The following is a first person editorial by Thaddeus Howze
The science fiction and fantasy communities everywhere mourn the passing of special effects legend Ray Harryhausen at the age of 92. He passed away in London on May 7.
Twitter was abuzz with the tales of where they were when they saw the movie which brought him to the minds of ordinary mortals, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, where the hero engages in a conflict with a skeleton. Tame by modern standards, then it was nothing less than completely squee-worthy. He tops this a few years later with another stop-motion legendary film, Jason and the Argonauts (my wife’s absolutely personal favorite) followed closely by another Harryhausen favorite Clash of the Titans (1981).
Harryhausen became interested in stop motion work when he first saw Kong batting aircraft aside in 1933’s King Kong. He began making his own stop motion work in his garage and mingling with the newly growing science fiction fans of his era. Ray Bradbury was among his clique at the time. He established himself with the classic Mighty Joe Young (1949) which won an Oscar for special effects (also my personal favorite of the giant marauding ape movies…)
Harryhausen’s work transformed the interests of a generation of readers and viewers of science fiction and paved the way for special effects to become more than a fad in badly written science fiction flicks to bringing our imaginations to life on the silver screen. His work in Dynamation, his name for his stop-motion technique spawned dozens of works. He is, in his way, one of the fathers of Puppetoons, great grandfather of classic shows like Davy and Goliath and he would have probably be amused to know shows such as Robot Chicken of Cartoon Network fame still carry on his work in a classic style.
Ray Harryhausen’s work transformed an industry and exploded imaginations. I know personally what he meant to me whenever I watch the classic movies which heralded continued development of the science fiction and fantasy genre films. Yes, Avatar and Lord of the Rings are spectacular visual feasts. But if it weren’t for visionaries (yes, there were others) like Ray Harryhausen, we may have never gotten to see them. He fanned a flame of interest that lasted thirty years. We are poorer for his passing. Rest in peace. In tribute, I am going to go and play with my action figures for a while.
[Source: Thaddeus Howze, photo credit Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images]