Sad news for fans of old science fiction and fantasy movies- special effects master Ray Harryhausen has passed away in London at the age of 92. For many, especially those of the younger generations, his name may not have exactly been well known, but for fans of the genre and special effects artists he was revered as a legend. Born in Los Angeles on June 29, 1920, Harryhausen was first inspired by watching the stop motion effects pioneered by Willis O’Brien in 1933’s King Kong. He soon began building models of his own, and made his first homemade movies featuring animated models in 1935. He was brought on board by O’Brien to work on the 1949 film, Mighty Joe Young, which centered around a giant gorilla. Four years later, working from a story by his friend, science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, Harryhausen made his first film, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953). Other notable films followed- It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), 20 million miles to Earth (1957), The Mysterious Island (1961). The sword wielding skeletons fighting live actors from 1963’s Jason And the Argonauts is still astounding today. He also made three films focusing on the character of Sinbad, and his last film was the 1981 fantasy epic Clash of the Titans starring Harry Hamlin and Laurence Olivier. His effects have inspired a wide range of modern effects artists and filmmakers, including such notables as George Lucas, Peter Jackson, Phil Tippet, and Steven Spielberg. For myself, I grew up watching Harryhausen’s movies, both on television and in the theater. His work was always terrific to watch, and still holds its own, even compared to the newer CGI effects. He was a legend and will be missed.
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