RIP Special Effects Pioneer Ray Harryhausen

krakenSad news for any fan of old school stop-motion animation: Special effects trailblazer Ray Harryhausen has passed away. I’ve been a huge fan of Harryhausen’s work for all of my life. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that his creations helped to fuel my love a love of monsters and magic  that indirectly led me to an interest in all manner of bizarre topics.

Via The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation’s Facebook page:

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), MYSTERIOUS 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.

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  • Hadrian999

    It’s sad, I used to watch all the old movies he did when I was a kid. I always thought his Stop motion monsters had a charm that you lose with all the modern CGI

    • Matt Staggs

      Me too! I watch those old movies every time they come on.

    • mannyfurious

      All the old-time special effects beat CGI. Even matte paintings feel more real than computer cartoons. There used to be a time when you’d watch a movie and say, “I wonder how they did that.” Now, you know how. That’s why, even though I think he’s a little overrated, I respect Nolan a lot for using practical effects whenever possible.

  • Chaos_Dynamics

    A Master Craftsman in the art, science, and mechanics of animating the inanimate – breathing life into the lifeless – bringing the world of the unreal into the world of the real.

    Well done Harry, well done.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    I’m always fascinated by first causes…and I admire people most when they do what hasn’t been done before. Ray was just that… a creator who constantly found new ways to push forward and work past boundaries. I’m sad that he’s passed, but he left a truly awesome legacy behind.

  • echar
    • Chaos_Dynamics

      Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.

      One of the greatest scenes ever.

      The Mars Attacks version is pretty cool too.

      • echar

        Agreed, that saucer crashing is beautiful. I am amazed he pulled that off organically. I love Mars Attacks.

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