Father of modern special effects Ray Harryhausen dies

Legendary Hollywood lighting tricks man Ray Harryhausen passed away in London’s Hammersmith hospital yesterday. He was ninety two years old.

The animator and business pioneer was noted for his innovation of new animation practice, as well as the parade of iconic and memorable display creations.

Harryhausen’s mold work and exceptional creature models could be seen in these kinds of movies as ‘Clash of the Titans’, ‘Jason & The Argonauts’, ‘The Valley of Gwangi’ and his ‘Sinbad’ trilogy, amongst an incredible many others.

Tributes from various movie industry specialists have poured in over the past twenty four hours. 

Oscar-winning ‘Wallace & Gromit’ creator Nick Park called him “my mentor and inspiration since my earliest childhood memories”.

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg both shiningly remarked Harryhausen as an inspiration, while James Cameron, who’s movies include Harryhausen-esque creature features like ‘Aliens’ and ‘Terminator’ said science fiction filmmakers has been “standing on the shoulders of a giant” due to Ray’s work.

Peter Lord, of Aardman Animations, also celebrated that Harryhausen was “a one-guy business including a one-man genre”.

Himself motivated by ‘King Kong’s special effects creator Willis O’Brien, adolescent Harryhausen started playing with sculpt making and stop-motion work within the 30’s.

After he enlisted in the U.S Army in 1942, Harryhausen worked on designs and artwork for U.S Army publication ‘Yank’ and served under forthcoming ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ director Frank Capra to make army-training films.

After the hostilities, Harryhausen was in a position to work alongside his hero Willis O’Brien, on what could be his innovative picture ‘Mighty Joe Young’.

In 1953, Harryhausen’s solo effort ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’ (an adaptation of a quick tale by Ray’s lifelong friend Ray Bradbury) grew to become a box office victory. Next, the 1955 production of ‘It Came From Beneath the Sea’ marked the first collaboration between Harryhausen and Producer Charles H. Schneer, the man who would work with him on his most popular films over the next 3 decades.

Harryhausen partnered in the course of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, building many massively popular creatures and fantastic, dream like adventure sequences. ‘Clash of the Titans’, developed in 1981, is considered by many to become his magnum opus.

In 1992, Harryhausen received a special Oscar for his achievements and gifts to the art of cinema.

In 2002, Harryhausen partnered alongside animators Mark Caballero and Seamus Walsh to complete ‘The Tortoise & The Hare’, a fairy tale short that Ray had begun in 1952.

In 2007, he executive-produced a short film based on E.A Poe’s ‘The Pit & The Pendulum’.

In the autobiography, Harryhausen says “Looking back over the years I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in so many exciting projects, the best of which I suppose did mature and grow into full-length feature movies”.

He donated his entire personal collection of models, which consisted of around 20,000 scrupulously hand crafted models, to that National Media Museum in Bradford in 2010. It is here, along with inside the imaginations of those he continues to inspire, that Ray Harryhausen’s inheritance will live on.




Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life (Book) by Ray Harryhausen & Tony Dalton