American special effects guru (1920-2013). He was born in Los Angeles in 1920, and his career was set soon after he saw "King Kong" when he was 13 years old -- he made a short film of an allosaur using stop-motion photography, then sought out the director of "King Kong", Willis O'Brien, to show him the film. O'Brien was impressed with his work, and Harryhausen was inspired to continue working on his craft.

Harryhausen's next project was an ambitious film he called "Evolution"; unfortunately, he had to cut it short -- he'd planned it as an epic, and stop-motion animation simply takes too long to devote that much time to a film. However, he was able to convert his completed footage (including an allosaurus attacking an apatosaurus) into a demo reel, which he shopped around to various studios. He was soon hired by George Pal to work on Paramount's "Puppetoon" shorts, and even turned his time in the Army into animation practice, as he was put to work making military training films.

After World War II, Harryhausen got hold of over four million feet of unused film from the military and used it to make a series of Puppetoon-style shorts about fairy tales, which helped him get hired by O'Brien to work on most of the special effects for "Mighty Joe Young" in 1949. A few years later, he was hired to do the special effects for "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms". Trying to make the effects on the low-budget film look good, he used a split-screen technique of rear projection to insert the movie's giant monster into real-world backgrounds. The realistic look of the film helped make it one of the most popular and influential science fiction flicks of the 1950s.

Harryhausen worked slowly -- hell, decent stop-motion animation requires you to work slowly -- but he always got outstanding results. His next projects included "It Came from Beneath the Sea" (featuring a giant octopus), "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" (in which aliens destroyed a number of monuments in Washington, D.C.), and "20 Million Miles to Earth" (in which the giant reptilian Ymir battled an elephant in Rome). "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" was his first split-screen film in color; besides effects, he was also the film's associate producer and assisted with writing chores.

During the 1960s, Harryhausen presided over the effects for his most popular film: "Jason and the Argonauts", which featured the famous and much-imitated (even by Harryhausen himself) scene in which a group of skeletons came to life to engage the heroes in a swordfight. In fact, the skeleton sequence was so time-consuming that Harryhausen was often unable to get more than 13 frames of film -- only about a half-second -- done per day! Later that decade, he worked on two dinosaur pictures: "One Million Years B.C." (still best known for the special effects produced by Raquel Welch) and "The Valley of Gwangi" (an odd film combining dinosaurs with the Wild West).

His most recent works were 1973's "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad", 1977's "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger", and 1981's "Clash of the Titans".

Harryhausen has appeared in a small number of films as an actor. He was a visitor to the Rome Zoo in "20 Million Years to Earth", he appeared as Dr. Marston in "Spies Like Us" and as a bar patron in "Beverly Hills Cop III". In the 1998 remake of "Mighty Joe Young", he had an uncredited cameo as a man at a party.

Harryhausen has won surprisingly few awards for his special effects work. He received a Life Career award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films in 1982, the Gordon E. Sawyer Award from the Academy Awards in 1992, and the Time-Machine honorary award from the Catalonian International Film Festival in Sitges, Spain, in 1995. That's it, and that's probably going to be it, since Harryhausen isn't working on films anymore...

Addendum: Chihuahua Grub says: "DID YOU KNOW: The big monster in Flesh Gordon was unofficially named 'Nesuahyrrah', which is 'tobor' spelled backwards!" And Habakkuk adds: "Another tribute to Ray Harryhausen was given by the animators at Pixar: The sushi restaurant in Monsters, Inc. is called Harryhausen's." And then JellyfishGreen notes: "In Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, while waiting to meet Victoria, Victor idly plays a tune on a Harryhausen Grand Piano." By Crom, you see how the Man is idolized?

Most research from the Internet Movie Database (

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