Raymond Frederick Harryhausen created one of the earliest successful forms of stop motion animation. He and pioneer Willis O’Brien won an Oscar for their work on the film “Mighty Joe Young.” Harryhausen also created one of the most famous screen swordfights ever between Jason and a group of skeletons in “Jason and the Argonauts.” Harryhausen died today in London at the age of 92.
KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis discussed his legacy with two people who were inspired in their careers by Harryhausen. John Landis has directed many films, among them “The Blues Brothers” and “Beverly Hills Cop III,” and Adam Savage is a special effects designer and co-host of the Discovery Channel series “MythBusters” and “Unchained Reaction.”
“I cannot – literally cannot – think of anyone who has had such a massive influence on four generations of filmmakers in the movies we see.” – John Landis
Harryhausen used a painstaking process of stop-motion filmmaking, often edited in-camera. “A lot of his innovation in cinema was about bringing elements that were animated into a live action movie, so that you forgot they were animated. You just saw Jason fighting a bunch of skeletons,” Savage said.
Harryhausen was known for working alone or with a small group of employees to create his sequences. “First of all, it predates everything we’re doing now,” Landis said, “but also, it was one man doing all of this work that now takes an army of technicians.”
Director Tim Burton also talked about his admiration for Harryhausen. This was originally recorded for an episode of KCRW’s “The Treatment,” with Elvis Mitchell, on Feb. 5, 2013:
Watch the famous skeleton swordfight scene from “Jason and the Argonauts”: