RIP Ray Harryhausen

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on May 7th, 2013

Raymond Frederick Harryhausen
Born: Los Angeles 29th June 1920
Died: London 7th May 2013.

The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator. He was a multi-award winner which includes a special Oscar and BAFTA. 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.

Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury 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 period of the next 46 years, he made some of the genres best known movies – 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), THER VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969), three films based on the adventures of SINBAD and CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). He 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 Ray’s hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so.

Today The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a charitable Trust set up by Ray on the 10th April 1986, is devoted to the protection of Ray’s name and body of work as well as archiving, preserving and restoring Ray’s extensive Collection.

Tributes have been heaped upon Harryhausen for his work by his peers in recent years.

“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS”
George Lucas.

“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’. Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least”
Peter Jackson

“In my mind he will always be the king of stop-motion animation”
Nick Park

“His legacy of course is in good hands Because it’s carried in the DNA of so many film fans.”
Randy Cook

“You know I’m always saying to the guys that I work with now on computer graphics “do it like Ray Harryhausen”
Phil Tippett

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.”
Terry Gilliam.

“His patience, his endurance have inspired so many of us.”
Peter Jackson

“Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever.”
Steven Spielberg

“I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant.
If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”
James Cameron

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

6 Responses to “RIP Ray Harryhausen”

  1. Sydney Colvin via Facebook responds:


  2. HulkSmashNow responds:

    Truly a giant in the realm of cinematic special effects. I was born in 1979, so the first film that featured Mr. Harryhausen’s work was also his last “Clash of the Titans.” His rendition of Medusa still gives me chills all of these years later and the Kraken is still my favorite movie monster next to Godzilla. A real pioneer has passed on, but his legend will always live on.

  3. Iceman responds:

    Today, the day of your death, is my birthday. In my life, this is synchronous, as your legacy shall live on through your eternal legion of fans. What greater gift to any child than all those infinite possibilities your creations inspired in future artists, such as myself? Go to your rest now sir, at peace for a job well done!

  4. Raiderpithicusblaci responds:

    Thank you, Mr. Harryhausen, for making a poor, wretched little boys life a bit brighter; i weep for you.

  5. cryptokellie responds:

    Back in the fifties, when I was a kid, I saw “The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad” in the first-run movies.

    It was the first Harryhausen feature film I ever saw in the movies and it was mesmerizing. Back then they had matinee double features on Saturdays and it was then that I saw “Earth Vs The Flying Saucers” on a double bill with “UFO-The True Story Of Flying Saucers”. The sight of the Nation’s Capital being destroyed left indelible images in my mind. From “Sinbad” onward, I saw every one of Harryhausen’s films in the theaters right up to “Clash Of The Titans”. I caught up with the earlier films when shown on TV in the late fifties and early sixties.

    My favorite Ray films are;

    “Earth Vs The Flying Saucers”…the destruction of Washington DC becoming almost delirious.
    “The Beast From 20,000 Fathom”… perhaps Ray’s best animation aided by a great Buttloph score.
    “Twenty Million Miles To Earth”…many long and beautifully lit animated sequences.
    “Jason And The Argonauts”…the most lavish of all Harryhausen’s films.
    “The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad”…the defining Harryhausen creatures, the Cyclops and Dragon.

    And a special nod to “Mighty Joe Young” a film that still brings tears to my eyes, whoever animated what sequences. Joe has more emotion than the human stars.

    Being a professional sculptor, I created a few jointed stop-motion figures for student films back in the late sixties. Unfortunately, the films (uncompleted) no longer exist and the models have disintegrated over the years and I came to respect the huge effort and incredible discipline that stop-motion film work requires.

    My condolences to the Harryhausen extended family and may you rest in peace and satisfaction with the knowledge that your films will continue entertain and inspire young film-makers and artist forever.

  6. springheeledjack responds:

    My condolences to the family. Ray was revered at our house as one of the greats! He inspired a lot of “monster” imagination and we spoke his name with awe! Thanks for all you achieved.

    Rest well.

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