RIP, Ray Harryhausen

(h/t Paul Constant)
When they say “The good die young”, they mean that the best people never live long enough. Via LGF, Empire Online:

Ray Harryhausen, a master of stop-motion animation and a true movie great, has died. He was 92.

Born in Los Angeles in June 1920, Harryhausen’s enthusiasm for the burgeoning form of animation was sparked by a viewing of Willis O’Brien’s King Kong as a wide-eyed 13 year-old. Two years later and he could be found crafting his own homemade animations, prototypes of the models he would quickly come to perfect in Mighty Joe Young (1949), It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957) and The Valley Of Gwangi (1969)…

Harryhausen’s magic captivated young viewers like Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron, all of whom are quick to recognise their subsequent debt to Harryhausen and pay tribute to his artistry. “The Lord Of The Rings is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’,” enthuses Jackson. “Without his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least.” Cameron describes him simply as “a giant”.

When Empire spoke to the great man last year, he remembered working on those stop-motion classics with great fondness. Always unwilling to pick a favourite monster creation – it was like trying to pick a favourite child, he reasoned – he did confess to a weakness for his dinosaurs. “We tried real animals in some of the prehistoric pictures”, he remembered, “just to save time and money, but the real animals never look as good as the animated ones”…

54 replies
  1. 1
    MoeLarryAndJesus says:

    Makes me nostalgic for Famous Monsters Of Filmland.


  2. 2
    debbie says:

    Nothing will ever top Poseidon rising up out of the stormy sea to hold back the Clashing Rocks.

  3. 3
    NotMax says:

    Living long is nice.

    Living long enough to see one’s vocation, craft and skills become outmoded, unnecessary and passé is sad.

  4. 4
    PsiFighter37 says:

    OT but looks like Sanford’s going to pull it out, and it’s not even looking all that close. So no, I’m not going to apologize for my previous insinuation that SC voters are, on average (or, more accurately, more than on average), clowns and fools of the highest order.

  5. 5


    Living long enough to see one’s vocation, craft and skills become outmoded, unnecessary and passé is sad.

    Unless you’re a soldier; I’m sure a lot of them would love to see their profession become outmoded and unnecessary.

  6. 6
    GregB says:

    Congrats to the moron caucus in South Carolina. May Mark Sanford continue to deliver his piously disjointed idiocy and hopefully find a new paramour on his next Appalachian hike.

  7. 7
    Hill Dweller says:


    OT but looks like Sanford’s going to pull it out, and it’s not even looking all that close. So no, I’m not going to apologize for my previous insinuation that SC voters are, on average (or, more accurately, more than on average), clowns and fools of the highest order.

    Why would anyone vote for Republican-lite when they can vote for the real thing?

    Colbert Busch lost the minute she started advocating wingnut policies.

  8. 8
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    I’ve had — as I’m sure we all have had — a slew of emails from pro-Colbert Busch organizations asking for money “in these crucial final hours.” I didn’t donate anything directly in this race, and I must say I don’t feel especially guilty about that decision. For some reason this campaign just didn’t much motivate me. If that makes me a terrible Democrat/progressive/liberal, so be it, but I don’t think my contribution would have changed the outcome, and I’m looking at more strategic ways to donate to the political causes that are important to me now that my income is about to be sliced in half (retirement).

    Yell at me all you want, but what’s done is done.

  9. 9
    Karmus says:

    Well, I see this, and I just think, “yeah, that guy did all that stuff, he entertained me a lot growing up.” So his craft has moved on; I don’t think that would depress him. He left a great body of work and had a recognizable style. I never could stand that bloody metal owl, though, although I’m not sure that was the animator’s fault.

  10. 10
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    Well, you win some, you lose some.

  11. 11
    Baud says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    Why do you believe she would have had a chance advocating mainstream Democratic policies? Are there any recent examples of that tactic succeeding in heavily conservative districts?

  12. 12
    ulee says:

    So CNN is projecting Mark Sanford will win. Good job, South Carolina. You’ve elected a serial liar whose ex-wife can’t stand the sight of him, a man who introduced his mistress to his children on stage, and is due in court two days from now for trespassing. South Carolina sucks.

  13. 13
    Citizen_X says:

    outmoded, unnecessary and passé

    Sez you. I think that stuff still looks cool as shit.

  14. 14
    CaseyL says:

    Living long enough to see one’s vocation, craft and skills become outmoded, unnecessary and passé is sad.

    A couple thoughts:

    One, he was better than anyone else at what he did, in his time, and that legacy lasts.

    I had a chance to see a remastered “Thief of Bagdad,” Douglas Fairbanks’ 1924 masterwork. Many things about it amazed me in a good way. But the creature special effects were laughably bad; it was as if no one had given any thought to how the critters were put together, or if they made sense in their environment. Harryhausen’s genius wasn’t in making monsters; it was in making monsters that looked real and moved realistically. He was a revolutionary.

    Two: I think, and hope, he was as thrilled as the rest of us to see the advances in SFX. Just about everyone doing that sort of work was inspired by him, and they haven’t been shy about saying so.

  15. 15
    kc says:

    At least maybe now Sanford will be able to pay his child support.

  16. 16
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @efgoldman: Oh, I’ll happily take the congratulations. This past Sunday I marked my 25th anniversary on the job, and my official retirement date is June 30th, and I’ll be 71 on my next birthday. There’s a lot I want to do in the next decade or so, including plenty of solitary road trips all over North America and several European vacations, a metric shit ton of PROJECTS at home, and more time for volunteering and other kinds of giving back. I adore my job but recently the bureaucracy has started to get super annoying, and I’d really like to go out on a high note.

    More info than you wanted, I expect. Sorry.

  17. 17
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Baud: Why would anyone advocate “right to work”? Hell, she attacked the NLRB for actually doing the right thing when they intervened in the Boeing debacle.

    No one is going to vote for Republican-lite, especially Dems, when they can vote for the real thing.

  18. 18
    PeakVT says:

    The upside to the Busch loss, if you’re looking for one, is that the DCCC won’t burn money trying to defend the seat in 2014.

  19. 19
    NotMax says:


    Did I intimate it wasn’t cool?

    His body of accomplishment stands on its own.

    However, for purposes of commercial live action film making, stop-motion is as dead as the dodo.

  20. 20
    Spaghetti Lee says:


    It’s a few years back, but Tom Perriello struck me as very liberal for a district that was about as Republican as this SC one. Grayson doesn’t count-his district was pretty 50-50 at the time, and I think it’s more Democratic after redistricting.

    Districts don’t get marked R+11 arbitrarily-it’s because there’s lots of Republicans living there. A lot of suburbia and a lot of coastal-tourism small businesses in this one. If ECB had swung left, who was there to appeal to? What was this hidden liberal base that would have been inspired?

  21. 21
    Baud says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    A candidate has to choose a strategy. Of course, there are districts where no strategy will work.

  22. 22
    MikeJ says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    Why would anyone advocate for “right to work”? Hell, she attacked the NLRB for actually doing the right thing when they intervened in the Boeing debacle.

    Because Boeing was bringing jobs into her district. It’s reprehensible, but Cantwell and Murray will suck anything that’s offered to keep Boeing happy. I would certainly expect the same, if not more, from someone running in SC.

  23. 23
    hamletta says:

    @CaseyL: Hear, hear!

    My favorite is the fight with the skeletons in “Sinbad.” It scared the shit out of me when I saw it as a kid, and it’s still a bit frightening now.

    Animating that kind of fast-moving action two frames at a time is an amazing accomplishment, and not enough is said about the actors who acted against air.

    Did you know he and Ray Bradbury met during freshman orientation at UCLA?

  24. 24
    Schlemizel says:


    But the upside is that he was recognized in his lifetime as the master of his craft and praised from many corners. Sure your art may no longer be relevant but you knew you were the king of that art form. A guy could do a whole lot worse, most in fact do.

    edit: plus the craft went on for his whole career. How much worse would it be to have learned the art only to be replaced in mid career by modern technology?

