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6 Influential Stop-Motion Movies From Ray Harryhausen

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Raymond Frederick “Ray” Harryhausen—who died today at age 92—was a pioneer and visionary in the filmmaking industry. Although he never directed a full-length feature film, his style of stop-motion animation special effects and his bold imagination directly impact nearly every genre movie from the 1940s to today. Harryhausen almost single-handedly kept the stop-motion animation technique alive for three solid decades before the advent of computer camera motion control and CGI.

He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2005, while directors like Tim Burton, Robert Rodriguez, James Cameron, and George Lucas pay homage to Harryhausen’s work in their films. Here are six of the most influential stop-motion Ray Harryhausen movies.

1. MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)

Ray Harryhausen’s work on Mighty Joe Young—which was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, one of the directors of the groundbreaking 1933 movie King Kong—contributed to the film’s Academy Award win for Best Special Effects in 1949. The movie is known for its elaborate action sequences and larger-than-life characters. Mighty Joe Young is seen as one of the best examples of what stop-motion animation can offer.

2. EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956)

The science fiction film Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (also known as Invasion of the Flying Saucers) displayed an elaborate alien invasion that had UFOs crashing into a number of government buildings and monuments. Harryhausen incorporated military stock footage with stop-motion animation to bring the fictional event to life; his flying saucer design is the prototype for almost every alien invasion movie ever made. Director Tim Burton paid homage to Harryhausen’s work in his 1996 film, Mars Attacks!

3. THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was the first of three Sinbad movies released by Columbia Pictures. Harryhausen refined his stop-motion technique with a new system called “Dynamation," which incorporated stop-motion animation with lush and vivid color. It took him 11 months to complete the animation for the film, which features one of Harryhausen’s most iconic creations, the monstrous single-horned Cyclops. In 2008, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

4. MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961)

Loosely based on Jules Verne’s novel, Mysterious Island was used by Shepperton Studios to showcase the high level of special effects the British movie studio could churn out and offer directors. Although the film was a box office disappointment, Mysterious Island is considered to be one of the finest examples of Harryhausen’s imagination and design.

5. JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)

Jason and the Argonauts is perhaps best known for the iconic sword fight featuring seven skeleton warriors, which took Harryhausen four months to complete. He considered Jason and the Argonauts to be his best film; it was nominated for the American Film Institute’s Top 10 Fantasy Films of all time. Director Robert Rodriguez paid homage to the skeleton sword fight scene in his 2002 film, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams

6. CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981)

When people think of the 1981 film Clash of the Titans, the creatures that immediately come to mind are Harryhausen's terrifying Medusa and towering Kraken. After the film was released, Harryhausen retired from filmmaking (special effects in Hollywood movies like Star Wars and Superman made the stop-motion animation technique seem old fashioned). Director Louis Leterrier's 2010 Titans remake—which starred Australian actor Sam Worthington as Perseus and Liam Neeson as the mythological Greek god Zeus—didn’t incorporate stop-motion animation, but Harryhausen’s influence can still be felt: The creatures were updated versions of his stop-motion creations.

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Art
Get Crazy With the Official Bob Ross Coloring Book
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If you watched Bob Ross's classic series The Joy of Painting for hours on end but didn’t come away a terribly capable artist, you can still enjoy replicating the amazing public television personality’s work. You can now pretend you’re painting along with the late, great PBS star using a brand-new adult coloring book based on his art.

The Bob Ross Coloring Book (Universe) is the first authorized coloring book based on Ross’s artistic archive. Ross, who would have turned 75 later this year, was all about giving his fans the confidence to pursue art even without extensive training. “There’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us,” the gentle genius said. So what better way to honor his memory than to relax with his coloring book?

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the Ross landscapes you can recreate, all while flipping through some of his best quotes and timeless tidbits of wisdom.

An black-and-white outline of a Bob ross painting of a mountain valley

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a house nestled among trees.

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a farm scene.

And remember, even if you color outside the lines, it’s still a work of art. As Ross said, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

You can find The Bob Ross Coloring Book for about $14 on Amazon. Oh, and if you need even more Ross in your life, there’s now a Bob Ross wall calendar, too.

All images courtesy of Rizzoli.

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entertainment
8 Movies That Almost Starred Keanu Reeves
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He may not have the natural ease of Al Pacino, the classical training of Anthony Hopkins, the timeless cool of Jack Nicholson, or the raw versatility of Gary Oldman, but Keanu Reeves has been around long enough to have worked alongside each of those actors. Yet instead of Oscar nods, the actor whose first name means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian has a handful of Razzie nominations.

