Raymond Frederick "Ray" Harryhausen (June 29, 1920 – May 7, 2013) was a visual effects pioneer and a genius in his field. Inspired by King Kong (1933), he became the most prominent Stop Motion animator in the film industry and worked on such classics as Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, three Sinbad films (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger ), as well as some of the most notable dinosaur films of the pre-Jurassic Park era. A lesser known fact: most of the settings in these films were made using matte painting, another technique he mastered.These adventure movies would often be more showcases for Harryhausen's talent than anything else, but they had several similarities:
- Fantastic plots: Jason and Clash are both adapted from Classical Mythology, the Sinbad movies come from Arabian mythsnote and One Million Years B.C. is set in a prehistorical world where humans and dinosaurs coexist.
- Monster Behemoth Battles:
- The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) - Cyclops/dragon battle
- One Million Years B.C. (1966) - Carnosaur/ceratopsian battle and pterosaur/pterosaur battle
- The Valley of Gwangi (1969) - Allosaurus/styracosaurus battle
- The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) - Griffin/centaur battle
- Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) - Troglodyte/smilodon battle
- Hammy acting, the villains in particular.
- Famous actors playing small roles: Sir Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith were both in Clash of the Titans. Why? Money, Dear Boy.
- Gorgeous actresses: Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., Caroline Munro in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Jane Seymour and Taryn Power in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger...
Projects Harryhausen Worked On:
open/close all folders
- Several of his classic films have been given Comic Book sequels, or adaptations, which include his original sketches as an extra. These include
- It Came from Beneath the Sea... Again!
- 20 Million Miles to Earth
- Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
- The Elementals - An unproduced Harryhausen Project.
- Mighty Joe Young - Harryhausen's first Hollywood gig, spiritual sequel to King Kong (1933). The effects were a collaboration between O'Brien and Harryhausen.
- The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms - While not the first monster to attack a city, it was the first monster to be created by The Bomb. Very loosely based on the short story of the same name by Harryhausen's friend and fellow guy-named-Ray, Ray Bradbury. Because of the movie's success and only vague connection to the story, Bradbury renamed his work "The Fog Horn" to differentiate the two.
- It Came from Beneath the Sea - Giant Octopus attacks San Francisco. Notably, the City Fathers didn't want to have their newly built Golden Gate Bridge destroyed in the film for fear it would show the bridge being a weak structure. The producers filmed guerrilla-style and put it in anyway. The octopus only has six tentacles, to save on animation time.
- The Animal World - Started as a Documentary about life, but the Stop Motion dinosaurs stole the show. It also reunited Harryhausen with his idol Willis O'Brien.
- Earth vs. the Flying Saucers - Alien Invasion done with little subtlety. Some of the most iconic Monumental Damage occurs in this movie when Washington is attacked, including a saucer crashing into the Washington monument and knocking it onto people as well as a Saucer destroying the dome of the Capital Building.
- 20 Million Miles to Earth - Please stop harassing the Ymir.
- The 7th Voyage of Sinbad - His first full-length color film, and Trope Codifier for Harryhausen, introducing one of his most iconic creatures : the living skeleton.
- The Three Worlds Of Gulliver - An adaptation of Gulliver's Travels.
- Mysterious Island - Sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Charles Shneer threw in various giant animals to give Harryhausen something more to do.
- Jason and the Argonauts - Harryhausen's first world-recognized Crowning Moment of Awesome occurs with a bronze giant and a battle with 7 skeletons. It took him several days to film one second of film—and he got the scene done in a single take! Also one of the Trope Codifiers and most iconic of Harryhausen's films.
- The First Men in the Moon - Victorians IN SPACE! meet Ant People on the moon.
- The Valley of Gwangi - Cowboys versus Dinosaurs, noted for the epic scene where the cowboys rope the eponymous Allosaurs.
