Mr Flibble Talks To... Mighty Joe Flibble
He's the animator responsible for attacking skeletons, marauding aliens and Medussa's ultimate bad hair day. In the first part of our interview with an effects legend, Mr Flibble talks to Ray Harryhausen about Mighty Joe Young, his early days as an animator, and an octopus with missing tentacles.
12 January, 2001
Ray Harryhausen
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

How long would it take to create, say, a sequence of two dinosaurs fighting?

Well, it depends on how complicated it is. Dinosaurs are relatively simple - they have to be jointed, we have to have machine joints made on a lathe; that requires a knowledge of engineering. The joints are very necessary, they're not like bendy toys, with wires in them; the joints are necessary to make a very smooth type of animation. You have to have very positive movements, so that when you move an arm it doesn't bounce back a fraction of an inch. And then they're covered with rubber and animated frame by frame, and combined with live-action through various technical processes.

For example, in Jason and the Argonauts (1963) we had a five minute skeleton sequence where seven skeletons were fighting three men in the same shot. Aside from shooting the live action, that took more than four and a half months to animate just five minutes of screen time.

Which has been the most difficult thing to animate?

Well, mass animation, I find, because I like to do it myself; I don't have a staff [with] each person animating a separate skeleton. That takes the time. I suppose creatures like Medussa, who had 12 snakes in her hair, plus about 250 joints in her body. The head had to be moved each frame, the arms, the hands, she had to shoot an arrow, her tail had a rattle like a rattlesnake, and during this all the snakes had to be giving the appearance of writhing on her head. So that meant a good number of moves each frame of film, and it was very time consuming.

The skeletons were a challenge, to have seven of them with five appendages each; and you have to keep them all in harmony so that they look realistic. The seven-headed Hydra had a lot of problems because you had seven heads snapping in different directions, and you had to follow through with each head so that it gave the appearance that they were snapping at the leading characters.