Ray Harryhausen’s Grudge Against Godzilla Is Now Crystal Clear

Visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen’s problem with Godzilla is finally explained after nearly 70 years.

The late Ray Harryhausen was the master of stop-motion effects behind some of cinema’s most legendary creature designs and epic battle sequences, such as the Kraken in the original. Clash of the Titans.

He and his work have inspired generations of filmmakers and hardly need any introduction to moviegoers who know him. But what few may know is its bitterly checkered history with Godzilla that has spawned a tale of mythical disdain for the Toho kaiju.

More hate than you can imagine

Apparently, this stemmed from a grudge against the Japanese studio for allegedly ripping ideas, especially that of a prehistoric creature attacking a city, from the film. The 20,000 Fathom Beast – which had a monster created by Harryhausen and came out less than a year after the very first Godzilla movie.

This quote from IMDb sums it up:

“Nurtured a lifelong resentment for Japanese Godzilla films, which was largely inspired by the American film The 20,000 Fathom Beast (1953), for which he had animated the monster. Ray viewed the costume techniques of Japanese monster movies as unconvincing and cheap, and there’s even a widespread rumor that he would reject fans who approached him wearing Godzilla t-shirts.

Don’t believe everything you read

However, paleoartist Mike Tharme, who is also an ambassador for the Ray Harryhausen Foundation and a former apprentice of the legend, now comes forward to say that the above is not exactly the case.

“That was my truth about all of this until about a year ago,” Tharme said in an interview with Klayton Fioriti on his YouTube channel. dragon curve.

Tharme said he had his opinion before speaking to Alan Friswell, curator of the Harryhausen Foundation. Friswell is described by Tharme as having a “fountain of knowledge” about Harryhausen’s career and many of his personal thoughts, so he set the record straight.

Cheap suits

Addressing the “half-truth” about the quote, Tharme explained that he was told, “the truth about that quote is that Ray didn’t like the costume animation,” and when he sees someone depicting a creature in a costume that isn’t humanoid or of human proportions “it turns it off” and its given movie enjoyment.

Kaiju cinema and tokusatsu, invented by Eiji Tsuburaya, over the better part of the past seven decades, are the biggest culprits – from Godzilla to Gamera to Ultraman. Yet when it came to American monster movies with scale-suited man cryptids like in Black Lagoon CreatureHarryhausen “loved this suit”.

“So it wasn’t like he was against all the lawsuits,” Tharme revealed. “It was just the ones that weren’t very well done and that’s what he sees with Godzilla.

On a tight schedule

Intrigued by this information, Fioriti added that he could understand why Harryhausen might think by Godzilla production methods didn’t seem as good, and Tharme noted the rushed filming schedule of your typical Godzilla movie.

Gojira (1954) was released on November 3 while The 20,000 Fathom Beast first screened in Japan earlier that year – meaning Gojira director Ishiro Honda only had a few months between seeing Harryhausen’s work and releasing his own pivotal picture.

There must have been some borrowing at the time, though that wasn’t really what gave Ray Harryhausen his enmity for King of the Monsters. The inciting problem came years later when the king faced another king for the first time.

The root of the problem

The quote from IMDb go ahead and add another layer to the story:

“The King Movie Kong vs. Godzilla (1963) was originally conceptualized by his mentor and close friend Willis H. O’Brien, but was completed without his consent. O’Brien was appalled [by] the finished product, as it had no similarities to his original idea, which would have added more fuel to Ray’s disdain for Godzilla movies.

As Tharme explains, Willis O’Brien – both the father of stop-motion and the designer of King Kong when it debuted in 1933 – spawned the idea as “King Kong versus Frankenstein” (later dubbed “King Kong vs. The Prometheus”). . But in O’Brien’s pitch, Kong allegedly fought a monster sewn up by a mad scientist using animal parts.

Stabbed in the back

A book by Harryhausen, A Century of Model Animation, tells part of this story. He also mentions a producer from RKO – the studio behind ’33’s King Kong and its sequels – went behind O’Brien’s back and sold the idea to a Japanese studio.

The book does not name Toho but it is believed to be who it was. They made a request and it was to replace the monster Frankenstein with Godzilla. The rest, including Harryhausen’s outrage on behalf of his former mentor, was history.

O’Brien died in November 1963, a few months after King Kong vs. Godzilla came out and became a smash hit. To this day, it remains the highest-grossing film in the Godzilla franchise and while Willis O’Brien’s efforts to unwittingly make it are undeniable, it never received credit.

It wasn’t all bad

Knowing this, Tharme argues that Harryhausen’s resentment was against the producers of King Kong vs. Godzilla, and maybe Toho, but not with the Godzilla IP itself. It was more the costume technique that put him off.

And finally, regarding his 20,000 Fathom Beast, Tharme says Harryhausen may have raised his eyebrows at the similarities, but that didn’t bother him when there were plenty of rip-off ideas floating around. when they have proven successful.

Godzilla didn’t hurt either 20,000 fathoms box office in the United States. It didn’t even reach America until 1956 when the recut Godzilla: King of the Monsters featuring Raymond Burr as the latter had already come and gone to make way for other giant monsters and rampaging dinosaurs.

Long live the king

Unlike The Beast, however, the Nuclear Lizard would go on to become one of the most popular film franchises of all time, appearing in more films than any other character (more than James Bond, Batman, and Mickey Mouse).

He may not have had a Ray Harryhausen fan but Tharme thinks the stop-motion maestro would have appreciated Godzilla more if his preferred method had been used by Honda and Tsuburaya.

“When Ray learned [the fact Godzilla was initially planned as a stop-motion film]he would have preferred to see a stop-motion Godzilla,” Tharme said, so it wasn’t the idea itself.

Did you find this interesting? Had you heard the story before or did you partly believe it? Chat below and let us know if you are a Godzilla fan.

Kimberly B. Nguyen