It was nearing the end of Bafta's Ray Harryhausen 90th birthday tribute at the BFI Southbank last Saturday that special effects makeup maestro Rick Baker took to the stage to offer his praise. For the previous two hours or so, a stunning list of the movie industry's biggest, most innovative and respected names had, in person or via video messages, offered their undying love and gratitude to Harryhausen and his work, all offering incredibly specific tales of when they first encountered his unique contribution to cinema and how greatly it affected them. For Baker, the problem he faced was how could he say anything that had not been already said – even the "we are all children of the Hydra's teeth" line had been used. Twice. So, the six-time Oscar winner asked a question that, upon reflection, is rather terrifying, something no one else there would have dared to even speculate on: What if Ray Harryhausen had never been born? "I'd be asking you if you wanted fries with that ...Peter Jacksonwould be shearing sheep."
"The Children of the Hydra. Scene from the film Jason And The Argonauts, Copyright 1963 Morningside Worldwide Pictures."
After that it was impossible not to consider how different cinema would be without such an inspiring figure. Just going by the list of acolytes who contributed to the evening alone, we'd have no Star Wars, no Terminator, no Toy Story, no Pan's Labyrinth, no Edward Scissorhands, no Jaws, no Shawshank Redemption, no Wallace and certainly no Gromit. Those are just the collateral damage, without Harryhausen there would be no Jason And The Argonauts, no 7th Voyage Of Sinbad and no 20 Million Miles To Earth. That's not a world I'd want to live in. It wouldn't be much fun.
Best of all was Harryhausen's longtime friend Ray Bradbury, who told the tale of how they met, aged 18, for the first time outside the house of mutual palForrest J Ackerman(the man who coined the term "sci-fi" – these gentlemen pretty much invented everything). Invited back to check out Harryhausen's dinosaur models, Bradbury decided the two should be best friends and have spoken or met each other at least once a month for the last 72 years. I don't think anyone there failed to tear up over that. Beautiful.