Ray Harryhausen: 1920-2013

The pioneering stop motion animator was 92.

by | May 7, 2013 | Comments

Ray Harryhausen, the pioneering special effects supervisor whose stop motion animation innovations were important antecedents to modern special effects wizardry, died in London May 7. He was 92.

Harryhausen’s work on Mighty Joe Young (1949) earned the film an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. He’s probably best known for crafting an army of animated skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and for the mythological creatures in Clash of the Titans (1981).

Born in Los Angeles, Harryhausen was inspired to work on stop motion short films after obsessively watching King Kong. He made his own animated shorts before being hired to work on character models for Mighty Joe Young, which was directed by King Kong co-director Ernest B. Schoedsack. His next film, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), featured a giant prehistoric reptile wreaking havoc on the coast of North America. For The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Harryhausen spent 11 months working on the various mythological beasts (some of which would be reworked in Clash of the Titans). He worked less frequently from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, before producing and crafting the visual effects for Clash of the Titans in 1981, which would be his last feature.

Harryhausen was awarded the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for Technical Achievement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1992. Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, and Tim Burton have all cited Harryhausen as an influence on their work.

For Ray Harryhausen’s complete filmography on RT, click here.

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