“Way before movies like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings inspired the imagination of film lovers everywhere, audiences were enraptured by the sword-wielding skeletons of Jason and the Argonauts, the great ape of Mighty Joe Young and the dinosaurs opposite Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C ,” wrote USA Today’s Brian Truitt. “The man responsible for all those and much more, Hollywood special-effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, died Tuesday in London at the age of 92 (June 29, 1920 – May 7, 2013).”
When someone reaches age 92, their passing may very well still be a surprise, but it can hardly be called “shocking.” That said, generations of fans – many of them now professional filmmakers or storytellers in other mediums – found such a vital spark of imagination in the late special effects master’s work that it’s simply difficult to believe that he’s gone. His work was so entwined with making the impossible possible that it defies easy explanation to those who don’t understand.
“Ray Harryhausen was a fan of the fantastic right from the beginning, having been deeply affected by his first viewing of King Kong in 1933 when he was 13 years old. A “sense of wonder” became firmly rooted in Ray’s psyche and he naturally gravitated to dinosaurs, the fantasy of the Arabian Nights, Greek Mythology, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. It’s often been said that other movies ‘talked’ about these creatures; but Ray’s stylish stop motion animation brought to life the creatures of myth and legend and actually put them on the screen with dramatic flair and dynamic energy. As with all great film actors, Ray’s creatures project intelligence, humor, and pathos,” publisher Ernest Farino told Scoop just a few weeks ago in advance of the publication of Ray Harryhausen – Master of the Majicks Volume 1.
“My early exposure to all the leviathans of the Saturday matinee creature features inspired me, when I grew up, to make Jurassic Park. And the artist magician who breathed life into clay figures and wire armatures and made us, as kids, happily fear for our lives, was the dean of special effects, Ray Harryhausen. All those so called ‘B movies’ were the A movies of my childhood. He inspired generations,” director Steven Spielberg told Time.