of the japanese kind announced the sad news of the passing of Shingo Araki. Now, that’s how I was informed of it, the news came up on twitter via an anime fan I follow, just because he’s the brother of someone I follow as well, saying that one of the character designers and key animators of the classic anime TV series ‘Saint Seiya’ had died. I was overwhelmed, ‘Saint Seiya’ was one of those TV series that are classic around these parts of the globe, it was a Big Hit in Chile when I was a kid, and I watched it as well, so I couldn’t help but feel sad. Inmediatly I decided to search for him in my usual venues, looking for what other works he had done in the world of anime, and I was given the surprise of my life when he was responsible for the character creation of many of the other cartoons I used to watch at that time, and others that I watched during the sweet years of my childhood, so I was barely resisting the urge to do something about it, specially since he practically made many of my favorite shows as I grew up. I inmediatly spoke to Bob Clark through Gmail Chat (a weird, yet awesome tool has given us the way to communicate even if he doesn’t have a Gmail account) and told him that he died, just ot be received with a hint of ignorance on who he really was. Now, I’m not dissapointed of the ignorance, after all, as time has prooven to me, many of the anime shows tha played when I was a kid, haven’t even been released in USA, or just didn’t have the cult following or success that was expected, so I quietly began to explain how this guy practically drew my heroes.

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