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Ray Harryhausen Profile

Regarded as one of the most creative craftsmen in his field of model animation, special effects master Ray Harryhausen won the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for Technical Achievement at the 1992 Academy Awards. Born in Los Angeles in 1920, Harryhausen came under the spell of stop-motion animation when he first saw Willis O'Brien's effects for King Kong (1933). Harryhausen, who would later describe himself as a "King Kong addict," was soon making his own animated films in his family's basement.

During World War II service in the Signal Corps, Harryhausen created stop-motion shorts including How to Bridge a Gorge and Guadalcanal. After the war he created a series of "Mother Goose" and "Fairy Tale" films; among the best of the lot are Rupunzel (1951) and The Story of King Midas (1953). After assisting George Pal on his "Puppetoons" shorts, Harryhausen was able to work with his idol, Willis O'Brien, on Mighty Joe Young (1949), the story of a giant ape in the King Kong tradition. Harryhausen reportedly did 80% of that movie's actual animation.

His other spectacular effects include the dueling skeletons who fight live actors in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963); the sea monster and oversized scorpions of Clash of the Titans (1981); the sword-wielding six-armed statue of Kaki and a cyclopean centaur in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973); and the giant creatures in Mysterious Island (1961), a "Captain Nemo" story for which Harryhausen creates the animation and his friend and collaborator, composer Bernard Herrmann, provides the music.

His work in the science fiction genre has included the giant mutant octopus that terrorizes San Francisco in It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), the special photographic and animation effects for Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), the deadly lizard-like Ymir from Venus in 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), and the insect-like creatures in First Men in the Moon (1964).

by Roger Fristoe
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