- One Million Years B.C. - Often noted more for Raquel Welch in a Fur Bikini than for Ray's special effects. But they're very good effects. Supposedly, the archelon model had a lot of critics complaining that Harryhausen used a real turtle.
- The Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Epic scenes include a statue of Kali swordfighting Sinbad with all six arms and a centaur-cyclops. Also notable for being the film that brought Tom Baker (who played the evil magician Koura) to the attention of the producers of Doctor Who.
- Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger - Sinbad goes to a Lost World and battles a giant saber toothed cat.
- Clash of the Titans - Ray's final feature, featuring his last Crowning Moment of Awesome in the Medusa battle done by flickering firelight. The complexity of that scene wows FX artists to this day.
Live Action TV
- Many of his effects were reused in famous television series—most notably The Twilight Zone reusing his Flying Saucers in To Serve Man.
- Harryhausen's first gig was making shorts for the Army. Infamously, the short How To Build a Bridge had no visuals of soldiers putting the bridge together, and the superiors worried that the soldiers would think the bridges would build themselves!
- Harryhausen also did several fairy tale adaptations, but few are of note, as they were fully animated Gumby-style shorts.
Homages and Shout Outs:
- Army of Darkness features a very Harryhausen-inspired battle sequence with an Army of Skeletons. Some of which were stop motion.
- Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams has a skeleton army too; the titular setting, full of creatures of varying sizes and natures, wouldn't be out of place in the Harryhausen canon either.
- While it mostly uses the traditional People in Rubber Suits that comes standard with Tokusatsu, Kamen Rider ZO features a stop motion fight with a giant spider monster that is rather Harryhausen-esque.
- Sinbad: The 5th Voyage is a Genre Throwback to the aforementioned Harryhausen Sinbad movies, going as far as using actual stop motion animation(albeit far more technologically advanced) for the creatures.
- Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is, in many ways, an homage to Harryhausen's body of work, combining the Sinbad and Greek mythology films into a single setting full of giant monsters. Especially in the "Cyclops Island" short included on the home video version: Sinbad's reaction to encountering the one-eyed giants is "Not again!"
- Pacific Rim, while not directly related, is stated to be a tribute to both Ray Harryhausen and fellow Monster movie creator Ishiro Honda.
Live Action Television
- The video for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Burn It Off" is a pastiche of Harryhausen movies, with members of the band chased by CGI versions his monsters (especially the skeletons) around an island and on a ship.
- The God of War series draws a lot of inspiration from Harryhausen's movies, namely the Classical Mythology inspired ones. In particular, the second game includes several shout outs, including fighting skeletons while following Jason.
- The Cyclops in the PlayStation game for Xena: Warrior Princess was quite obviously modeled on the ones from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad complete with a horn on its forehead and (if you use the camera to see its lower body) satyr-like legs.
- Several Killer Instinct 2 characters pay homage to Harryhausen's movies, notably Spinal and Eyedoll.
- Age of Mythology has several Greek myth units based directly on Harryhausen's version of them - Cyclops and Medusa, for example.
- Harryhausen had an upscale restaurant named after him in Pixar's Monsters, Inc..
- Speaking of Shout Outs, two stop-motion films that came out in the same year had the exact same nod to the man: both The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Corpse Bride had a "Harryhausen" piano in there.
- One episode of SWAT Kats, Bride of the Pastmaster, had two of its three Cyclops adorned with horns on their foreheads like the ones in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
- Class of the Titans is full of Harryhausen movie shout-outs, starting of course with the title.
- An episode of The Angry Beavers has them transported to ancient Rome where they face off against a Cyclops that looks Harryhausen-esque, even moving as if stop motion animated.
- In the Gravity Falls episode Little Gift Shop of Horrors, Harry Claymore animated stop-motion skeletons and a cyclops for the film The Voyages of Loinclothiclese. Which is to say he used black magic to bring to life actual-size clay monsters, which turned on him after the advent of computer animation.Harry Claymore: Do you really believe someone moves these figures one frame at a time? I'm not a masochist.