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Ray Harryhausen, Special Effects Pioneer, Dies at 92

From 'Mighty Joe Young' to 'Clash of the Titans,' Ray Harryhausen influenced a generation of movie makers


Ray Harryhausen, the man who brought dinosaurs back to life and Sinbad’s great adventures to the big screen, died Tuesday in London, his foundation said. He was 92.

Resoundingly hailed as a special-effects pioneer, Harryhausen received both a special Academy Award and lifetime achievement honor from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

According to a statement from his foundation, Harryhausen fell for animated models when he saw "King Kong" with boyhood friend, author Ray Bradbury, in 1933.

From there, he began making his own short films as a teen, eventually getting work from the big Hollywood studios after studying film and animation.

Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas and John Landis all cite Harryhausen’s influence on their film careers.

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before, but without computers. Only with his digits,” director and Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam has said, according to CBC.

Harryhausen’s work began with stop-motion effects from classic films such as 1949’s “Mighty Joe Young,” “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” and “Jason and the Argonauts,” a movie that took three months to film.

His split-screen techniques allowed him to insert larger-than-life creatures, both extinct and mythical, into real-world scenarios.

He continued using stop-motion techniques – where models are moved fractions of an inch to be photographed – for new generations in 1981’s “Clash of the Titans,” his final film.

“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much,” George Lucas said. “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars.”

While Harryhausen died in London, he was born in Los Angeles.

“There’s a strange quality in stop-motion photography, like in ‘King Kong,’ that adds to the fantasy,” he said in 2006, according to the New York Times. “If you make things too real, sometimes you bring it down to the mundane.”