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Ray Harryhausen remembered

The pioneer of stop-motion animation who gave life to some of cinemas most imaginative creatures, has died at the age of 92. Today, we remember the artist…

Ray Harryhausen photo
Ray with his most startling creation, the medusa from Clash of the Titans.

It's sad news that the great Ray Harryhausen has died. Ray pioneered new film visual effects and techniques and did so on his terms, even if the budgets never quite matched his vision.

The family of Harryhausen announced his passing in London. He was 92 years old.

If you wanted to bring a skeleton army to life or have a Greek colossus stomp your heroes into mush in the days before digital, you called the one man who could make it happen: Ray Harryhausen.

As one of the most highly acclaimed stop-motion animators of the pre-digital era, Ray worked on some all-time classic movies, including War of the Worlds, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and the epic Clash of the Titans.

A charcoal and pencil sketch for the Medusa sequence in Clash of the Titans, this was created in 1977 and was used as a presentation piece to sell the film to MGM.

The creatures Ray animated would always steal the scenes from the human actors – he managed to make them gruesome but also emotive. To achieve this Ray would immerse himself in the movie project, creating rough sketches before drawing a scene and then preparing the sequence’s storyboards. Only then would he construct the models and begin the task of animating the titanic battle that would ensue.

Working in clay to create his models, Ray would then painstakingly design the creature’s moveable skeleton before covering the armature in latex and the days of animation could begin. 

Ray Harryhausen Kraken
The Kraken… This 1978 sketch for Clash of the Titans was created as a comparison piece to demonstrate the sheer size of the Kraken.

Inspired by traditional painters John Martin, Gustave Doré, Charles Knight, and Joseph Michael Gandy, whose painting Jupiter Pluvius depicted an enormous statue of Jupiter, that statue would form the inspiration for Ray’s version of Olympus as seen in Clash of the Titans.

These days Ray has become an inspiration for an army of filmmakers from George Lucas to Peter Jackson, who all credit him as an influence. 

He'll be greatly missed, but like all the greats he's left us with great art, experiences and memories to cherish.

Ray Harryhausen medusa
Ray Harryhausen War of the Worlds
A scene for a version of War of the Worlds that was never made, Ray stuck closely to the descriptions in H. G. Wells’ novel, including a bulbous head and bulgy eyes.
Ray Harryhausen 7th voyage of sinbad
Skeleton’s feature heavily in Ray’s work. These scenes are from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and were sketched in 1962 to illustrate the film’s finale.
This was an early sketch for the cyclops in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, the final creature became a mix of cyclops and centaur while the design idea was also developed into the Trog character seen in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. The sketch also shows how Ray played with the beast’s scale.
First men in the moon
This series of sketches was created by Ray for an unrealised sequence for First Men in the Moon. It shows the heroes discovering the ‘moon calves’ and a secret cocoon chamber where the aliens transform into moths.

 

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