Ray Harryhausen, visual effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator, died on 7 May 2013 at the age of 92. Harryhausen’s influence on today’s filmmakers was enormous; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations.
Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in King Kong in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation. Over the years he worked on some of the fantasy genre’s best known movies, and is perhaps best remembered for his extraordinary animation of seven skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), which took him three months to film.
Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive. Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in his hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played.
During the US Civil War, Union POWs escape in a balloon and end up stranded on a South Pacific island, inhabited by giant plants and animals