Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Effects master Harryhausen dies

Ray Harryhausen has died aged 92

Special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen has died aged 92.

When Ray Harryhausen was 13, he was so overwhelmed by King Kong that he vowed he would create otherworldly creatures on film. He fulfilled his desire as an adult, thrilling audiences with skeletons in a sword fight, a gigantic octopus destroying the Golden Gate Bridge, and a six-armed dancing goddess.

Harryhausen died at London's Hammersmith Hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for about a week.

Biographer and longtime friend Tony Dalton confirmed the special-effects titan's death, saying it was too soon to tell the exact cause. He described Harryhausen's passing as "very gentle and very quiet".

"Ray did so much and influenced so many people," Dalton said. He recalled his friend's "wonderfully funny, brilliant sense of humour" and love of Laurel and Hardy, adding that "his creatures were extraordinary, and his imagination was boundless".

Though little known by the general public, Harryhausen made 17 movies that are cherished by devotees of film fantasy. George Lucas, who borrowed some of Harryhausen's techniques for his Star Wars films, commented: "I had seen some other fantasy films before, but none of them had the kind of awe that Ray Harryhausen's movies had."

The late science fiction author Ray Bradbury, a longtime friend and admirer, once remarked: "Harryhausen stands alone as a technician, as an artist and as a dreamer. He breathed life into mythological creatures he constructed with his own hands."

Harryhausen's method was as old as the motion picture itself - stop motion. He sculpted characters from 7.5 cm to 38 cm (three inches to 15 inches) tall and photographed them one frame at a time in continuous poses, thus creating the illusion of motion. In today's movies, such effects are achieved digitally.

Harryhausen is survived by his wife and daughter, Vanessa.

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