Special Effects Legend Ray Harryhausen Dies at 92

Ray Harryhausen with skeleton model

Ray Harryhausen with skeleton model

I remember when I was young, I watched Jason and the Argonauts for the first time and wondered how they were able to make that movie. When I was a little older and understood film making a little better and it’s use of special effects, I became fascinated with many of Ray Harryhausen’s films. So much so, that I wanted to do special effects when I was older. Well that never happened, but my fascination for Harryhausen’s work always stayed with me. A lot of his films are dated, but many of the special effect work still holds up even today. I know it’s cliche, but Jason’s battle with the skeleton army in Jason and the Argonauts is still one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen, and one of the best examples of Harryhausen’s talent. Sadly stop motion animation had died out and is rarely used, but at it’s peak when the technique was perfected, I don’t think anything could top it. Just watch the amazing dragon scenes in the 1981 fantasy Dragonslayer, or the fight scene in the rancor pit in Return of the Jedi. Even today I’m amazed at how well those scenes hold up. By that time Harryhausen had passed on his craft to younger talented special effects artists, and in an age where literally thousands have a hand in one CGI scene, it’s amazing to think that Harryhausen would single-handedly, frame by frame, animate these now classic scenes. He will be missed, but thankfully his work will always be remembered. Now to go pull out my copy of Jason and the Argonauts and re-watch for the umpteenth time.

P.S. -Here’s a great article about Ray Harryhausen from the Los Angeles Times.


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