Willis O'Brien


Special Effects Artist

About

Also Known As
Willis H O'Brien, Willis H. O'Brien
Birth Place
Oakland, California, USA
Born
March 02, 1886
Died
November 08, 1962

Biography

Former marble-cutter and cartoonist who began using stop-motion photography to make short films, often featuring models of dinosaurs, in the early teens. O'Brien's efforts attracted the attention of the Edison company, for whom he made ten five-minute shorts on Stone Age subjects before applying his talents to feature films in the 20s. O'Brien pioneered the use of rubber, rather than cla...

Photos & Videos

King Kong - Production Art
King Kong - Lobby Cards
The Giant Behemoth - Lobby Cards

Biography

Former marble-cutter and cartoonist who began using stop-motion photography to make short films, often featuring models of dinosaurs, in the early teens. O'Brien's efforts attracted the attention of the Edison company, for whom he made ten five-minute shorts on Stone Age subjects before applying his talents to feature films in the 20s. O'Brien pioneered the use of rubber, rather than clay, models, an innovation that first reached the screen in "The Lost World" (1925). Other outstanding examples of O'Brien's work include the oversized apes of "King Kong" (1933) and "Mighty Joe Young" (1949).

Life Events

Photo Collections

King Kong - Production Art
Here are several preproduction drawings made for King Kong (1933). Such art was done to show the studio heads what the finished film would look like, and to guide visualization for the special effects team.
King Kong - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from King Kong (1933). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Giant Behemoth - Lobby Cards
Here are several lobby cards from The Giant Behemoth (1959), featuring stop-motion animation by Willis O'Brien. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Animal World - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from The Animal World (1956). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Giant Behemoth, The (1959) - The Best Fisherman In All Cornwall Writer-director Eugene Lourie banks on folksy Cornish charm, with Henry Vidon and Leigh Madison as fisherman Tom and daughter Jean, unrelated, as far as we know, to worried nuclear scientists back in London, parting on the coast before something odd transpires, turning to townsman John (John Turner), early in The Giant Behemoth, 1959.
Giant Behemoth, The (1959) - Ferry Approach, SE18 Entirely real setting, after weird nuclear events all along the southern coast of England and assurances that the Thames estuary is at no risk, shooting at the Woolwich Ferry in East London, just past Greenwich, the monster, in miniature, looking like a legit aquatic dinosaur, finally appears, supervised by Willis O’Brien but under-financed, with no dialogue and none of the principal actors, in The Giant Behemoth, 1959.
Last Days Of Pompeii, The (1935) - In Caesar's Name! SPOILER except the title suggests Vesuvius will erupt, more special effects are deployed as Marcus (Preston Foster) chooses his wounded Christian son (John Wood) over his Roman prefect master (Louis Calhern) and his troops, in the disaster epic from RKO’s King Kong team (Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack), The Last Days Of Pompeii, 1935.
Last Days Of Pompeii, The (1935) - The Physical Setting Of This Picture Make no mistake about your epic scale, as producer Merian C. Cooper and director Ernest B. Schoedsack (of King Kong fame, two years earlier) bank their hefty set and special effects costs, with an unusual prologue attributing the story, and we meet Lucius and Gaius (Marc Loebell, Frank Conroy), opening The Last Days Of Pompeii, 1935.
Black Scorpion, The (1957) - This Little Monster Mexican geologist Ramos (Carlos Rivas) shows Scott (Richard Denning) and their hostess, rancher Teresa (Mara Corday), what he found in the obsidian rock from the incident scene, then a call from the telephone linemen, effects by Willis O’Brien and Peter Peterson, in The Black Scorpion, 1957.
King Kong (1933) - Sacrifice Having locked the gate and delivered the sacrificial Ann (Fay Wray), the native chief (Steve Clemento) summons the ape for his first appearance in Merian C. Cooper's King Kong, 1933.
Mighty Joe Young (1949) -- Big Gun! Showbiz promoter O'Hara (Robert Armstrong) with African hunter Crawford (Denis Green) and cow-hand turned game wrangler Gregg (Ben Johnson), reviewing their success when Ray Harryhausen's ape makes his first appearance, in Mighty Joe Young, 1949.
Mighty Joe Young (1949) -- Aren't You Afraid? Oklahoman Gregg (Ben Johnson) is kinda romancing new African friend Jill (Terry Moore) when his boss O'Hara (Robert Armstrong) and hunter Crawford (Denis Green) arrive to talk about her ape, in Mighty Joe Young, 1949.
King Kong (1933) - The Thrill Of A Lifetime! Adventure movie-maker Denham (Robert Armstrong) is about to leave New York for the tropics, determined to hire a girl as the love interest for the picture he won't explain for anyone so, with no one willing to take the risk, he finds Fay Wray ("Ann Darrow"), early in the original King Kong, 1933.
King Kong (1933) - The Eighth Wonder! Filmmaker turned exhibitor Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) at last introduces Kong, along with Ann (Fay Wray), for his New York debut, and it turns out he doesn't like flash bulbs, opening the climax of the original King Kong, 1933.
King Kong (1933) - Dinosaur Fight That nasty Tyrannosaurus, which no ordinary ape would take on, is about to eat Ann (Fay Wray), in a famous sequence, with action shot one frame at a time, from animator Willis O'Brien, in Merian C. Cooper's original King Kong, 1933.

Trailer

Bibliography