  25. 25
    hamletta says:

    @NotMax: Sadly true. But Elf used it! And Harryhausen is credited as voicing one of the characters.

    It’s an outlier, though. The director (Jon I’m-drawing-a-blank) was setting out to recreate the feel of the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials.

    Anyway, there are those who still practice the art.

  26. 26
    Yatsuno says:

    @MikeJ: They do the exact same thing for Uncle Bill, Uncle Jeff, and Uncle Howard. Any sort of advantage they can get for the big employers around here they grab and run with. And honestly, it’s what I pay them to do, and they both do it quite well.

  27. 27
    raven says:

    Rachel calls it for Sanford.

  28. 28
    Hill Dweller says:

    @MikeJ: But what Boeing tried to do was illegal. Once the NLRB pointed that out, and said they were willing to fight the move, Boeing settled with the workers in Washington.

    So now Colbert Busch, as expected, lost the election, but reinforced the bat shit crazy talking points wingnuts use against the NLRB.

  29. 29

    Just heard Mark Sanford won.

    There’s just no end to the lying, cheating, and sex scandaling that Republican voters will accept from one of their own. But CLINTON GOT A BLOW JOB!!!!

  30. 30
    Schlemizel says:


    I think he was expressing sadness that the guys art, his skill, has become passe. That the thing he was so good at nobody bothers with any more. I get that.

  31. 31
    NotMax says:


    Anecdotal, but it happened.

    Can recall post-Star Wars audiences hooting and laughing out loud in the theater at the effects in Clash of the Titans.

    Reports of reactions such as that must have been disheartening.

  32. 32
    YellowJournalism says:

    He was so kind to his fans and contributed so much to the art of film. His technique will be studied in some form long after current technology becomes outdated and outmoded.

  33. 33
    NotMax says:


    Precisely. Thank you.

  34. 34
    Comrade Jake says:

    LOL South Carolina. I mean, seriously, what else can you do but laugh?

  35. 35
    PurpleGirl says:

    @NotMax: Not really because he had fans who still love his movies, ideas, creatures, and techniques.

    Harryhausen’s movies aren’t great just for the special effects there is his storytelling which is so much better than some of the remakes of his movies.

    RIP Master Harryhausen, your fans will always love you.

  36. 36
    Mike in NC says:

    As a kid, “Jason and the Argonauts” was awesome.

  37. 37
    NotMax says:

    @Comrade Jake

    The whispering campaign about Busch stopped just short of her having fileted and eaten McCain’s dusky love child.

    Then too, wonder how many chose Sanford just to ensure he would get the hell out of the state.

  38. 38
    Mike in NC says:

    @Comrade Jake: “It’s fucking South Carolina, Jake!” Sanford just renewed his political career for 20 years.

  39. 39
    gbear says:

    His methods might be outmoded but the results are anything but passe. That less-than-5 minute clip holds a lifetime’s worth of nightmares.

  40. 40
    RSA says:

    RIP, Ray Harryhausen.

    (Though as a friend said, “Is he really dead or is he mimicking stop action?”)

    It’s still a pleasure to watch his movies, to appreciate the artistry. Sure, the effects look more realistic today, but that’s not everything. When photography became widespread, some predicted the end of representational painting. I think it’s something like that.

  41. 41

    @NotMax: HH achieved a level of success and cultural influence that very few do. There’s a good chance he was quite satisfied with his work and legacy – I hope he was.

    OTOH, that was one seriously bad case of crabs…

  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:

    I freakin’ loved Clash of the Titans as a kid — yes, even the owl. Harryhausen’s films don’t look “real” like they did in the pre-CGI days, but watch some early CGI (or even cheapo current CGI) and try to claim it still looks “real.”

    Compared to CGI, Harryhausen’s work looks even more like what it always was — animation mixed with live action. Does Who Framed Roger Rabbit? look less “real” now that hand-drawn animation is essentially dead as a commercial medium?

  43. 43
    hamletta says:

    @Mnemosyne: That’s a good point.

