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Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen

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Also Known As: Raymond Harryhausen Died: May 7, 2013
Born: June 29, 1920 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA Profession: animator, special effects artist, producer, writer, model animator

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

d monster bird known as the Roc, a snake woman (inspired by a belly dancer he saw in Beirut) and a combative Cyclops who grapples furiously with the dragon. The film was later cited by Dennis Muren, head of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, as his inspiration for a career in special effects.Harryhausen continued to amaze with his subsequent Columbia efforts, including "The Three Worlds of Gulliver" (1960) and the Jules Verne adaptation "The Mysterious Island" (1961), which added a massive crab, an industrious honey bee, a giant mollusk and a prehistoric bird to his menagerie. But it was his next film that elevated Harryhausen to legendary status. "Jason and the Argonauts" (1963) featured some of his most complex and challenging work to date, including the seven-headed serpent the Hydra and Talos, a giant bronze statute that comes to life to battle Jason and his men. However, both paled in comparison to a lengthy sequence in which a band of skeletons rise from the ground to wage a pitched sword battle with Jason. Completed by Harryhausen solo over a four-month period, it was a feat never again attempted by another animator, and rarely surpassed in any special-effects-driven film.Sadly, neither...

d monster bird known as the Roc, a snake woman (inspired by a belly dancer he saw in Beirut) and a combative Cyclops who grapples furiously with the dragon. The film was later cited by Dennis Muren, head of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, as his inspiration for a career in special effects.

Harryhausen continued to amaze with his subsequent Columbia efforts, including "The Three Worlds of Gulliver" (1960) and the Jules Verne adaptation "The Mysterious Island" (1961), which added a massive crab, an industrious honey bee, a giant mollusk and a prehistoric bird to his menagerie. But it was his next film that elevated Harryhausen to legendary status. "Jason and the Argonauts" (1963) featured some of his most complex and challenging work to date, including the seven-headed serpent the Hydra and Talos, a giant bronze statute that comes to life to battle Jason and his men. However, both paled in comparison to a lengthy sequence in which a band of skeletons rise from the ground to wage a pitched sword battle with Jason. Completed by Harryhausen solo over a four-month period, it was a feat never again attempted by another animator, and rarely surpassed in any special-effects-driven film.

Sadly, neither "Jason" nor his next effort, an adaptation of H.G. Wells' "The First Men in the Moon" (1964) was a box-office success, leaving Harryhausen to freelance for the remainder of the 1960s and early 1970s. England's Hammer Films hired him to contribute some impressive dinosaurs to their remake of "One Million Years B.C." (1966), which scored largely on the strength of its leading lady, Raquel Welch, who appeared a fur bikini throughout the picture. Its success brought Harryhausen back to America for "The Valley of Gwangi" (1969), a personal project storyboarded by O'Brien about a dinosaur discovered in Mexico during the early years of the 20th century. Though Harryhausen's work was typically top-notch, the film was buried by Warner Bros. on the bottom of a double bill and ultimately missed its target audience of young adults.

Harryhausen bounced back in the early '70s when Schneer convinced Columbia to revive Sinbad for a pair of new feature adventures. Shot in Europe for a remarkably low sum of money, "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" (1973) was a worthy successor to "7th Voyage" and offered a dazzling array of creatures, including a club-wielding centaur, a tiny demon created from the blood of the film's chief villain played by Tom Baker, whose performance earned him his celebrated stint as "Doctor Who" (BBC, 1963-1989; 2005- ), and a seven-armed, sword-wielding statue of the Hindu goddess Kali that evoked both Talos and the skeletons from "Jason." Its success was followed by another hit, "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger" (1977), which featured among its monstrous cast a giant walrus, a huge wasp (shades of the bee from "Mysterious Island") and a cave-dwelling troglodyte that fought to the death with a saber-toothed tiger.

But gradually a new generation of visual-effects artists, including stop-motion animators who had entered the business after seeing Harryhausen's work, emerged onto the scene, resulting in less emphasis on the work of a single artist for effects-driven movies. Undaunted, Harryhausen launched into a new film, "Clash of the Titans" (1981), which drew its storyline from the Greek myth of Perseus. Originally a modestly budgeted effort, MGM poured money into the film to hire an all-star cast, which included Burgess Meredith, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Claire Bloom and a magnificently bearded and bewigged Laurence Olivier as Zeus. Their presence, however, was eclipsed by Harryhausen's creations, which included the winged horse Pegasus, a snake-headed Medusa and a towering sea creature called the Kraken, which bore a distinct facial resemblance to the Ymir. Although a decent success at the box office, "Titans" convinced studio executives that Harryhausen's stop-motion technique was a costly and time-consuming process, especially when compared to more elaborate work done in recent special-effects-driven films like "Star Wars" (1977). Faced with disinterest by Hollywood as a whole, Harryhausen and Schneer retired from filmmaking in the early 1980s.

However, Harryhausen remained far from inactive in the decades that followed. He released several books devoted to his work, and supervised the release of his films on VHS, laserdisc and DVD. His work was honored with a 1992 Lifetime Achievement Oscar by the countless filmmaking professionals who had been influenced by his films. The award kicked off a renewed interest in his work and Harryhausen toured festivals, museums and colleges with his films and models, leaving a trail of sci-fi/fantasy geeks, both young and old, waiting breathlessly to both meet him and hear him speak. He even returned to filmmaking in a limited capacity. In 2002, several filmmakers collaborated to help him finish "The Story of the Tortoise & the Hare," the fifth and final of his fairy tales, originally begun in 1952. The film won a 2003 Annie Award, and inspired Harryhausen to return to producing with surprising vigor for a man in his eighth decade. In 2005, he not only oversaw the release of a two-DVD set that compiled all of his non-feature efforts, but he also released colorized versions of his black-and-white films and began work on a new series of short movies; this time based on works by Edgar Allan Poe. Harryhausen also worked on a colorized release of "Kong" director Meriam C. Cooper's "She" (1935), and furnished the artwork for a series of comic-book sequels to some of his greatest film efforts. Harryhausen died on May 7, 2013, at the age of 92, and his passing prompted outpourings of adoration throughout the movie industry. In many ways, it signaled the end of an era for cinematic special effects, but one that would be fondly remembered by generations of audiences the world over.m Beneath the Sea" (1955), Harryhausen created a colossal octopus that terrorized San Francisco, and, in one startling sequence, pulled down the Golden Gate Bridge. Amusingly, the film's budget-conscious producer, Sam Katzman, only allotted enough money to animate six of the creature's arms, resulting in what Harryhausen later dubbed a "hextapus." In "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" (1956), Harryhausen unleashed a fleet of deadly UFOs on Washington D.C., which laid waste to the American military and in a particularly jaw-dropping scene, brought down the Washington Monument. And in "20 Million Miles to Earth" (1957), Harryhausen created a lizard-like alien from Venus â¿¿ dubbed the Ymir in press materials â¿¿ that wreaked havoc in the streets of Rome before facing down soldiers in the Coliseum. As in all of Harryhausen's films, the show-stopper in "Earth" is a battle royale, this time around between the Ymir and a rogue elephant, which would set the tone for future monster rallies in his subsequent efforts.

Harryhausen also re-teamed with his mentor, O'Brien, for a sequence in the 1956 feature-length documentary "The Animal World." Producer Irwin Allen had given O'Brien little time to conceive the film's opening, which was set in prehistoric times, and so the veteran called on Harryhausen to help him complete the eight-minute scene, which became the high point of the entire picture. All of Harryhausen's work had been in black and white, and he was reluctant to make the jump to color because of the difficulty in maintaining proper color balances with the DynaMation process. Schneer convinced him otherwise for their next effort, "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" (1958), and the results earned him not only his greatest film success of the 1950s, but a four-year contract with Columbia to produce more epic fantasies. Although somewhat stodgy (from a script and acting standpoint) by modern standards, this Harryhausen work is nothing short of spectacular, and includes some of his best-loved creations, including a fire-breathing dragon, the two-heade

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  (2002)
3.
  KING MIDAS (1953)
4.
  RAPUNZEL (1951)
5.
6.
  Guadalcanal (1942)

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Burke and Hare (2011)
3.
 Elf (2003)
4.
 Mighty Joe Young (1998) Gentleman At Party
5.
 Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) Bar Patron
6.
7.
 Spies Like Us (1985) Dr Marston
8.
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Milestones close milestones

:
After seeing "King Kong" (1933), began making own clay figures
:
Introduced to special effects technician Willis O'Brien; O'Brien encouraged studying anatomy
:
First worked as a model animator and director for George Pal's animated "Puppetoons" including "Mother Goose Presents" series (date approximate)
:
Served with US Signal Corps during WWII
:
After military service, returned to work for Pal
:
Made a series of filmed fairy tales with animated puppets for schools and churches
1949:
First film credit as animator and assistant to Willis O'Brien on special effects for "Mighty Joe Young"
1952:
Evolved own system of model animation called Dynamation, first used in "It Came from Beneath the Sea" (1955)
1957:
First story credit, "Twenty Million Miles to Earth"
1963:
First film as associate producer, "Jason and the Argonauts"
1973:
First film as producer, "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad"
1981:
Worked on "Clash of the Titans"
2002:
Resurfaced with "The Story of the Tortoise & the Hare"
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Education

University of Southern California: Los Angeles , California -
Los Angeles City College: Los Angeles , California -

Notes

Inducted into the Visual Effects Society Hall of Fame in 1998

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Diana Harryhausen.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Fred Harryhausen. Machinist.
mother:
Martha Harryhausen. Costume and set assistant.

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