Not surprisingly, the Monster Kid loves monsters. He especially loves cryptids and sea monsters. So although he hasn’t actually asked for the ABC’s of sea monsters, I’m pretty sure he would if he could. I’m not sure about sharing this with him, as I’m not really up to explaining Cthulu to a six year old (nor do I think it’s appropriate, although I’m sure a fair share of parents who read this have probably given their kid a plush Cthulu- and I have it on good authority that it can get rid of closet monsters). But he would LOVE seeing some of his favorites– known, unknown, and fictional– on this list provided by Tor.com. It’s all kinds of awesome, with everything from the Kraken (with a great pic from Clash of the Titans) to the Gill-man, from the Fiji Mermaid to the vampire squid. This is just one article from Tor’s Sea Monster Week, which actually appears to be this week. I’m so sad I didn’t find this till now! In addition to a week’s worth of posts (one of which is about the Gill-man, a favorite of the kid’s), there are excerpts from several related books at the bottom. These are way too old for him, but something you might enjoy, even if you aren’t personally obsessed with sea creatures and killer animals. Moby Dick, anyone?
In perusing a list of monster movies on Wikipedia recently, my son discovered a movie called 20 Million Miles From Earth. When he clicked on the link to the entry on the movie, there he was, once again… Ray Harryhausen, master special effects artist in stop-motion animation.
It wasn’t our first encounter with Harryhausen’s work. My son had early encounters with Greek mythology due to my own fond memories of spending hours at my grandma’s poring overD’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Mythology, a book I now own. So he’d heard the stories and even seen color pictures of many of the monsters, gods, and heroes, and when we sat down to watch the original Clash of the Titans I didn’t think too much about it. In my defense, I probably hadn’t seen the movie in at least 20 years. I did remember the scene with Medusa being pretty intense, but considering his personal interest in monsters and mythology it didn’t occur to me that his reaction would be anything except “Cool!”
Well, let me tell you, that was not his reaction. First, he became obsessed with watching the scene again and again. If she had been real, those glowing eyes would have had him stuck permanently in place. Luckily, Medusa is not real. And I could prove it. I found pictures of the model online, like this one. Still, she is a fascinating creature, and according to this video, a very complex piece of stop-motion animation. And even once the initial fascination with Medusa had passed we kept tripping over Ray Harryhausen’s movies. The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, It Came From Beneath the Sea , 20 Million Miles To Earth, Jason and the Argonauts… from the Ymir to the skeleton army, there he was, with work to fascinate and terrify.
While Harryhausen worked more in the fantasy and science fiction genres, it all kind of blends together for my monster kid, and the creatures Harryhausen created are memorable. He’s still alive, at age 92, and if you’d like to learn a little more about him, he has an official website. In the past couple of years he’s also published several books through Aurum Press, with the most recent (and most easily available) being Ray Harryhausen’s Fantasy Scrapbook: Models, Artwork and Memories from 65 Years of Filmmaking, which looks REALLY cool! With so many kids and teens now able to do their own simple stop-motion animation, and so many in love with monsters and magic, why not introduce them to Ray Harryhausen? Dust off his movies and not only can you introduce a special effects master to a new generation, but you can remind some nostalgic adults of the way they felt when they saw Harryhausen’s Medusa for the first time.