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RIP Ray Harryhausen: Legendary Visual Effects Pioneer Dead at 92

Warner Bros.

Ray Harryhausen, who pioneered the world of stop motion effects and changed visual effects in cinema forever, passed away today. He was 92 years old.

Born in 1920, Harryhausen was inspired to enter the movie business after seeing ‘King Kong’ in 1933. Interestingly, his first big job was animating the title character on the other famous stop-motion ape run amok film: 1949’s ‘Mighty Joe Young.’ The next few decades saw him working steadily, creating some of the most iconic stop motion creatures and monsters in cinematic history. There were science fiction classics like ‘It Came From Beneath the Sea’ and ’20 Million Miles to Earth.’ There were prehistoric adventures like ‘One Million Years B.C.’ and ‘The Valley of Gwangi.’ There was the famous ‘Jason and the Argonauts,’ with its iconic sword fighting skeletons and the original ‘Clash of the Titans,’ with its nightmare-inducing Medusa.

Before the age of computers and digital effects, Harryhausen was bringing impossible characters and monsters to life with his bare hands. He gave personality to clay. He squeezed emotion of model figures. Today, we can look at special effects and say “computers did it.” With Harryhausen’s work, it truly looks like the work of a magician — he was a true practitioner of movie magic.

Harryhausen’s fingerprints extend far beyond his own films. You can feel his influence in blockbusters like ‘Star Wars‘ and ‘Jurassic Park‘ and ‘Lord of the Rings.’ There is no more fitting tribute to the man than the list of quotes from other filmmakers included in his family’s press release. It would be best to just end with those — they say it better than we ever could:

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.

Peter Jackson:

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

Steven Spielberg:

Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever.

James Cameron:

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.”

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