Ray Harryhausen, the visual-effects legend famed for his stop-motion work on such films as Mighty Joe Young, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts, passed away this morning in London. He was 92. The announcement on the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation Facebook page didn’t include a cause of death.
Born in Los Angeles in 1920, Harryhausen became fascinated by animated models in 1933, when he first saw King Kong — and the creations of stop-motion animation pioneer Willis O’Brien with his childhood friend Ray Bradbury. Within two years, Harryhausen was producing his own home movies using model animation. His first professional film work came in 1947 as an assistant animator to O’Brien on Mighty Joe Young, produced by the same team that made King Kong more than a decade earlier.
With the re-release of King Kong in 1952, Hollywood experience a giant-monster revival, leading Warner Bros. to purchase the film rights to Bradbury’s short story “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” providing Harryhausen with his first solo visual-effects feature. It was a box-office hit.
Harryhausen went on to work on such fantasy and sci-fi classics as It Came From Beneath the Sea, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 20 Million Miles to Earth and, of course, the aforementioned 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts. Although his work dwindled in the 1970s, Harryhausen returned in a big way with 1981’s Clash of the Titans, his last feature as a visual-effects producer.
His influence on generations of filmmakers cannot be overstated, as directors ranging from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to Peter Jackson and James Cameron point to him as inspiration.
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