Special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, whose work influenced filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson and George Lucas, died today in London. He was 92. His family announced the death via The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation Facebook page. The Oscar and BAFTA award winner was known as the master of stop-motion animation on such films as 1963’s Jason And The Argonauts, for which he’s remembered for his extraordinary animation of seven sword-fighting skeletons. In 2003, Harryhausen wrote: “Each of the model skeletons was about eight to 10 inches high, and six of the seven were made for the sequence. The remaining one was a veteran from The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad, slightly repainted to match the new members of the family. When all the skeletons have manifested themselves to Jason and his men, they are commanded by Acetes to ‘Kill, kill, kill them all,’ and we hear an unearthly scream. What follows is a sequence of which I am very proud. I had three men fighting seven skeletons, and each skeleton had five appendages to move in each separate frame of film. This meant at least 35 animation movements, each synchronised to the actors’ movements. Some days I was producing less than one second of screen time; in the end the whole sequence took a record four and a half months.”
Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began in the early 1930s after watching Willis O’Brien’s creations in King Kong with his childhood friend, the late Ray Bradbury. He began his lifelong adventure in filmmaking with his own home movies that featured his first attempts at model animation. His genius was in bringing his models to life, becoming characters in their own right. The signature technique he devised blending rear projection and stop-motion animation came to be known as Dynamation and was applied in the majority of his other major works, which include Mighty Joe Young (1949), It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957), Mysterious Island (1961), One Million Years B.C. (1966), The Valley Of Gwangi, (1969), The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad (1973), Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger (1974) and Clash Of The Titans (1981).
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