Ray Harryhausen

1920 -

American filmmaker

Ray Harryhausen is one of the greatest stop-motion animators in film history, whose creations—born of metal armatures and synthetic flesh—have amazed audiences for five decades. He created iconic monsters for films such as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), and Clash of the Titans (1981).

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

As a boy, Harryhausen was interested in sculpture and paleontology. His interest in photography and special effects began when he saw King Kong (1933), and he started experimenting in his father's garage during high school. The experience he gained helped land him his first job as a professional animator working on George Pal's Puppetoons. When Harryhausen learned that Willis O'Brien, who had animated King Kong, was working on a new project, Mighty Joe Young (1949), he approached O'Brien with sample footage of his own work, and was hired as his assistant.

Harryhausen supervised the effects in The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), which was a success. He then formed a partnership with producer Charles H. Schneer that continued through his active career. Their first film together was It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955); it was followed by Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) and 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957). By then the sf film boom was in decline and they decided that their next project would be a mythic fantasy. In 1958 they made the most iconic of Harryhausen's creations: The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. It was the first animation film of its type in color and featured a titanic battle between a dragon and a cyclops. Later came Jason and the Argonauts (1963), starring a gargantuan metal man, the Hydra, and a horde of sword-fighting skeletons. After a brief shift back to sf with films such as First Men in the Moon (1964), an adaptation of the H. G. Wells novel, Harryhausen and Schneer returned to the fantasy format in the 1970s and 1980s. They made two sequels to Sinbad as well as Clash of the Titans (1981), which boasted a distinguished cast of actors.

In 1992 Harryhausen received an honorary Academy Award for his life's work, and in 2003 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Selected Filmography:
Mighty Joe Young (1949)
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
First Men in the Moon (1964)
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Copyright © John Clute and Peter Nicholls 1993, 1999, published by Orbit, an imprint of the Time Warner Book Group UK.