Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Ray Harryhausen - thanks for all the thrills
Raymond Frederick "Ray" Harryhausen (June 29, 1920 – May 7, 2013) was an American visual effects creator, writer, and producer who lived in London, England, from 1960 until his death in 2013. He created a brand of stop-motion model animation known as "Dynamation."
His most memorable works include the animation on Mighty Joe Young, with pioneer Willis H. O'Brien, which won the Academy Award for special effects (1949); The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, his first color film; and Jason and the Argonauts, featuring a famous sword fight against seven skeleton warriors.
Before the advent of computers for camera motion control and CGI, movies used a variety of approaches to achieve animated special effects. One approach was stop-motion animation which used realistic miniature models (more accurately called model animation), used for the first time in a feature film in The Lost World (1925), and most famously in King Kong (1933).
The work of pioneer model animator Willis O'Brien in King Kong inspired Harryhausen to work in this unique field, almost single-handedly keeping the technique alive for three decades. While O'Brien's career floundered for most of his life – most of his cherished projects were never realized – Harryhausen achieved considerable success.
The Harryhausen family announced his death via Twitter and Facebook on May 7, 2013. The Mirror quoted Harryhausen's website, saying his "influence on today’s film makers was enormous, with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK's own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations." The BBC quoted Peter Lord of Aardman Animations, saying he was "a one-man industry and a one-man genre" on Twitter. They quoted Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright: "I loved every single frame of Ray Harryhausen's work ... He was the man who made me believe in monsters." In a full statement released by the family, George Lucas said, "Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars". (read more)