In today’s cinematic world where computers can make any monster or explosion in a movie seem astonishingly real, it’s easy to forget that the seminal work that went into movie special effects is just as astonishing.
Ray Harryhausen, who died Tuesday at age 92, was as much a pioneer of movie special effects as Daniel Boone was for America’s frontier. He resurrected an army of skeletons in 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts; summoned a dragon in 1958’s The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad; and brought Greek mythology stunningly to life in the original Clash of the Titans in 1981.
(A personal Harryhausen favorite of ours is the grandaddy of all lizard-
destroys-a-city movies, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, from 1953.)
Harryhausen did it all through a technique he perfected: stop-motion animation, in which carefully manipulated figurines are captured one celluloid frame at a time to render movement that otherwise would have been impossible to commit to film.
Movie effects likely will become more realistic, what with the constant breakthroughs in computer graphics. But Harryhausen’s inventive mind made special effects truly special.