Ray Harryhausen, a stop-motion animation pioneer who became a cult figure for creating special effects for “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” “Jason and the Argonauts” and other science fiction and fantasy film classics, died Tuesday in London of natural causes. He was 92.
His death was confirmed by Kenneth Kleinberg, his longtime legal representative in the United States.
Harryhausen, a Los Angeles native who lived in London for more than four decades, inspired generations of filmmakers and special-effects artists.
In the pre-computer-generated-imagery era in which he worked, Harryhausen used the painstaking process of making slight adjustments to the position of his three-dimensional, ball-and-socket-jointed scale models and then shooting them frame-by-frame to create the illusion of movement. Footage of his exotic beasts and creatures was later often combined with live action.
Working with modest budgets and typically with only two or three assistants — if any — to keep costs down, Harryhausen created innumerable memorable big-screen moments.
In “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” (1953), a dinosaur thawed out by A-bomb testing in the Arctic goes on a Big Apple rampage in which it devours a New York cop before meeting its demise at Coney Island.
In “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963), Jason (Todd Armstrong) slays a seven-headed Hydra guarding the Golden Fleece; then Jason and two of his men battle seven sword-wielding warrior skeletons that spring from the hydra’s scattered teeth.
In “The Valley of Gwangi” (1969), a group of turn-of-the-20th-century cowboys on horseback attempt to lasso the movie title’s namesake, a 14-foot Tyrannosaurus rex, to capture it for a wild west show.
And who can forget the prehistoric flying reptile that scoops up and carries off Raquel Welch (clad in an animal-skin bikini) in “One Million Years BC” (1966)?
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