Ray Harryhausen, Special Effects Master, Dies at 92

Ray Harryhausen, Special Effects Master, Dies at 92

Harryhausen revolutionized stop-motion animation and the use of miniature models in films like "Mighty Joe Young"

Special-effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen has died. He was 92.

Despite shifts in popular tastes and production techniques, Harryhausen's monsters and other-worldly creatures dazzled movie-goers for roughly four decades and showed that art and technology could go hand in hand.

Working before the advent of digital imagery, Harryhausen revolutionized stop-motion animation and the use of miniature models in films like "Mighty Joe Young" (1949), "Jason and the Argonauts" (1963) and "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" (1958).

His final film 1981's "Clash of the Titans" allowed him to unleash his genius to craft Krakens, flying horses, gorgons and other mythological beasts. It represents a triumph of stop-motion and model-making, an art form that has been largely swept aside in the age of computer graphics.

"Harryhausen's genius was in being able to bring his models alive," a statement from his family reads. "Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray's hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so."

Indeed, Harryhausen pushed the boundaries of what had been seen on film before. In particular, an animated battle in "Jason and the Argonauts" between mariners and a group of living skeletons is considered a significant milestone in film history — as influential as the dinosaurs in "Jurassic Park" or the space stations in "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Harryhausen would win a special Oscar acknowledging his technical accomplishments in 1992. Tom Hanks, who presented Harryhausen with his statue, acknowledged the lasting impact the innovator had on filmmakers like James Cameron, Tim Burton Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg.

"Some people say 'Casablanca' or 'Citizen Kane'…I say 'Jason and the Argonauts' is the greatest film ever made," Hanks said.




  • colcam

    This is a man we will greatly miss. He actually thought things through, not just piddled along.

  • Bill Brower

    So long Mr. Harryhausen…Thank you

  • Big Harryhausen Fan!

    A great visual efforts pioneer and artist working within the (pre-CGI) era of “optical effects” on celluloid film (before digital HD filming and storage, too!), Ray Harryhausen was truly a trailblazer — joining the likes of Stan Winston! His battle scene with the skeletons in “Jason and the Argonauts” was a visual feast and something imprinted in child mind at the time I first saw it!

    RIP, Mr. Harryhausen, you were a true “visual mission” whose “sleight of hand” came in the form of “frame-action” figures who appeared real-to-life to us! What a gift and treat your talents were to moviegoers! :-D

    • Big Harryhausen Fan!

      Woops, meant write that Harryhausen was a “visual magician,” NOT “mission!” Chalk it up to keyboard fatigue! :-D

    • David Halver

      Agreed 100% Ray was a true Visionary AND an consummate Artist who combined all his tremendous visual art skills (like sculpting & painting) with his mechanical skills like metal-working & carpentry (fabricating armatures &
      building miniature sets) with the precise editorial eye of an Animator and a seasoned Cinematographer.

      As a bit of trivia, Harryhausen was great friends with Ray Bradbury. Note in
      their collaboration on “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” the scene where the Dinosaur is in NYC and enters a shot from Camera Right: As it turns and looks toward the Camera, it lifts up one foot for a moment… something that Ray Bradbury's dog used to do whenever it “needed” to go for a walk.

      RIP to both Rays

  • 1ChampagneLeader_1

    Ray deserves our salute – his wonderful imagination and creative skill gave us a gallery of classic fantasy characters. Who can forget Talos the Bronze giant in Jason and the Argonauts as well as that films’ winged harpies,skeletons and Hydra. I still remember my first encounter with that terrifying cyclops in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad – as three dimensionally frightening as any digital monster today. “From the land beyond beyond” indeed. I also fondly remember Gwangi the Allosaurus, the crocodile in “The Three Worlds of Gulliver” and the Medusa in Clash of the Titans. Rather than bow our heads, we stand straight and salute you, Ray. You were the best special effect of all.

  • VFX Artist

    Seeing 7th Voyage of Sinbad is what inspired me to get into film. R.I.P.

  • Gordon Franklin Terry, Sr.

    My childhood is dying . . .

    Arthur C. Clark, Forry Ackerman, Ray Bradbury,

    now Ray Harryhausen.

    Willis O'Brien is the pioneer, Ray Harryhausen is the understudy.

    Better to say Ray Harry Hausen is a pioneer along with Willis O'Brien;

    but don't mention Ray Harryhausen without mentioning Willis O'Brien in the same sentence; Willis O'Brien is the Father of Stop-Motion Animation using models in commercial film./// Remembering Jody Lynn Sack (1973-1998) Her Brightness in the Darkness.