Yesterday I was saddened to learn of the death of one of the greats in cinema, Ray Harryhausen. From my earliest days the creatures he created were part of my own creative toolbox, first in play and eventually art. I was probably the only kid on my block who had Clash or the Titans action figures.
Ray was mainly known for his sword and sandal epics with Sinbad and Jason (of Argonaut fame) but he worked on creatures from fantasy, science fiction and history. When you saw a film that Ray worked on you could see the joy, how much fun as an artist that he was having. You could immediately look at one of his creations from the giant gorilla in Mighty Joe Young to the multi-tentacled/armed horror of the Kraken in Clash of the Titans and know who the artist was. He inspired countless people to become producers, directors, screenwriters, practical and digital effects wizards and artists. His reach among geeks and non geeks cannot be underestimated. He was a man who understood the power of imagination.
Take a look at the cyclops scene below. (edited here to remove dialog) In an age before digital effects Harryhausen had to make his own models and tools, sometimes inventing film techniques that we now take for granted. Even though this is an early example you can feel every bit of emotion coming from this monster. Most of the time the acting abilities of Ray’s monsters outshined the humans who were probably being paid significantly more.
There will never be anyone else like Ray Harryhausen. All we can do is learn from his artistry and passion and hope to inspire others like he inspired us.