[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he man who inspired generations of movie makers, directors and animators alike, Ray Harryhausen, has died at the age of 92.
Best known as the special effects maestro behind the seven skeletons who came to life in Jason and the Argonauts, as well as Medusa in Clash of the Titans, his passing has prompted tributes from a whole host of famous names.
Star Wars’ George Lucas said: “The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” James Cameron heaped further praise by saying that filmmakers, particularly those within the sci-fi genre, had been “standing on the shoulders of a giant.”
Brits were also keen to eulogise, including Wallace and Gromit guru Nick Park, who said that Harryhausen “has been my mentor and inspiration since my earliest childhood memories.” An official statement from his foundation contained arguably the most fitting words of all: “Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive.”
That was Ray Harryhausen. No-one had ever breathed life into inanimate objects so successfully, giving each one an identity of its own. Yet this abundant flair was coupled with a strong work ethic, as he always made his models by hand and shot them frame by frame – not for the work-shy or faint of heart. The seven skeletons sequence alone took him an entire three months to shoot.
This dedication had been apparent right from an early age; as a child he started making his own versions of dinosaurs. Growing up in the inter-war period meant that the young Harryhausen was exposed to films like King Kong and The Lost World, fuelling his passion further still. Eventually he decided to take the brave step of chasing a meeting with his idol, the pioneering animator Willis O’Brien, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Harryhausen gave his final gift to the industry in 2010, when he generously, and perhaps quite fittingly, donated his entire collection of models to Bradford’s National Media Museum.