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Featured CED VideoDisc No. 13 - Summer 1999


Jason and the Argonauts

Jason and the Argonauts CED The recent release of The Phantom Menace with its Jar Jar Binks computer-generated character prompted me to think of another technique used to integrate imaginary and real characters: Stop Motion Animation. Despite the somewhat annoying nature of the Star Wars character, he was technically well integrated with the live characters on film, and the reduced cost of computer animation may mean no more stop motion animation theatrical films will be produced. Jason and the Argonauts is one of the premiere examples of this animation technique, which involves photographing puppets with articulated joints one frame at a time, with a small change being made to the puppet between each successive shot. When the resulting film is played back at 24 frames-per-second, the illusion of normal movement is created. The technique can also be accomplished with clay figures, a variation commonly called Claymation.

Ray Harryhausen is one of the leading experts in the field of stop motion animation, having learned the technique in the 1930's after seeing the original King Kong movie. His first major theatrical release in 1949 was another animated Gorilla, Mighty Joe Young, and he even made a cameo appearance in the 1998 remake of that movie. Throughout the 1950's, 60's, and 70's he churned out stop motion animation features, with his last one being Clash of the Titans, which showed his animation techniques were still effective even several years after the release of the original Star Wars. Of the five Ray Harryhausen features available on CED, I chose Jason and the Argonauts to be the featured CED because it contains one of his most intricate stop motion sequences: the sword fight with seven stop motion skeletons that takes place near the end of the movie (starting at 46:40 into Side 2). Harryhausen had earlier done a scene in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad involving a single fighting skeleton (23:00 into Side 2 of that CED), but seven articulated figures presented a much greater challenge to coordinate. The skeletons appear on screen for just four and a half minutes, but the sequence took over four months to animate. Pictured below are stills (with disc time) of stop motion sequences in Jason and the Argonauts, but watch the movie, as still images can't do justice to this style of animation.

TalosTalos (35:00, Side 1)


The HarpiesThe Bat-like Harpies (01:10, Side 2)


The HydraThe Seven-headed Hydra (39:25, Side 2)


Skeletal WarriorsThe Skeletal Warriors (52:46, Side 2)


CED Titles Featuring Ray Harryhausen Effects
7th Voyage of Sinbad, The 1958
Mysterious Island 1961
Jason and the Argonauts 1963
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger 1977
Clash of the Titans 1981


Other CED Titles Featuring Extensive Stop Motion Animation
King Kong 1933
Hansel and Gretel 1954
Gumby Adventure, A 1956
Academy Award Winners Animated Short Films 1984


Ray Harryhausen Theatrical Releases Not Available on CED
Mighty Joe Young 1949
Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The 1953
It Came from Beneath the Sea 1955
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers 1956
20 Million Miles to Earth 1957
3 Worlds of Gulliver, The 1960
First Men in the Moon 1981
One Million Years B.C. 1966
Valley of Gwangi, The 1969
Golden Voyage of Sinbad, The 1974


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