Hollywood lost a legend today – special effects artist and stop-motion animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen has passed away in London at the age of 92.
The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation revealed the sad news on the group’s Facebook page this afternoon, posting an eloquent eulogy of a man whose work inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and fans while pushing the art of special effects forward. It’s no exaggeration to say that without the work of Harryhausen, we might never have seen films like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. And if we did, you can rest assured that they would have looked a lot different than what we remember.
Harryhausen won multiple awards for his work, including a special Oscar and a BAFTA. According to the Facebook obituary, he developed a keen interest in animated models and stop-motion animation after seeing King Kong in 1933 with friend and author Ray Bradbury. This fortuitous event would inspire the young artist to make his own models in his garage, shooting them on film.
After refining his craft, Harryhausen would go on to work on some of fantasy and sci-fi’s best loved movies – titles like Mighty Joe Young, One Million Years B.C. and Clash of the Titans. His distinctive work was instantly recognizable to fans – but he’s perhaps best remembered for his efforts on three Sinbad films and the absolutely classic stop-motion skeleton segment in Jason and the Argonauts. Harryhausen spent three months meticulously shooting that one sequence – such was his dedication to his art.
Harryhausen’s impact on modern cinema cannot be understated. His early work not only inspired a new generation of filmmakers to push the boundaries of special effects, but also served as a subtle reminder that while effects were important, they were just one component of a good story. Luminaries from the industry have praised Ray’s work over the years, including Peter Jackson, who says “The Lord of the Rings is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’. Without his lifelong love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least.”
For another touching tribute to the legend, check out this video of lifelong friend Ray Bradbury celebrating the career of Harryhausen back in 2010.
While losing a talent of Harryhausen’s stature is a huge loss for all of us who love the fantastic in movies, we can rest easier knowing that he’ll live on forever through magic of his work – preserved for future generations to view and treasure.