While critical acclaim has mostly eluded Reeves during his 30-plus years in Hollywood, his movies have made nearly $2 billion at the box office. Whether because of his own choosiness or the decisions of studio powers-that-be, that tally could be much, much higher. To celebrate The Chosen One’s 53rd birthday, here are eight movies that almost starred Keanu Reeves.

1. X-MEN (2000)

In Hollywood’s version of the X-Men universe, Hugh Jackman is the definitive Wolverine. But Jackman himself was a last-minute replacement (for Dougray Scott) and other, bigger (in 2000) names were considered for the hirsute superhero—including Reeves. Ultimately, it was the studio that decided to go in a different direction, much to Reeves’ disappointment. “I always wanted to play Wolverine,” the actor told Moviefone in 2014. “But I didn't get that. And they have a great Wolverine now. I always wanted to play The Dark Knight. But I didn't get that one. They've had some great Batmans. So now I'm just enjoying them as an audience.”

2. PLATOON (1986)

For an action star, Reeves isn’t a huge fan of violence, which is why he passed on playing the lead in Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning Vietnam classic. “Keanu turned it down because of the violence,” Stone told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. “He didn’t want to do violence.”

3. THE FLY II (1989)

Few people would likely mistake Reeves for the son of Jeff Goldblum, but producers were anxious to see him play the next generation of Goldblum’s insectile role in the sequel to The Fly. But Reeves wasn’t having any of it. Why? Simple: “I didn't like the script,” he told Movieline in 1990.

4. SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL (1997)

Speaking of sequels (and bad scripts): Reeves was ready to reprise his role as Jack Traven in Jan de Bont’s second go at the series … then he read it. “When I was offered Speed 2, Jan came to Chicago and so did Sandra, and they said, ‘You’ve got to do this,’” Reeves recalled to The Telegraph. “And I said, 'I read the script and I can’t. It’s called Speed, and it’s on a cruise ship.” (He's got a point.)

Even when the studio dangled a $12 million paycheck in front of him, Reeves said no. “I told [William Mechanic, then-head of Fox], ‘If I do this film, I will not come back up. You guys will send me to the bottom of the ocean and I will not make it back up again.’ I really felt like I was fighting for my life.”

5. HEAT (1995)

Reeves’ refusal to cave on Speed 2 didn’t sit well in Hollywood circles. And it didn't help that he also passed on playing Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer’s role) in Michael Mann’s Heat in order to spend a month playing Hamlet at Canada’s Manitoba Theatre Centre. From that point on, Reeves told The Telegraph that it’s been a struggle for him to book any studio movies. “That’s a good old Hollywood story! That was a whole, 'Hey, kid, this is what happens in Hollywood: I said no to the number two and I never worked with the studio again!’”

6. BOWFINGER (1999)

By the time Frank Oz’s Bowfinger rolled around, Eddie Murphy was pretty much the go-to guy for any dual role part, but the movie wasn’t always intended to play that way. Steve Martin, who both starred in and wrote the movie, had actually penned the part of Kit Ramsey for Reeves (whom he had worked with a decade earlier in Parenthood).

“When Steve gave me the script for Bowfinger, it wasn't written for Eddie Murphy,” producer Brian Grazer explained. “It was written for a white action star. It was written for Keanu Reeves, literally. I said, 'Why does it have to be an action star?' He said, 'That's the joke.' I said: 'What if it were Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy played two characters? That could be really funny.' He said: 'You know, that'd be great—that'd be brilliant. Let's do that.' He processed it in about a minute, and he made a creative sea change.”

7. WATCHMEN (2009)

A year before Zack Snyder’s Watchmen hit theaters, Reeves confirmed to MTV what many had speculated: that he had turned down the chance to play Dr. Manhattan in the highly anticipated adaptation. But it wasn’t because of lack of interest on Reeves’ part; it just “didn't work out.” Still, he made it as far as a set visit: “They were shooting in Vancouver while we were filming so I went over to the set to say, 'hi.' They showed me some stuff and it looks amazing! I can’t wait. It’s going to be so killer, man!”

8. TROPIC THUNDER (2008)

By the time Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder made its way into theaters in the summer of 2008, the meta-comedy had been more than a decade in the making. So it’s understandable that the final product veered from Stiller’s original plan for the film, which included Reeves playing the role of Tugg Speedman (Stiller’s eventual part). Initially, Stiller had planned to cast himself as smarmy agent Rick Peck (Matthew McConaughey picked up the slack).

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