Special effects mastermind Ray Harryhausen dies
Before CGI, Harryhausen thrilled audiences with monsters, magic and fantasy worlds
Computer generated imagery - or as it is called, CGI, has given movies of today an unlimited palette in which to sketch fantastical sights to movie audiences. It wasn't always that way. In the case of movie special effects mastermind Ray Harryhausen, it was literally a case of one movie frame at a time. Harryhausen has passed away at the age of 93.
Ray Harryhausen was a definite "hands on" type of guy when it came to special effects. His creatures were painstakingly animated and then photographed frame-by-frame.
"Harryhausen's fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O'Brien's creations in 'King Kong' with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation," an official statement from his family read.
"Over the period of the next 46 years, he made some of the genres best known movies - 'Mighty Joe Young' (1949), 'It Came from Beneath the Sea' (1955), 20 Million Miles to Earth' (1957), 'Mysterious Island' (1961),'One Million Years B.C.'(1966), 'The Valley of the Gwangi' (1969), three films based on the adventures of 'Sinbad' and 'Clash of the Titans' (1981). He is perhaps best remembered for his extraordinary animation of seven skeletons in 'Jason and the Argonauts' (1963) which took him three months to film."
Harryhausen was a definite "hands on" type of guy when it came to special effects. His creatures were painstakingly animated and then photographed frame-by-frame. "In Ray's hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so."
The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a charitable Trust set up by Ray on the 10th April 1986, is devoted to the protection of Ray's name and body of work as well as archiving, preserving and restoring Ray's extensive Collection.
A multi-award winner which includes a special Oscar and BAFTA, Harryhausen saw the writing on the wall in 1981. With the advent of computers, "Clash of the titans" was his final film.
The news of his death has many luminaries in today's entertainment world giving credit where credit was due.
George Lucas: "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." "Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no 'Star Wars!'"
Director Peter Jackson also gave his testimony to Harryhausen. "'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"
Finally, from Steven Spielberg: "I think all of us who are practitioners 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."
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