Sunday, 12 May 2013

Ray Harryhausen special effects supremo dies at 92

Legendary Hollywood lighting tricks man Ray Harryhausen passed on to the great beyond in London’s Hammersmith hospital recently. He was ninety two years old.

The animator and business pioneer was renowned for his innovation of new moving picture practice, as well as a parade of iconic and unforgettable display creations.

Harryhausen’s model work and exclusive creature models can be seen in such type of movies as ‘Clash of the Titans’, ‘Jason & The Argonauts’, ‘The Valley of Gwangi’ and his ‘Sinbad’ trilogy, among a great many others.

Tributes from a mixture of motion picture industry specialists have poured in over the past 24 hours.

Oscar-winning ‘Wallace & Gromit’ creator Nick Park called him “my mentor and inspiration since my earliest childhood memories”.

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg both shiningly remarked Harryhausen as an inspiration, while James Cameron, who’s films include Harryhausen-esque creature features like ‘Aliens’ and ‘Terminator’ said science fiction filmmakers has been “standing on the shoulders of a giant” because of Ray’s labor.

Peter Lord, of Aardman Animations, also celebrated that Harryhausen was “a 1-man business and a one-man genre”.

Himself motivated by ‘King Kong’s special effects creator Willis O’Brien, young Harryhausen began experimenting with sculpt making and stop-motion work in the 30′s.

After he enlisted in the U.S Army in 1942, Harryhausen worked on models and artwork for U.S Army magazine ‘Yank’ and served under forthcoming ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ director Frank Capra to make army-instruction films.

After the war, Harryhausen was able to work alongside his hero Willis O’Brien, on what could be his breakthrough movie ‘Mighty Joe Young’.

In 1953, Harryhausen’s solo effort ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’ (an adaptation of a quick story by Ray’s lifetime friend Ray Bradbury) evolved into a box office victory. Next, the 1955 production of ‘It Came From Beneath the Sea’ marked the first collaboration between Harryhausen and Producer Charles H. Schneer, the person who would succeed with him on his popular movies over the following three decades.

Harryhausen partnered in the course of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, building many hugely accepted creatures and fantastic, dream like journey sequences. ‘Clash of the Titans’, released in 1981, is considered by many to become his magnum opus.

In 1992, Harryhausen established a special Oscar for his achievements and contributions to the art of cinema.

In 2002, Harryhausen partnered alongside animators Mark Caballero and Seamus Walsh to finish ‘The Tortoise & The Hare’, a fairy tale short that Ray had started in 1952.

In 2007, he executive-produced a short film based on E.A Poe’s ‘The Pit & The Pendulum’.

In the autobiography, Harryhausen says “Looking back over time I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in so many exciting projects, the best of which I assume did mature and develop into full-length feature movies”.

He donated his entire private collection of models, which consisted of around 20,000 scrupulously hand crafted models, to the National Media Museum in Bradford in 2010. It is here, in addition to inside the imaginations of these he continues to inspire, that Ray Harryhausen’s heritage will live on.

SOURCES:

Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life (Book) by Ray Harryhausen & Tony Dalton

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-22441567

http://movies.nytimes.com/person/93588/Ray-Harryhausen/biography

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0366063/