“They were considered B pictures because they were made on a tight budget. But we outlived many of the A pictures made at the same time” – Ray Harryhausen
This morning, May 7, 2013, a film great left us. Animating our cinema screens and the imaginations of millions, Ray Harryhausen’s revolutionary stop motion works changed cinema. Although he is no longer with us his works will live on for generations to come.
Here is the official statement from his official Facebook page:
“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.
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. 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), MYSTERIUOUS ISLAND (1961), ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966), THER VALLEY OF 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’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.
Today 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.”
Tributes have flooded in from leading lights of the cinematic world:
Harryhausen’s work on Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts are significant and important examples that showcase his attention to detail as well as the level of fun and enthusiasm present in each scene he hand-crafted. As Kim Newman says, it takes hundreds – almost thousands – of individuals to create what he created so simply and elegantly; this comparison highlights the effort he employed as well as the skill at his fingertips.
The man understood cinema and hated the remake culture that had taken over Hollywood. In the press tour for the new Clash of the Titans, he had these gems to say…
If you want to know more about Ray Harryhausen, perhaps invest in the documentary Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan.
R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen