Early Man is the latest feature film from Aardman Animation, the studio behind such stop-motion classics as Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, Shaun the Sheep and more, but its post-credits moment goes much further back than even A Grand Day Out. Directed by Nick Park, the film is set in a fantastical era where dinosaurs and woolly mammoths roam alongside early humans. When a neighboring Bronze Age city comes to claim the land belonging to a tribe of Stone Age cavemen, it falls to Dug (Eddie Redmayne) to save his home from the evil Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston).
Though written by Mark Burton and James Higginson, the idea for Early Man is all Park's, citing his love of dinosaurs and cavemen as inspiration but also the man who first inspired him to "pick up a camera and make films" - Ray Harryhausen. The legendary animator transformed the visual effects industry with his stop-motion innovations, crafting memorable action and fight scenes for Mighty Joe Young (1949), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, and Clash of the Titans (1981), just to name a few. Harryhausen's influence in Hollywood cannot be overstated, with filmmakers from George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg to Henry Selick and Wes Anderson having all been inspired by his groundbreaking visual effects work.
For Park, now a renowned stop-motion director himself, it is Harryhausen's stop-motion creations in One Million Years B.C. that have stuck with him since first seeing the film at age 11. Much like Early Man, the film also features primitive humans and terrifying dinosaurs, with the later fiercely fighting one another as the much smaller cave people scurry underneath, trying to avoid becoming a dino snack. In Early Man, Park and his team pay their respects to the legendary Harryhausen in numerous ways, but there's one scene in particular that is a direct homage to One Million Years B.C.
The scene is a quick one found at the very start of Early Man in which two dinosaurs are locked in an epic battle and it is purposefully reminiscent of an iconic battle from One Million Years B.C. But the tribute doesn't stop there. Once the film finishes, those dinosaurs return to hang out while the credits roll, this time accompanied by name cards that identify them as "Ray" and "Harry". It's a small but no less touching shout-out to Harryhausen and the indelible mark his work has left on the film industry - especially that of stop-motion animation created by Park and Aardman.
Early Man is by no means the first film to pay tribute to Ray Harryhausen. Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness features a skeleton fight scene which was directly inspired by a similar scene in 1963's Jason and the Argonauts, and director Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! includes a scene of a flying saucer crashing into the Washington Monument just as it happens in 1956's Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. Nor is Early Man the first animated film to include a nod to the influential visual effects artist; in Pixar's Monster's Inc., Mike and his date Celia have dinner at a restaurant named Harryhausen's.
- Early Man (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018