Ray Harryhausen (photo ©Danie Ware) was born on June 29, 1920, in Los Angeles, California, USA.
The inspiration for the work that made him famous came to Ray Harryhausen by watching the 1933 movie “King Kong”. It made the stop motion animation technique famous, and young Ray started experimenting with creating short animations. He managed to meet Willis O’Brien, the artist who created the animations for “King Kong”, receiving criticism and advice for improvement.
Ray Harryhausen was still a boy when he met Ray Bradbury, who shared with him similar tastes, and the two of them became friends. They joined the Science Fiction League that writer and editor Forrest J. Ackerman formed in 1939.
The first professional jobs for Ray Harryhausen were for director George Pal in short films that included animations. During World War II he served at the Army Motion Picture Unit, where he gained more experience with various tasks in the production of short films on the use and development of military equipment.
After the war ended, Ray Harryhausen started working on various movie productions with initially limited tasks. In the 1950s his work started becoming important such as in “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” (1953), “It Came from Beneath the Sea” (1955), and “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” (1956).
The great success came for Ray Harryhausen with “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” (1958), a milestone of stop motion animations. In the following years, he created more extraordinary animations for “The 3 Worlds of Gulliver” (1960) and “Mysterious Island” (1961) up to what is considered his masterpiece, “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963).
In the following years, the animations produced by Ray Harryhausen ranged from the space creatures of “First Men in the Moon” (1964) to the dinosaurs of “One Million Years BC” (1966) and “The Valley of Gwangi” (1969), a project Harryhausen had been trying to develop personally for years.
In the 1970s, Ray Harryhausen returned to the mythological genre with “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” (1973) and “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger” (1977). His last work was for “Clash of the Titans” (1981).
For his contributions to special effects innovation, in 1992 Ray Harryhausen received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, a sort of career Oscar for technical contributions to the cinema industry. He also received other awards, but they only partially show his importance in a job that mixes technique and art. He passed away on May 7, 2013. In recent years the use of CGI has grown enormously, but the developments obtained in decades thanks to Ray Harryhausen remain crucial for cinema.