Ray Harryhausen: 1921-2013

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One of the pioneers in stop motion animation and movie special effects has died. OK, you knew exactly who I was talking about just from that description.

There is but one such pioneer who has achieved fame to match (almost) his movies. Ray Harryhausen, who brought the original “Mighty Joe Young” to life, whose models and model photography jazzed up many a sword and scorcery tale  — “Jason and the Argonauts,” “Clash of the Titans” – has died. He was 92.

Learning from Hitchcock, he made his name a brand, so much so that he’s often credited with stop-motion model work in films he didn’t make. But from the late ’50s on into the ’80s, Harryhausen & Co. were the folks you called when a guy in monster makeup wouldn’t do. CGI greatly reduced the need for this sort of admittedly jerky/fake looking effect. But that was part of the work’s charm, something you can still appreciate in stop-motion animated films such as “Coraline” or “Frankenweenie.” The very artifice of it all is so plainly human and creative.

A long and productive life, and an influential one. Peter Jackson, Spielberg, a lot of the greats were inspired by Harryhausen’s hand-crafted  movie magic.

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