Visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen dead at age 92

Tue May 7, 2013 2:40pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Influential visual effects maker and animator Ray Harryhausen, who brought monsters, skeletons and mythological beasts to life for movies like "Jason and the Argonauts" long before computers took over the job, died Tuesday at age 92, his family said.

Harryhausen, who was born in Los Angeles and worked for more than 40 years in the movie industry, died in London, his family said in a statement.

"The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, visual effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator.

"Ray's influence on today's film makers was enormous with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK's own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations," the statement said.

Harryhausen used a laborious, painstaking "stop-motion" animation technique to single-handedly create imaginative effects for 16 films from the 1950s into the 1980s including three "Sinbad" movies, "Clash of the Titans" (1981), "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" (1956) and "One Million Years B.C." (1966).

He received a special Academy Award for career achievement in 1992.

"Some say 'Citizen Kane' is the greatest motion picture of all time, others say it's 'Casablanca,'" actor Tom Hanks said as he presented the special Oscar to Harryhausen. "For me, the greatest picture of all time is 'Jason and the Argonauts.'"

That 1963 movie based on Greek mythology featured scenes of sword-wielding skeletons battling human warriors, a colossal statue coming to life and a seven-headed serpent.

While others officially handled the directing chores in his movies, it was Harryhausen who dreamed up, modeled and shot some of the most memorable moments in film history.   Continued...

Legendary actress Fay Wray (R) and special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen visit the Empire State Building May 15, 2004 in New York. REUTERS/Jeff Christensen