Skip to main content

Special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen dies at 92

By Todd Leopold, CNN
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed May 8, 2013
<a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/07/showbiz/movies/obit-ray-harryhausen/index.html'>Ray Harryhausen</a>, the stop-motion animation and special-effects master whose work and influence was far-reaching, poses in front an enlarged model of Medusa from his 1981 film "Clash of the Titans" in London in 2010. Harryhausen has died at 92, according to the <a href='https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Ray-and-Diana-Harryhausen-Foundation/125012827632564' target='_blank'>Facebook page</a> of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation. Ray Harryhausen, the stop-motion animation and special-effects master whose work and influence was far-reaching, poses in front an enlarged model of Medusa from his 1981 film "Clash of the Titans" in London in 2010. Harryhausen has died at 92, according to the Facebook page of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation.
HIDE CAPTION
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
Special effects pioneer's wide influence
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ray Harryhausen was master of stop-motion animation
  • Harryhausen influenced many moviemakers, including George Lucas and Peter Jackson
  • His combination of animation and live action often highlight of movies
  • Movies included "One Million Years B.C." and 1981 version of "Clash of the Titans"

(CNN) -- Ray Harryhausen, the stop-motion animation and special-effects master whose work influenced such directors as Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and George Lucas, has died, according to the Facebook page of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation.

Harryhausen was 92. The page did not offer a cause of death.

Harryhausen's pioneering work on such movies as "Mighty Joe Young," "Jason and the Argonauts," "One Million Years B.C." and "Clash of the Titans" (1981) was widely praised for its ability to blend stop-motion effects -- models filmed one frame at a time -- and live action.

In "Jason," for example, the hero has a battle with a group of skeletons that emerge from the ground and take on the Greek warriors.

2010: Bringing monsters to life

Harryhausen called his format "dynamation," and though it looks somewhat crude by today's computer-generated standards, it still packs a punch -- and other filmmakers remain agog by Harryhausen's abilities.

Several filmmakers paid tribute to him on his 90th birthday, including Jackson, "Wallace & Gromit's" Nick Park and Monty Python's Terry Gilliam. Pixar worked in a reference to Harryhausen in "Monsters, Inc."

Raymond Frederick Harryhausen was born in Los Angeles in 1920. From his childhood he was intrigued by movies and animation, inspired by films such as "The Lost World" (1925) and especially "King Kong" (1933). As a teenager he built dioramas featuring prehistoric creatures and filmed them with a 16-millimeter camera, gently hitting the "run" button to move the film one frame at a time, according to his biography on rayharryhausen.com.

By the time he was in his early 20s he was friends with Forrest Ackerman and Ray Bradbury, two men who shared Harryhausen's fondness for storytelling and animation. Ackerman became a writer, editor and famed memorabilia collector; Bradbury, of course, became one of the most celebrated science-fiction writers.

Other influential colleagues included Willis O'Brien, the "King Kong" animator, who encouraged Harryhausen's pursuits, and George Pal, who produced 1953's "The War of the Worlds" and directed 1960's "The Time Machine."

The science-fiction and fantasy films of Harryhausen's career weren't the star-filled, big-budget productions of today. Indeed, Harryhausen's creations were often the main attraction for films that lacked the polish of major studio releases.

But the dedicated Harryhausen had a well-earned following, and was quick with praise for his successors. He also never lost his fondness for storytelling, and even in today's computer-dominated marketplace, maintained high hopes that the art of combining stop-motion with live action would continue.

"Stop-motion is a medium that welcomes fantasy, hence the number of recent productions," Harryhausen told CNN in 2012. "As yet, though, there seem to be no productions that are utilizing model stop-motion and live actors. But that will, I think, re-emerge. It is only a matter of time."

People we lost in 2013: The lives they lived

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:30 PM EST, Sun January 5, 2014
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
updated 7:55 PM EST, Wed January 1, 2014
Actor James Avery, who played the beloved Uncle Phil on the hit 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died. He was 67.
updated 2:59 PM EST, Wed January 1, 2014
Dr. John W.V. Cordice, the surgeon who operated on Dr. Martin Luther King after he was stabbed in Harlem in 1958, died in Iowa. Cordice was 95.
updated 8:28 PM EST, Wed January 1, 2014
Joseph Ruskin died of natural causes in a Santa Monica, California, hospital. He was 89.
updated 4:19 PM EST, Wed January 1, 2014
Jeffrey Ian Pollack, who directed the popular 1990s films "Booty Call" and "Above the Rim" and produced "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has died. He was 54.
updated 6:00 PM EST, Mon December 23, 2013
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian gun designer whose AK-47 rifle became the weapon of choice for many national armies and guerrillas around the world, died.
updated 6:53 AM EST, Sun December 22, 2013
Ned Vizzini, who shot to fame at a young age for his teenage novels focusing on youth depression and anxieties, committed suicide at age 32.
updated 4:37 PM EST, Thu December 19, 2013
Al Goldstein, the foul-mouthed publisher of Screw magazine and pornography pioneer died in New York. He was 77.
updated 3:53 PM EST, Tue December 31, 2013
Actor Daniel Escobar, who played a teacher in "Lizzie McGuire," died from complications of diabetes in Los Angeles. He was 49.
updated 7:41 PM EST, Wed December 18, 2013
"Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs -- one of the most notorious British criminals of the 20th century -- has died, his publisher told CNN. He was 84.
updated 8:17 PM EST, Mon December 16, 2013
Ray Price, the Nashville star whose trademark "shuffle" beat became a country music staple, has died at age 87, his agent said.
updated 9:23 PM EST, Mon December 16, 2013
Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine died, her longtime friend Noel Beutel said. She was 96.
updated 7:40 AM EST, Mon December 16, 2013
Actor Peter O'Toole died peacefully in a hospital at 81 years old.
updated 7:38 AM EST, Mon December 16, 2013
Tom Laughlin, the actor who wrote and starred in the "Billy Jack" films of the 1970s, died at age 82.
updated 7:56 PM EST, Wed December 11, 2013
Jazz guitarist Jim Hall, who played with the jazz greats of the 20th century and influenced the younger ones, has died, his family said. He was 83.
updated 8:46 AM EST, Tue December 10, 2013
Actress Eleanor Parker, nominated for three Oscars and known for her "Sound of Music" role, died Monday at 91, her family said.
updated 11:40 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
Freedom fighter, statesman, moral compass and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.
updated 9:18 PM EST, Wed December 4, 2013
Bill Beckwith, who co-hosted HGTV home-improvement show "Curb Appeal," has died. He was 38.
updated 9:58 AM EST, Mon December 2, 2013
Actor Paul Walker, who shot to fame as star of the high-octane street racing franchise "Fast & Furious," died in a car crash in Southern California. He was 40.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Sat November 30, 2013
Paul F. Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, died at age 79.
updated 6:42 PM EST, Fri November 29, 2013
Jane Kean, who played diverse roles during a long career but was best known as Trixie on the TV revival of "The Honeymooners," has died. She was 90.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Mon November 25, 2013
Singer Wayne Mills, whose "outlaw country" songs center on honky-tonk life, died in a Nashville bar shooting.
ADVERTISEMENT