This little seen curio,
being only one reel in length shows us a foretaste of what Willis H. O'Brien was to
achieve with considerably greater success in 1933's immortal classic King Kong. THE DINOSAUR AND THE MISSING LINK is the
earliest of "Obie's" work and still in existence today. In addition, all
O'Brien's other prehistoric clay animation shorts are also available making it easier for
film historians to study his techniques. His last film culminated with IT'S A MAD,
MAD, MAD, MAD, WORLD (1963) when he suffered a fatal heart attack on November the
8th. 1962 at the age of seventy-six.
Willis O'Brien's animation methods had been in use in the
very early days of film, but it would be these skills that he would perfect from simple
trick photography to the exhaustive stop-motion animation processes that became a vital
element in feature-length motion pictures and a precurser to contemporary computer graphic
The entire cast of his early films were constructed of wooden skeltons over which the
likenesses were sculpted in clay. Today it's increasingly difficult to appreciate the
sheer hard work that went into creating living, breathing monsters for early cinema
audience's delight, particulary with the all too real graphics that we now come to expect.
THE DINOSAUR AND THE MISSING LINK is set
in the Stone Age and relates the simple tale of Theophilus Ivoryhead.
The Duke and Stonejaw Steve vie for the attentions of Miss. Araminta Rockface, who asks
them to provide some meat for their dinner. Meanwhile, Theophilus is sent to catch
some fish causing him to encounter, Wild Willie, a large gorilla (O'Brien would later
credit him as being King Kong's ancestor), the terror of the countryside who is also
hunting for his dinner. During a skirmish with a Brontosaurus, Wild Willie falls off the
dinosaur's back, hits his head on a stone and killed. Theophilus Ivoryhead returns to the
cave proudly standing over his catch to the disbelief of the others.
After The Ghost of
Slumber Mountain in 1919, which reputedly featured O'Brien himself in the cast, his
next big venture would be an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, and from here his achievements were finally
recognised. Ray Harryhausen, a pupil of O'Brien's would continue his mentor's form of
animation until his retirement after CLASH OF THE TITANS in (1981).
Some American video companies carry in their catalogue THE
DINOSAUR AND THE MISSING LINK and five of Willis O'Brien's other shorts, giving
us the chance to study these fascinating works of early animation.