Radio Drama
Science Faction

Volume #1, Issue #3
"Stand By For Mars!"
March 2006

The Thunder Child: Interviews

Roy Webber, author of The Dinosaur Films of Ray Harryhausen (2004)
Interview by Caroline Miniscule

In 2004, McFarland brought out The Dinosaur Films of Ray Harryhausen: Features, 16mm Experiments and Unrealized Projects by Roy P. Webber. Mr. Webber kindly agreed to an interview with The Thunder Child.

Mr. Webber has also contributed the following articles to The Thunder Child:

Documentaries and Movies
King Kong Collectors' Edition 1933
The Harryhausen Chronicles
Laser Discs of King Kong
Peter Jackson's King Kong
The Mystery of the Spider Pit

Museum Exhibits and Photo Galleries
Retro-review: Harryhausen exhibit at Babelsberg, 1995
Retro-review: The Rolf Giesen Collection, Filmmuseum Berlin
Photos: The David Massaro Gallery

The Dinosaur Films of Ray Harryhausen

Table of Contents

Forword by Jim Aupperle
Forword by Bill Maylone
1. Early Experiences, Experiments and Evolution
2. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
3. The Animal World
4. One Million Years B.C.
5. The Valley of Gwangi
6. The 1970s and Beyond
Ray Harryhausen Dinosaur Filmography
Casts and Credits

The writing of the book

After having written articles about Ray Harryhausen for Horror Biz and SPFX, Roy Webber decided he wanted to write an article about Ray Harryhausen�s dinosaur films.

"My original idea was to write a lengthy article about each one of his movies, and, I thought, I like The Valley of Gwangi a lot, so why not write a long article about that. And having just had my previous article published in SPFX, I had talked to Ted Bohus about writing an article about each of these movies, and running one per issue. And he was very receptive to the idea. So I set about starting to work on the Gwangi article.

But then a thought occurred to me. Well, I had written for these magazines, and for the most part doing all this work is pro bono - they�ll give you a few copies of the magazine but basically you�re not going to get any compensation at all. And as a matter of fact when I had written my article for Horror Biz I had also submitted it to Cinefantastique, and they filed it in their files, but they gave me no guarantee that it would ever be published because the last part of an article by Ted Newsom had not been published yet on the series. So they were making no promises about publishing my article...though they would have paid me if they did run it.

So, when I submitted my career article to Horror Biz, and they promised to publish it, I got hold of CFQ and said, �Hey, they�re going to run it, I�m going to let them run it even though they�re not going to pay me, because my article is sitting in your files and there�s no guarantee of it ever being published. And I talked to Fred Clarke, and he was very nice about it."

"So I had this ambition to write articles about Ray Harryhausen�s dinosaur films, and I wanted to be in something like SPFX, which I knew would do justice to the material, but then again the idea of not getting paid for these things bothered me a little bit. So, in the process of composing the Gwangi article, the idea came to me, well, I should write a book. Because I�m going to write about all these dinosaur movies anyway, and if I�m going to do all this work I�d like to get some money for it, plus it would all come out together in one bound copy. So...I got back in touch with Ted and said, �Hey, look, Ted, I think I�m going to go the book route with this"...he was real nice about it, he said he understood, he wasn�t prejudiced about that, said �I hear ya.�

Ted Bohus is a real good guy and I like him a lot. He�s always been very supportive of my work and I appreciate it very much.

So, my article became the sample chapter for my book. I worked on this in early 2001, and I submitted it to McFarland. And then it was only about 10,000 words long. And I had the idea, well, I�ll write about all his dinosaur films, the book might be 40 or 50,000 words in length, might be kind of a short book. They got back to me, and apparently they liked my work, but they said, "you know, you�re book�s going to have to be a little longer than this before we can accept it, we need to see at least 70,000 words, minimum manuscript for a book." With that in mind I promised I would go and lengthen the book, and also I included for Ray Harryhausen his 4 dinosaur films, I would also do his early years, his early experiments, Evolution, all these other things, basically talk about everything in his whole life that involved dinosaurs. That would add quite a bit more material.

Having promised that I would make the manuscript at least 70,000 words they agreed and sent me a contract. By spring of 2001 I had a contract with McFarland. I worked on the book, I did this first chapter, which was 10,000 words on The Valley of Gwangi, then I went and worked on One Million Years B.C. I kind of wanted to go from back from back to front because I wanted to know what I had and what was going to be later in the book - that was my approach. First I did:

Valley of Gwangi
One Million Years B.C.
- which was a lot longer
The Animal World
Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

the early years (experiments)
I also lengthened Valley of Gwangi to a little over double its original length. The last section I wrote was "the years post-Valley of Gwangi." I felt comfortable doing it that way.

It was about 2 years of work. They got the manuscript in 2003. I had to dicker with McFarland about the pictures...what was going to be in the book, I had to negotiate with them all along. I wanted them to run color pictures and they didn�t want to. They do that for only a limited number of books. At one point I wanted to make a number of revisions, so they let me resubmit my manuscript, but it was later in 2003. Finally my book was published in April, 2004. I think all in all they did a decent job. There were things that were taken out of my book that I wish had remained. I had to restore a couple of chapter endings. I wanted it to work from one movie to the next. And they kind of edited that out.

