Ray Harryhausen, widely considered to be a genius among animators and film makers world over, has passed away at the age of 92.
His infatuation with stop-motion animation began at the tender age of 13, when he saw the 1933 version of King Kong. He left the theater “stunned and haunted.” His lifelong fascination was sparked – “They looked absolutely lifelike … I wanted to know how it was done.”
Since that moment he made his own stop-motion films in his garage, honing his skills and perfecting the art. His most well known films are The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and Clash of the Titans (1981) and his work in these films has inspired generations of kids and filmmakers since.
Here is just a sample of quotes from some of the biggest fantasy and sci-fi directors giving their respects:
George Lucas: “Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in the special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much. Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars.”
Steven Spielberg: “Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever.”
Peter Jackson: “The Lord of the Rings is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie.’ Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made — not by me at least.”
James Cameron: “I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”
Peter Lord: “a one-man industry and a one-man genre”
Ray won an Oscar in 1992 recognizing his work and contribution in the animation field and his enduring influence throughout cinema history. Three years ago Ray donated his complete collection of models, nearly 20,000 objects, to the National Media Museum in Bradford.
He crafted his models by hand and shot his sequences frame by frame, exhibiting a patience worthy of much admiration. His legacy is carried on by studios such as Aardman and most recently films such as Frankenweenie and Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists have utilized stop motion techniques,validating the art form in the age of 3D CGI animation.
On a personal note, I grew up watching Harryhausen’s movies with my brother and found his infamous monsters captivating, mesmerizing and not a small bit terrifying. In honour of Ray’s fantastic work, here’s the legendary skeleton fight scene that stole many hours of sleep from me as a child:
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