    When he set up to direct Elf, Jon Favreau consciously set out to avoid digital effects wherever possible, because they would look dated.

    They used old-school techniques, like forced perspective and stop-motion animation, and that is why your grandchildren will love Elf.

  44. 44
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    However, for purposes of commercial live action film making, stop-motion is as dead as the dodo.

    Coraline, Corpse Bride, Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit. Yep, dead as the dodo.

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    I know what NotMax means — stop-motion animation is no longer used for special effects that are supposed to simulate reality. That doesn’t mean that it’s dead as an art form. It just means that it’s no longer used for that purpose.

  46. 46
    Fort Geek says:

    @NotMax: My local Meetup movie group watched “Clash of the Titans” about the time the remake premiered. Lots of laughing at the bad matte compositing in some scenes, like Poseidon releasing the Kraken. The stop-motion stuff was badass…except for that damn metal bird. No one admitted to liking that.

  47. 47
    lojasmo says:


    There are still great stop motion films being made.

  48. 48
    Maude says:

    The problem with CGI is that the movement is off. It is too clear and takes away from the movie.
    Stop motion will not go away.
    When I saw a clip of Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs looked fake.

  49. 49
    TriassicSands says:

    What a great clip. Without question, Harryhausen was one of the all-time greats. There were even a few clips from films I’ve never seen. Without question, Harryhausen’s work helped create some of my favorite films when I was a little kid.

    One thing made me laugh — in Kentucky and Kansas, and across the Deep South Harryhausen, must be considered the greatest documentary film maker ever. After all his footage of dinosaurs and humans co-existing proves the creationist claim that T-Rex and people lived at the same time and the Earth is only 6,000 years old (give or take). Too bad Harryhausen didn’t catch any of the action aboard the Ark. If he had, we might have an actual interview with Noah.

    Ray Harryhausen, documentary film maker, RIP. Thanks for all the fun.

  50. 50
    divF says:

    His craft lives on in CGI, with the innumerable techniques he developed for evoking emotions with artificial motion. The homage to Harryhausen in “Monsters Inc.” (using his name for the restaurant where Mike and Celia meet for dinner) indicated the Pixar animation staff’s deep respect and affection for his work. In this respect, he is like the analogue animators of cartoons at Schlesinger / Warner – they invented the methods for expressing character and action in cartoon form, ones that are still used in CGI animation.

  51. 51
    hartly says:

    @Maude: I’m glad someone else thinks the dinos in Jurassic Park look fake. CGI may be technically better than what Harryhausen did, but his models – though obviously models – looked real in a way that computer generated images simply don’t and probably never will. Give me a physically real model over CGI animation any day.

  52. 52
    hartly says:

    @hamletta: Skeletons were a specialty of Hasrryhausen’s. He even worked one into T^he First Men on the Moon courtesy of an alien x-ray machine.

    By the way, is it possible you’re thinking of Jason and the Argonauts? The Sinbad film starring Kerwin Matthews has a skeleton fight, but it’s only one skeleton and the fight in Argonauts is the famous one.

  53. 53
    hartly says:

    One last comment: I can’t recommend highly enough The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Tom Baker is brilliant as Prince Koura (this is the role that got him Dr Who, and it’s my favorite performance by a Dr in a non-Dr Who part, followed distantly by Jon Pertwee in The House That Dripped Blood and C. Baker in Blake’s 7), a bad guy you end up rooting for even though the movie doesn’t go out of it’s way to make him sympathetic – something of a lost art these days…

    For Dr. Who fans, Patrick Troughton is in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Jason and the Argonauts, but while he does a fine job in both, he plays far less interesting characters than Baker’s.

  54. 54
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:


    Living long enough to see one’s vocation, craft and skills become outmoded, unnecessary and passé is sad.

    I remember watching a documentary on Harry Harrenhausen, and he struck me as a more generous man than that. Plus, to a great extent, the way special effects are used in films now owe much to him. And I’m a fan of Oodle (the owl in Clash of the Titans), as is my son.

    Can’t believe nobody’s mentioned Talos yet.

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