Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013)

Special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, 92, died May 7, 2013.

Harryhausen pioneered the “Dynamation” stop-motion model animation process, which revolutionized fantasy and SF filmmaking. He classic works include 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and the iconic skeleton warrior battle in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), which influenced hosts of SF/fantasy filmmakers. After three busy decades in Hollywood, his last major effects work was on 1981’s Clash of the Titans. Harryhausen was influential on generations of SF writers and artists, and was close with many in the field, notably Ray Bradbury and Forrest J Ackerman.

Raymond Frederick Harryhausen was born June 29, 1920 in Los Angeles. After seeing King Kong in 1933 he began to experiment with creating animated shorts, eventually being mentored by King Kong animator Willis O’Brien. He joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society in 1939, where he became close with Ackerman and Bradbury. Harryhausen made films for the military in WWII (with director Frank Capra), and after the war began working in Hollywood. His first major job was as an assistant animator for O’Brien on Mighty Joe Young, winner of the 1949 Academy Award for special effects. He created effects for about 20 finished films (and worked on several that never made it to screen) during the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, producing a body of work that inspired future filmmakers including James Cameron, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and Terry Gilliam.

Harryhausen received a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award in 1996, was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2005, and received a Karl Edward Wagner life achievement award from the British Fantasy Society in 2008.

For more, see his entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. See the June issue of Locus for a complete obituary.