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Special Effects Legend Ray Harryhausen Dies At 92
The Movie God   |  

Ray Harryhausen and his creatures

Ray Harryhausen, a master of the arts of stop-motion and visual effects in film, has passed away at the age of 92.

Born in 1920, it was when Harryhausen’s parents took him to see the original King Kong in 1933 that he was inspired to become the man that would go on to inspire some of the best this world has ever seen. After the movie he went home and started experimenting with puppets and marionettes to begin honing his skills.

When it was all said and done, Harryhausen had a resume filled with special effects classics such as Mighty Joe Young (1949), The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Mysterious Island (1961), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), and Clash of the Titans (1981).

For a better idea of some of the things he created in these movies, be sure to visit-revisit iconic scenes like the skeleton warriors of Jason and the Argonauts; Medusa in Clash of the Titans; and the Cyclops and Taro battle from 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

Harryhausen’s work in these and other movies inspired many to get into movies, especially effects-heavy movies that would come to be known as blockbusters. Just a few of the names that were inspired by his craft are Tim Burton, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Sam Raimi, Joe Dante, Stan Winston, Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, John Landis, Rick Baker, Peter Jackson, Ivan Reitman, Joe Johnston, John Lasseter, George Lucas, and Henry Selick.

Here’s what was posted on the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation Facebook page:

Raymond Frederick Harryhausen
Born: Los Angeles 29th June 1920
Died: London 7th May 2013.

The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator. He was a multi-award winner which includes a special Oscar and BAFTA. Ray’s influence on today’s film makers was enormous, with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK’s own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations.

Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation. Over the period of the next 46 years, he made some of the genres best known movies – MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957), MYSTERIUOUS ISLAND (1961), ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966), THER VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969), three films based on the adventures of SINBAD and CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). He is perhaps best remembered for his extraordinary animation of seven skeletons in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) which took him three months to film.

Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive. Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray’s hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so.

Today The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a charitable Trust set up by Ray on the 10th April 1986, is devoted to the protection of Ray’s name and body of work as well as archiving, preserving and restoring Ray’s extensive Collection.

Tributes have been heaped upon Harryhausen for his work by his peers in recent years.

“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS”
George Lucas.

“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’. Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least”
Peter Jackson

“In my mind he will always be the king of stop-motion animation”
Nick Park

“His legacy of course is in good hands
Because it’s carried in the DNA of so many film fans.”
Randy Cook

“You know I’m always saying to the guys that I work with now on computer graphics “do it like Ray Harryhausen”
Phil Tippett

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.”
Terry Gilliam.

“His patience, his endurance have inspired so many of us.”
Peter Jackson

“Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever.”
Steven Spielberg

“I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant.
If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”
James Cameron

Even as computers have come in and almost completely taken over the special effects world, it is—now and forever—impossible not to look back and not see the importance of the work and influence of Ray Harryhausen.

Ray Harryhausen
1920 — 2013

[Source: Wall Street Journal]

  • Rogue Simulant

    Goodbye Ray Harryhausen, seeing the 1981 version of “Clash of the Titans” on TV as a boy was what got me into Greek mythology, and led to me seeking out your other films. You created some of the memorable monsters of cinema and put heart, soul and a hand-crafted quality into your work. Rest in peace.

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