R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen

The need to announce the deaths of film legends never stops being depressing. This week, we’ve lost special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 92. Do kids today even know who he is, or why he’s important?

As the story goes, a young Harryhausen was inspired to join the movie business after watching ‘King Kong‘. He was left so much in awe of that film’s ape and dinosaur effects that he devoted himself to the art of stop-motion animation. After years of study, he worked under ‘Kong’ animator Willis O’Brien on the 1949 ‘Mighty Joe Young’, then later went on to solo acclaim and success with his own creature effects in ‘The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms’ (1953). Soon, Harryhausen proved to be such an innovator in the field that his name became its own brand for a very special form of movie magic. Some of Harryhausen’s signature effects include the spaceships in ‘Earth vs. the Flying Saucers’, the walking skeletons in ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ and the multi-armed goddess in ‘The Golden Voyage of Sinbad’ – all of which inspired further generations of visual effects artists.

By the late 1970s, stop-motion animation had begun to fall out of favor with audiences, who found it a little quaint compared to newer razzle-dazzle effects techniques used in movies like ‘Star Wars’ (which, to be fair, also included a fair amount of stop-motion). Harryhausen chose to retire after his 1981 hit ‘Clash of the Titans’, though he later returned briefly to direct a short film called ‘The Story of the Tortoise & the Hare’ in 2002.

At present, the following Ray Harrhausen works are available on Blu-ray:

  1. It Came from Beneath the Sea‘ (1955)
  2. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers‘ (1956)
  3. 20 Million Miles to Earth‘ (1957)
  4. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad‘ (1958)
  5. Mysterious Island‘ (1961)
  6. Jason and the Argonauts‘ (1963)
  7. Clash of the Titans‘ (1981)

While Harryhausen did not work on either the 1935 ‘She’ or 1936 ‘Things to Come’ (he would have been 16 at the time of the latter), he consulted on restoration efforts for both movies, which Legend Films then misleadingly packaged together as the “Ray Harryhausen Double Feature.”

[via NPR]


  1. Barsoom Bob

    R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen. Before Lucas and Spielberg there was George Pal and Ray Harryhausen. As a young man growing up in the fifties and sixties these were the guys that fired up and satisfied the minds of a generation that wanted to see the future, or the fantastic, brought to life on the movie screen.

    My mother would take my younger brother and I to Saturday afternoon showings of When Worlds Collide, Twenty Million Miles to Earth, War of the Worlds, Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Earth vs The Flying Saucers, and the glorious 7th Voyage of Sinbad. That one was a special mind blowing New Years Eve treat for the whole family in 1959. It remained my favorite picture until I entered my teen years.

    Where as Pal faded after just a couple of films, Ray was just getting started. I remember taking a bus to the next big town over one day and while walking around saw the poster for a film Mysterious Island with the tag line “From the creator of 7th Voyage….” bought my ticket and was blown away by the movie. That sealed the deal and I started reading Famous Monsters of Filmland and Starlog
    and educated myself about this Ray Harryhausen fellow. And he did not disappoint, he followed up those two with Three Worlds of Gulliver, Jason and the Argonauts, First Men in the Moon, two more Sinbad movies, Valley of the Gwangi and finally Clash of the Titans as a career capper.

    I know the times have passed him by now, but at the time for us young men, believe me, he was THE MAN.

    Back in 2007, I got to meet him and shake his hand and tell him how much I had enjoyed and been inspired by his films and get his autograph on a copy of his excellent biography, An Animated Life. One of my fondest memories.

  2. While I grew up on Star Wars and later effects, it still amazes me when I watch a movie with Harryhausen’s work in it. The amount of detail for such time consuming effects never failed to impress me.

    R.I.P. Ray.

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