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Ray Harryhausen: The film-maker who made the impossible possible has died

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The legendary visual effects master Ray Harryhausen died today at his London home, he was 92.

A statement was issued on behalf of The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation:

The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator. He was a multi-award winner which includes a special Oscar and BAFTA. Ray’s 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.

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Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive. Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, 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.

If it wasn’t a monster movie, then it wasn’t worth watching. That was my narrow view of films when I was a child. There was the usual list of werewolves, and vampires, and stitched-together cadavers from Frankenstein’s lab, but there was nothing quite as thrilling as seeing Ray Harryhausen’s name on a film.

Harryhausen’s name on a movie meant unforgettable special effects that made any average film extraordinary. Before VHS or DVD recorders, we memorized those key scenes to replay in our heads, and discuss at our leisure. The ghoulish, resurrected skeletons that fought Jason and the Argonauts; the Rhedosaurus that tore up New York in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms; the Terradactyl that terrorized Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C.; the sinewed goddess Khali that fought Sinbad; these were memories that made many a childhood special - mine included.

It was seeing the original version of King Kong that started Harryhausen off on his career. His ability to duplicate some of Willis O’Brien’s groundbreaking effects led the young Harryhausen to meet and then work with his idol on Mighty Joe Young, in 1949. Their collaboration won an Oscar, and set Harryhausen off on his career.

Today, tributes poured in from across the film industry praising Ray Harryhausen‘s genius:

“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”  —George Lucas.

“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”   — Peter Jackson

“In my mind he will always be the king of stop-motion animation”  —-  Nick Park

“His legacy of course is in good hands because it’s carried in the DNA of so many film fans.”  — Randy Cook

“You know I’m always saying to the guys that I work with now on computer graphics “do it like Ray Harryhausen”  — Phil Tippett.

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.”  —Terry Gilliam.

“His patience, his endurance have inspired so many of us.” — Peter Jackson

“Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever.” — Steven Spielberg

“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.” — James Cameron

A sad loss, and a sad day, but what movies he has left us!

R.I.P.
Ray Frederick Harryhausen
1920-2013

 

 
With thanks to NellyM
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment