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Stop-Motion Pioneer Ray Harryhausen Is Gone

| 7 May 2013 18:23
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Tributes pour in after the death of animation genius Harryhausen.

Ray Harryhausen, special effects genius and stop motion animation pioneer, has died. Harryhausen, a multi-award winner, was a creative giant whose fantasy work inspired many other filmmakers, including such luminaries as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Jackson and James Cameron. His death, at his London residence, was announced by his family earlier today; he was 92 years old.

Harryhausen, born in Los Angeles in 1920, started experimenting with animation in the 1930s, and kicked off his career working with Willis O'Brien, the man who animated King Kong. Harryhausen became O'Brien's protégé, and went on to create some of fantasy and horror's iconic film moments. Jason and the Argonauts (1963) is probably his best known work; the tremendous fight scene between Greek hero Jason and the relentless skeletal warriors is one of Harryhausen's most memorable sequences. When presenting Harryhausen with a special Academy Award, Tom Hanks called Jason "the greatest film ever made!" But it was one of many; Harryhausen worked on dozens of films from the 1940s on, everything from science fiction monster movies to heroic epics by way of Arabian Nights style action. He was the king of stop motion; without his inspiration, Lucas and Jackson both admit, there probably wouldn't have been a Star Wars, or a Lord of the Rings.

"Harryhausen's genius was in being able to bring his models alive," said Harryhausen's family in a Facebook tribute. "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." Those wanting to see a bit more of Harryhausen's legacy should head over to his official site.

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