Ray Harryhausen Creater Of Movie Magic}

Ray Harryhausen – Creater of Movie Magic


Carl DiNello

For movie fans and creators alike, the name Ray Harryhausen brings to mind a film industry genius. His imagination and creativity paved the way for pre-cgi special effects innovation. Without a doubt, Ray Harryhausen set the stage for strengthening the visual power of motion pictures.

Harryhausen’s Career Path Begins

In 1933, Harryhausen saw the film ‘King Kong’ and the experience proved to be a critical point in his life. Entertained by the stunning special effects employed in the film, Ray dedicated his time to learning as much about these effects as possible. It wasn’t long before he contacted Willis H. O’Brien (the man behind King Kong) to learn more about stop-motion photography.

Harryhausen’s first work with special effects was on George Pal’s series of Puppetoon shorts for Paramount Pictures. This successful experience opened the door to an opportunity to work directly with Willis H. O’Brien and Marcel Delgado on the 1949 film ‘Mighty Joe Young.’

In 1953, Ray Harryhausen experienced what would be the biggest break of his career when he was appointed by Warner Brothers to work on the special effects for the movie ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.’ The challenge was a great one due to the limited budget for the film with Harryhausen having to rely on his ingenuity to produce the quality special effects desired by the studio.

Innovative Special Effects And Techniques

His work on ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’ enabled Harryhausen to introduce the split-screen technique. The use of this new special effect technique made it possible to integrate extraordinary creatures into a real-life background. The end result was the creation of a science fiction film that is considered to be one of the most enjoyable films released during the 1950’s.

His next project was for Columbia Pictures and was titled ‘It Came From Beneath the Sea.’ This motion picture featured a giant octopus wreaking havoc in San Francisco bay and destroying the Golden Gate Bridge. Released in 1955, the film was an immediate hit. Three more successful science fiction movies followed as the movie-going public loved his work.

In 1958’s ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,’ Harryhausen was given a chance to utilize his split-screen technique in beautiful color! The addition of color proved to enhance the films fantasy and mythical creatures. Without the budget limitations of black and white films, color wonderfully highlighted the brilliance of his work with special effects.

Due to the intricacy of the work required to complete the detail of the entire stop-motion animation sequence, the filming period could be substantially lengthened. 1963’s ‘Jason and the Argonauts,’ which was probably Ray Harryhausen’s most notable film, featured a sword fight against seven skeleton warriors that took four months to complete.

Career Highlights

The 1960’s would provide some of Harryhausen’s most creative work. During this decade he worked on some of his most spectacular films, such as ‘Mysterious Island,’ ‘The Three Worlds of Gulliver,’ and ‘One Million Years B.C.’ The technical success of this decade triggered more inspiration on Ray’s part and he followed with the production of ‘The Golden Voyage of Sinbad’ (1974), ‘Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger’ (the last of the 3 Sinbad films), and ‘Clash of the Titans’ (1981).

Ray Harryhausen has achieved iconic status in his career as a special effects genius. His films are often referred to as Harryhausen pictures, with his work providing a heightened level of liveliness and energy to a motion picture.

Harryhausen’s introduction of visual film magic deserved to be immortalized, and in 1992, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences presented Ray Harryhausen with an Oscar for his several decades of artistic contributions to the motion picture industry.

Carl DiNello is a Blogger whose passion is Hollywood history and those movies from the 1920’s – 1950’s that make up this rich history.

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Ray Harryhausen – Creater of Movie Magic