Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Monster animator Harryhausen has died aged 92

Ray Harryhausen has died aged 92. Photo: Ian West/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Influential visual effects maker and animator Ray Harryhausen, who brought monsters, skeletons and mythological beasts to life for movies like "Jason and the Argonauts" long before computers took over the job, died on Tuesday at age 92, his family said.

Harryhausen, who was born in Los Angeles and worked for more than 40 years in the movie industry, died in London, his family said in a statement.

"The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, visual effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator.

"Ray's influence on today's film makers was enormous with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK's own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations," the statement said.

Harryhausen used a laborious, painstaking "stop-motion" animation technique to single-handedly create imaginative effects for 16 films from the 1950s into the 1980s including three Sinbad movies, Clash of the Titans (1981), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) and One Million Years B.C. (1966).

He received a special Academy Award for career achievement in 1992.

"Some say 'Citizen Kane' is the greatest motion picture of all time, others say it's 'Casablanca,'" actor Tom Hanks said as he presented the special Oscar to Harryhausen.

"For me, the greatest picture of all time is 'Jason and the Argonauts.'"

That 1963 movie based on Greek mythology featured scenes of sword-wielding skeletons battling human warriors, a colossal statue coming to life and a seven-headed serpent.

While others officially handled the directing chores in his movies, it was Harryhausen who dreamed up, modelled and shot some of the most memorable moments in film history.

Most of his movies, often made with producer Charles Schneer, were low-budget affairs.

He once had to make a giant octopus with just six tentacles to save money.

But his movie magic helped inspire future cinema giants.

Harryhausen perfected the "stop-motion" technique that had been used in a small number of earlier films by others including special effects pioneer Willis O'Brien, who would become his mentor, in "King Kong" (1933).

The original Medusa figure from the 1981 film Clash Of The Titans. Credit: Ian Nicholson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The process allows miniatures to be turned into monsters.

Doll-sized models are photographed one frame at a time in continuous poses to create the illusion of motion in a method Harryhausen dubbed "Dynamation."

The creations are then mixed with footage of people, cities and nature and can be made to appear gigantic or tiny depending on the plot.