Ray Harryhausen, the FX wizard whose early movie magic inspired directors for years to come, died today at the age of 92. Harryhausen created the special effects for films like 1963's Jason and the Argonauts, drawing inspiration from King Kong in a prophetic career long before the dawn of CGI — and it's obvious that his influence runs deep through the rise of digital cinema.
On his foundation's Facebook page, alongside notice of his death, stand tributes from some of the most famous names in the world of sci-fi and fantasy movies. George Lucas said that without Harryhausen "there would likely have been no Star Wars." Peter Jackson added that Lord of the Rings is his "Ray Harryhausen movie," and James Cameron noted that "If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn't be who we are." But it was the digital technology that these directors pioneered that slowed Harryhausen's own work.
Though Harryhausen was known for animation, the Times obit from Patrick J. Layons explains that Harryhausen's creative influence went beyond that as he "frequently proposed the initial concept, scouted the locations and shaped the story, script, art direction and design around his ideas for fresh ways to amaze an audience."
Perhaps Harryhausen's most famous work is the skeleton battle scene from Jason and the Argonauts, which according to Adam B. Vary writing for Entertainment Weekly was one of the sequences that "revolutionized how actors could interact with stop-motion effects, a process Harryhausen called 'Dynamation.'"
You can watch that scene here: