Ray Harryhausen died today.
The world lost one of its true cinematic visionaries, whose career was filled with special effects romps through mythology and fairy tales. When I was a kid, barely a month passed without one of his movies playing on the afternoon or weekend movies on the local channels. His ground-breaking use of stop-motion animation was the pinnacle of Fifties and Sixties special effects, and I always thrilled to watch Sinbad fight the skeleton warrior in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. All I knew about the Arabian Nights until I was much older came directly from Ray’s movies.
His other movies are landmarks as well: Mighty Joe Young (he worked on effects for it), Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, Mysterious Island, and The Three Worlds of Gulliver all had strong impacts on my impressionable younger self. His last real movie, the original Clash of the Titans, was both cheesy and incredible, given that the effects technology he used was becoming antiquated thanks to modern model work and, eventually, computers. There was a charm to his work; it wasn’t easy making movies with stop-motion technology and the passion he had for his subjects always came through.
Rest in Peace, Ray — you inspired me and countless more with your flights of fancy.