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Ray Harryhausen: Proud Owner of a ‘Mighty Joe Young’ Armature

March 5, 2011

All these past years, I have sometimes wondered why Ray Harryhausen never had his own stop motion Mighty Joe Young puppet and/or the armature in his collection, yet ‘others’ always seem to have acquired the original stop motion memorabilia and kept it all for themselves.  IMO, Ray Harryhausen of ALL people should have first rights or privilege of owning anything related to Mighty Joe Young!

Well, this problem has now been resolved by Jeff Taylor who has been a long time passionate ‘Stop Motionist’ and also, has professionally worked in this unique animation art & craft. Jeff is now the primary force behind his new 8th Wonder Studios (Stop Motion Animation & Fine Arts Sculpture). He just returned from a trip to England. Jeff flew there to specifically meet our Grand Master of Stop Motion & Hero, Ray Harryhausen and he presented him with a Mighty Joe Young fully functional professionally built stop motion armature!!

Many of us into Stop Motion may have similar qualities as Ray. My sense is, that Ray as an artist & technician, is a more low-key/quiet person and enjoys more (than being a ‘Celeberty’), working IN his studio/shop and doing all manner of ‘Creating & Building’.  Perhaps, ‘Uncle Ray’ will cherish this Mighty Joe Armature gift more than the Oscar award or other awards he received?! I can imagine Ray, every night before he goes to bed now …. manipulating and posing the Mighty Joe Young armature! :) Thanks very much Jeff …. very generous of you to offer and present this as a gift to our ‘Uncle Ray‘.

Here is Jeff Taylor’s overview comments about visiting Ray:

It was “the thrill of lifetime” to finally give Ray his very own Mighty Joe young armature. He has often been heard to say: “Everybody has one of these but me.” This piece may not be a true original, but thanks to a brilliant set of blueprints by Tom St. Amand (based on the Joe armature from the collection of Bob Burns) and many months of machine work by myself and Dolphin Machine, it’s as close as anything will ever get. The skull is even cast from an original Joe skull.

I flew to London to visit Ray at his home, and with the help of Tony Dalton (an amazing guy!) we took Ray completely by surprise. He immediately began posing the 16” Joe, placing Joe’s hands on his hips as seen in the photos. “I don’t like that pose,” Ray’s daughter Vanessa said. “Put him in real ‘Joe’ pose.” It was truly a magical moment. Ray had a look of child-like delight on his face as he rapidly manipulated the armature from pose to pose. I even managed to capture a few seconds of it on video. We included a brass plaque on the base that reads: “Presented to Mr. Ray Harryhausen, March 1, 2011, in memory of ‘Jennifer.” Jennifer is the nickname he had for his favorite puppet of the four 16” Joes built for the film. He laughed out loud when he read it.

Being able to personally give something like this to one of the few heroes of my life who has given me so much inspiration was truly an honor. Ray is such a warm, charismatic and gracious person that the two hours I spent with him, Tony, and his daughter Vanessa seemed more like two minutes. They made me feel extremely comfortable and welcome. They gave me the grand tour of Ray’s beautiful London home that houses his magical collection and even though it’s days later, I still haven’t stopped re-living the visit. As soon as I can get over the jet lag and gather my thoughts, I’ll try to recapture the event in much greater detail. For now, here are a couple of pictures.

Finally, I just want say thanks, Ray, for a lifetime of inspiration.

References: Mighty Joe YoungCollectors: Mighty Joe Young Stop Motion Armature Replicas8th Wonder Studio

Topics: Animators, Stop Motion Armatures | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “Ray Harryhausen: Proud Owner of a ‘Mighty Joe Young’ Armature”

  1. /·_·\ says:

    family reunion

    it is a real pleasure to see / read this… Prammaven: I appreciate your idea highly. It’s the gesture that counts.

    Addendum: the armature in all it’s beauty: http://www.8thwonderstudio.com/gallery

    And – because it is time to repeat this once more: Thanks Mr. L. for this great site of yours

  2. Artie B. says:

    This is so cool of Jeff Taylor to do. I agree that RH should always have ” first rights” of owning his creations over anybody else.

    It’s ironic that I found this website, let alone this fantastic article. As I just received a copy of the 1977 book “From The Land Beyond, Beyond” I won on Ebay 2 days ago. I just watched Joe and finished reading all about this part of the book.
    How loving Joe looks at Jill when they are on Stage is one of the great achievements in how RH handles reality in his creatures.
    Another is Joe when mad, Ray has him striking the ground with his fist. Now that’s attitude!
    And that photo of him w/ the armature is great! What a proud and loving gaze he has on receiving this.
    Glad I found this.

  3. Mr. Lucas,
    Thanks for the very kind and inspiring words….I only wish I was worthy of them. This project (the Joe armatures) came about because I thought it would be something great to do for Ray and a challenging undertaking that might give me the motivation to get back into stop-motion work, something I’ve been away from far too long. It has succeeded on both counts: Ray finally has a perfect Joe, and I have a new, revitalized inspiration to create some stop-motion art. I’m developing a few project right now that, if nothing else, will continue to establish the new-found validity of stop-motion animation as both a commercial and artistic juggernaut. Thanks again.

  4. Pram says:

    I kind of felt the same way when I presented Mr. Vinton with a box of clay. His studio fed my creativity all through high school and it was neat to give something back.
    Obviously, 1lb of clay is nothing to the cost and time of building an armature (and that would be a ridiculous comparison to make), but it carried the same significance for me. It’s cool to see that Mr. Harryhausen finally has his own “Joe”.

  5. What a gracious and kind thing to be able to do for one’s hero. Ray Harryhausen is the spiritual father to thousands who have come after him.
    And I agree with Mr Dods, that Jeff Taylor is the RH of armature creation. I have been a fan of Jeff Taylor’s ever since seeing his peerless work with a gorilla in a Cinfex issue almost two decades ago. Jeff in not only the greatest craftsman doing this work, but his gentlemanly act,here,proves that his is a hero, himself. Well done.

  6. Rotter says:

    Good on you, Jeff!!

  7. U_Ani says:

    It’s what true love is all about, social interaction. Especially between artists no matter what generation :)

  8. sasquatch says:

    Very nice thing to do Jeff. My best to you, Stan

  9. What????? John, you have given me the highest compliment possible….although I think RH is the RH of armature creators! While I was at his home, I showed Ray a portfolio of some of my sculpture and armature work. He commented that my armatures were very lavish. I said to him that I’ve recently found that the more simple designs are often better. He looked up at me, winked, and said, “Yes. Simpler is often better.” Words of wisdom from the master.

  10. John Dods says:

    Bravo Jeff Taylor! What a magnificent gift.
    it’s perfect because Jeff may be the RH of armature

  11. Paul Vortex says:

    Ray looks really happy in these shots – Very cool thing to do for him… Much admiration and respect!


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