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Sony Pictures Digital Productions Names Theater in Honor of Visual Effects and Animation Legend Ray Harryhausen as He Celebrates His 90th Birthday
Jun 28, 2010 (05:06 PM EDT)


CULVER CITY, Calif., June 28 /PRNewswire/ -- On the eve of his 90th birthday, Sony Pictures Digital Productions is excited to announce the renaming of its 119-seat screening theater after visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen.  The honor comes just days after the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) paid tribute to the creative legend in London with a special award feting his contributions to film.

The Ray Harryhausen Theater will be formally dedicated on Monday, July 12, 2010, with the unveiling of a sign displaying the theater's new name, a reception, and the screening of one of Harryhausen's seminal hit films, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. The 1963 classic, originally produced and released by Columbia Pictures (now part of Sony Pictures Entertainment), has been lovingly restored to its original splendor by Sony Pictures. The film makes its debut on Blu-ray Disc on JULY 6 – the fifth Harryhausen Blu-ray title from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, the most of any filmmaker from the label.  The disc features new commentaries by Harryhausen himself, as well as Oscar®-winning director Peter Jackson, along with film historian Tony Dalton and visual effects expert Randall William Cook, and a new interview with Harryhausen with filmmaker John Landis.

"It's an incredible honor to have this theater named at the studio I called home," says Harryhausen. "It means as much to me as my Academy Award® and the BAFTA honor I just received, especially knowing that it is a working theater where visual effects artists and animators work every day."

The theater, located on the Culver City, Ca. campus of Sony Pictures Digital Productions, is the screening theater of Sony Pictures Imageworks, Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Imageworks Interactive.  Used on a daily basis in the creation of modern visual effects and animated features, the theater represents the living legacy of Harryhausen's lifelong career, as Sony's artists continue to develop and practice new animation techniques for bringing fantasy to life, much as the facility's namesake did throughout his career.

After being inspired by the work of Willis H. O'Brien, the stop-motion photography pioneer of 1933's KING KONG, Harryhausen eventually found himself working alongside his mentor for 1949's MIGHTY JOE YOUNG. In the mid-1950s, he moved on to Columbia Pictures, where he created mind-boggling special effects for such films as "20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957), THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958), JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963), and, later, for M-G-M, the original CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981).  His ingenious skill at seamlessly blending stop-motion puppetry with live action footage – of, for example, an unbelievable seven articulated skeletons battling Jason in the 1963 film – continues to inspire visual effects artists to this day.

In keeping with the innovation Harryhausen continually introduced throughout his career, the Harryhausen Theater has undergone a significant state-of-the-art technical upgrade, with capabilities for projecting digital 3D stereoscopic content via Sony's industry-leading 4K CineAlta projector system and RealD cinema technology, 2D digital content and analog (filmed) content, along with a modernization of the THX®-rated theater's audio reproduction system for 7.1 Surround sound.   In addition, the projection system is tied directly to the animation and visual effects computer production infrastructure, enabling direct access to the artists' work in progress at any time.

But it is the Harryhausen name which will no doubt continue to inspire Sony's artists as they see the name which has instilled a sense of excitement for the visual effects and animation crafts for over 60 years – not the least of which is Sony Pictures Imageworks' own Creative Head, five-time Academy Award®-winner Ken Ralston.   Long before working on such films as the original STAR WARS trilogy and as Visual Effects Supervisor for BACK TO THE FUTURE, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT and, more recently, BEOWULF and ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Ralston found himself face-to-face with Harryhausen at the age of 14.  "I was invited to the house of Forrest J. Ackerman, who did a magazine called Famous Monsters of Filmland," he recalls.  "I was dumbfounded."  His relationship with his mentor is now entering its fifth decade.

After seeing THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD at a young age at a local theater in Los Angeles, the budding visual effects wiz was mesmerized.  "Ray's films took me to these fantastic worlds, with these incredible creatures and characters, in a way I had never experienced before.  I'd never seen anything like it, and it really stuck to me."

Ralston and his friends attempted to recreate the magic in their garages with small puppets and 8 mm cameras, and, over the years, discovered the most important aspect of Harryhausen's success.   "It was his work ethic – how hard he disciplined himself to do that work.  Those films are all Ray.  He was all of it.  For the most part, that was one person doing all of the effects work we see in his films.  That's something that's almost impossible for younger people to understand, where today, it is an army of individuals creating a single shot."

"What's amazing – and unique – about his work is that he often brought a sympathetic quality to the creatures, especially during their demise," notes Grover Crisp, Sony Pictures' Sr. VP, Asset Management, Film Restoration and Digital Mastering.    "It's never just a shock-and-awe thing – he gave them some feeling and humanity." One of the most respected film archivists and restoration specialists in the world, it was Crisp and his team who undertook the meticulous restoration of "Jason and the Argonauts."

Upon entering the newly named theater and seeing Harryhausen's name, Ralston hopes for one thing for those who use the facility.  "As they walk in, just seeing his name and contemplating for a minute the inspiration he's been to so many – not just effects people, but filmmakers in general. Ray Harryhausen has had a global influence.   And we're glad he has a home with us."

For information on JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and SPHE, contact Jason Allen at jason_allen@spe.sony.com

SONY PICTURES DIGITAL PRODUCTIONS

Sony Pictures Digital Productions is the digital production center of Sony Pictures Entertainment and comprises, Sony Pictures Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Imageworks Interactive. Sony Pictures Animation produces a variety of animated entertainment for audiences around the world.  The studio is following its most recent hit, the mouth-watering 3D comedy CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, with a full slate of feature films. Sony Pictures Imageworks is a leading, state-of-the-art digital animation and visual effects studio creating computer-generated (CG) images and animation for motion pictures through its live action, all CG animation, and 3D stereoscopic capabilities. Imageworks Interactive is a full service creative group that produces websites and supports digital marketing for the studio and outside clients.

SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) company.  SPE is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE's global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; home entertainment acquisition and distribution; a global channel network; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of entertainment in more than 140 countries.  Sony Pictures Entertainment can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.sonypictures.com

SOURCE Sony Pictures Digital Productions