Yesterday the world lost a cinematic legend. Ray Harryhausen, the master of stop-motion animation and a pioneer in the world of special effects, died in London at the age of 92.
Harryhausen was fascinated by the original King Kong when he was 13 years old and later got to work with the beast’s creator, Willis O’Brien, as a technician on the set of Mighty Joe Young in 1943. Ten years later he made his debut by designing the giant lizard that ate New York City in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
Harryhausen continued creating monsters for sci-fi and fantasy movies throughout the 50s and 60s including Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Mysterious Island and, one of my personal favorites, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. He receives most notoriety as creator of the monsters and effects of Jason and the Argonauts and the original 1981 Clash of the Titans. Ray Harryhausen was once asked to choose which of his creations was his favorite and he just didn’t have an answer. “I can’t.” he said, “The others get jealous.” Personally I’ve always adored the skeleton/human fights in J&A, and Charon and Medusa from COT which remains one of my favorite movies and favorite Harryhausen flick of all time!
With CGI and 3D taking over the special effects market, most people today don’t seem to appreciate the art and innovation that Ray Harryhausen put into his creations and how they enhanced movies and moviemaking, usually writing them off as low-budget and cheesy. However low budget and cheesy was enough to inspire other great moviemakers of our day. George Lucas and Peter Jackson admit there would have been no Star Wars or Lord of the Rings without the influence of Ray Harryhausen and James Cameron adds, “If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.” In 1992, Harryhausen received a special Oscar commemorating his lifetime of work and influence in the special effects industry.
RIP Mr. Harryhausen. You were the best!