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Visual effects icon Ray Harryhausen dies

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May 07, 2013 | 2:28pm EDT

Visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen has died at the age of 92. The filmmaker passed away in London on Tuesday (07May13). A statement issued by his relatives reads: "The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator. "Ray's influence on today's film makers was enormous... Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK's own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations... "Harryhausen's genius was in being able to bring his models alive. Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray's hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so." Inspired by the work of Willis O'Brien in King Kong, Harryhausen embarked on a career in filmmaking in the 1930s with his childhood pal, writer Ray Bradbury. He had to put his Hollywood dreams on hold temporarily during World War II, during which he served in the U.S. Army's Special Services Division. He landed his first major job as an assistant animator to O'Brien for 1949's Mighty Joe Young, which won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects. He went on to make his first colour film, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, in 1958, using his own brand of stop-motion model animation, named Dynamation, which revolutionised the industry. His filmography also included The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island and his final work, Clash of the Titans in 1981, but he will perhaps be best remembered for the animation he created for 1963's Jason and the Argonauts and his work on a key fight scene between three actors and seven 'living' skeletons - a sequence which took Harryhausen a reported four months to complete. He won a multitude of accolades throughout his lengthy career, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and an honorary Oscar, and he has widely been credited as the inspiration for a slew of top Hollywood filmmakers, including Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who once claimed, "Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars."

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