The chapter that suffers the most is One Million Years B.C. Quite a bit of material got cut out. I talk quite a bit about the Danforth movie, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth which is a follow up to One Million Years B.C., but the editor at McFarland cut that out, so I was disappointed about that. All in all I would say the book turned out to be 85 to 90% of what I originally envisioned it to be. Set aside from the fact that the illustrations weren't going to be in color, I kind of wish they were a little bit bigger. The book could easily have been 30-40 more pages if they�d made the pictures a bit bigger. I think people would have liked to have seen bigger photos, I don�t think it would have added that much more to the cost of the book even if they were black and white photos. Storyboard panels should have occupied a whole page..."

Read the deleted portion of Roy Webber's original One Million Years B.C. chapter, which gave background on When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.

The making of an author

Although Roy Webber was born in Keyser, northern West Virginia, he's never lived in that state. His parents lived in Luke, a paper mill town in southern Maryland. The nearest town with a decent hospital was across the state line in Keyser, so that's where he and his brother and sister were born.

As children, Roy was the one who'd always had an abiding love of dinosaurs. His sister wasn't interested at all, his brother could take them or leave them. But to Roy, they were always in his mind.

Marx Dinosaurs circa 1958

"It all started..I can�t even remember a time I didn�t love dinosaurs, it goes back so far. When I was about 5 or 6 years old I had a number of those Marx dinosaurs. I don�t think they were the genuine Marx dinosaurs, I think they were made in the 50s, but these were like imitation Marx dinosaurs, 1960s, and a lot of them I got from boxes of cereals, they were called Wheat Honeys or Rice Honeys, and that was a common brand of cereal in the mid 1960s. That wasn�t really my favorite cereal, but in order to get the dinosaur mom told me I had to eat the cereal in the box, so that was the dues for getting a dinosaur in each box. So I got these dinosaur toys, and I would take them outside and play with them outside in the dirt box (it was a dirt box more than a sand box.) So I would have hours of fun with these dinosaurs playing with them outside, and I remember distinctly one of the dinosaurs I got was a bright orange brontosaurus, with his head turned to the side. And I thought, what an unusual color for a dinosaur. But that was kind of the fun of the Marx dinosaurs, you got some very interesting body colors for some of these creatures.

So I collected those over the years. Also, another thing that I had seen, probably about that same era, was the View-Master dinosaur reels, the original ones, with the "Plant-Eating Dinosaurs", "Meat-Eating Dinosaurs" and "Struggle for Existence" on three reels, and of course originally they were actually stills from The Animal World session, which Harryhausen and O�Brien worked on. Of course at that time I didn�t know where they were from, I just thought, �Hey, these are some cool looking dinosaurs.� They were packaged as Prehistoric Animals in the mid-1960s, and later on they were called Dinosaurs.

So I really enjoyed those, I went through those over and over and over again. And I thought these were the neatest looking dinosaurs I had ever seen, I was really floored by them, but of course in that era, like I said, I didn�t know they came from a Harryhausen movie, I didn�t even know who Harryhausen was at the time.

Also in my childhood I also had at least a couple different jigsaw puzzles with dinosaur themes, and at one time I had a robotic dinosaur, battery powered. And in the 1970s I had those Aurora dinosaur kits, I thought those were really neat. You still see them now and then on eBay being sold, those really large model kits. I remember they were very pricey, I only got one or two, I guess you could get like a tyrannosaurus and a styracosaurus and a mammoth and the bases would all piece together to make like a giant landscape, but I remember they were so pricey.

My first exposure to a Ray Harryhausen dinosaur movie was watching One Million Years B.C. in the fall of 1970. It was on the ABC Sunday Night Movie, and I stayed up and watched it, but I was a young child at the time so I could only stay up through half the movie. After the allosaurus sequence it was bedtime.

I�d seen the rest of the movie a couple of years later when it was on afternoon TV, a "Creature Feature" type show. But that was my first experience of seeing a Ray Harryhausen movie, and of course going to bed right after the Allosaurus sequence is really a stunner, here this wonderful looking dinosaur is fighting these cavemen, and its dispatched by a big pole in its belly and lays there, gasps and dies, and I felt like at the time like Ray Harryhausen did when he watched King Kong for the first time in 1933.

I was nine years old, roughly. I knew the dinosaur wasn�t real, but I didn�t know how it was done. I knew that dinosaurs wasn�t real, I knew dinosaurs didn�t exist. But how was this dinosaur done, it looked so real. I just couldn�t really grasp it, I didn�t know how it was done. So it spurred me into an interest to think about these things. Obviously I didn�t go quite as fanatical as Ray Harryhausen did over it, but at least it drove my mind for quite a while. I was just awed and amazed by this wonderful, wonderful dinosaur.

Please continue to page 2 of this article

Marx dinosaur set photo courtesy The Dinosaur Collector. []
All photos retain their original copyright and are presented here for reference and review. See photo credits here.

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