When we think about pioneers in the visual effects industry, we think about Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, or Stan Winston. At least, I do. I fell in love with their work and followed their careers even before CGI became the norm in the effects industry.
But before them, there was Ray Harryhausen.
Ray sadly passed away in London today. He was born in 1920 and lived a very long life that set the film artists of today on their paths of creativity. Many grew up watching the stop-motion skeletons battle in Jason and the Argonauts. And the film The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser paid homage to that very scene.
And what about all the incredible monsters in Clash of the Titans? No, not the remake. The one with Burgess Meredith and Harry Hamlin and Maggie Smith. Yes, the Dowager Countess Maggie Smith, as a goddess long before she ever gave points to Gryffindor. The stop-motion creatures in the film were truly terrifying: Medusa, the Kraken, Cerberus, Bubo the Owl. Okay, Bubo wasn’t terrifying, but the others were.
With a career that spanned over forty years, Harryhausen gave us films like The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, One Million Years B.C., and The Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He even voiced a polar bear cub in Will Ferrell’s Elf.
It is with great sadness that I write about his passing. His talent and creativity laid the foundation for what special effects are today.
From Variety, a quote from the stop-motion artist Phil Tippett:
“He was the guy that everybody was inspired by to do visual effects work. He was the singular creative person, so he inspired a lot of singular artists. It wasn’t like the head of a studio turning out stuff. He was a singular craftsman who shaped all the movies he worked on from cradle to grave. He was there on the set making sure everything was shot the right way and finished it all up. He was a total filmmaker that had his hands in everything.”
Though Ray Harryhausen is no longer with us, his work will live on, in the films he worked on, and in the souls of the visual effects artists active in the industry today.
He is truly a legend of cinema.