(June 29, 1920 – May 7, 2013) was a visual effects pioneer and a genius in his field. Inspired by King Kong
, 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. Most of the settings in these films were made using matte painting.
These movies would often be more showcases for Harryhausen's talent than anything else, but they had several similarities:
Projects Harryhausen Worked On:
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- 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. 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 BC - 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
- Hercules The Legendary Journeys did a Jason and the Argonauts story which climaxed with a battle against (CGI) Skeletons in Harryhausen fasion.
- Scenes from both The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Valley of Gwangi have been used in the Newsflash game on Whose Line Is It Anyway?
- 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 Greek 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.