Even if you don't know the name Ray Harryhausen, you've almost definitely seen his work, or the work of someone who was directly influenced by him. Harryhausen (who passed away in May at the age of 92) was the undisputed master of stop-motion, creator of "Dynamation," and the mind behind some of cinema's classic moments in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Cinephilia and Beyond has a link to an hour-long documentary on the man's life, narrated by Leonard Nimoy (and I will watch anything narrated by Leonard Nimoy). Click below to learn more about this stop-motion icon, who created fantastic worlds one painstaking frame at a time.
Harryhausen was born in Los Angeles in 1920. He was so fascinated by 1933's King Kong, he worked on his own animated shorts as a teenager. When WWII came, Harryhausen worked with then Colonel Frank Capra as a jack-of-all-trades, but it wasn't until 1947, when he was hired as an assistant animator on Mighty Joe Young (1949) that he would break through.
The film won an Academy Award for Visual Effects for stop-motion pioneer William O'Brien, though Harryhousen had handled most of the actual work.
His career took off and he worked on such classics as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason And The Argonauts; one of the reasons his work was (and is) so influential is that the animated characters in most of his work interact with the live actors around them in a seamless manner. He achieved this by careful control of light so that the back projection looked as natural as possible, as in this legendary scene:
Everyone in the special effects world, and especially anyone who has ever worked with stop-motion techniques, owes Ray Harryhausen a debt of gratitude, and this great documentary showcases the man and his talent for his fans to learn from and be inspired by.
How do you think Harry Harryhausen has influenced film, and has he had any influence on your own work? If you're an animator or work with stop-motion, what are your favorite techniques today? Let us know in the comments!