Ray Harryhausen dies at 92; special-effects legend

Harryhausen launched his three-decade partnership with producer Charles H. Schneer with "It Came From Beneath the Sea," a 1955 film about a giant octopus that destroys the Golden Gate Bridge.

To distinguish Harryhausen's brand of three-dimensional model animation process from animated cartoons and help sell their pictures to the public, Schneer came up with the name "Dynamation."

Other special-effects showcases for Harryhausen's work followed, such as "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad," "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver" (1960), "Mysterious Island" (1961), "First Men in the Moon" (1964), "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" (1974) and "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger" (1977).

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Of his feature work, Harryhausen told the gathering of fans at the 2004 motion picture academy tribute: "Nine-tenths of what you see on the screen of all our professional films is the first take. I sometimes wanted to do another take, but we just didn't have the money to do it.

"We never considered our films special-effects films. It was journalists who attached that handle to it. We used special effects to put on the screen things you can't possibly photograph in the natural course of photography."

Harryhausen's last feature film as a visual-effects creator was "Clash of the Titans" (1981), a large-scale retelling of the Perseus myth, with Laurence Olivier as Zeus and Harry Hamlin as Perseus.

By then, however, stop-motion animation was viewed by many as being quaint. Indeed, a reviewer for Variety deemed the movie "an unbearable bore" with "flat, outdated special effects."

Of today's more-convincing, computerized special effects, Harryhausen told the New York Times in 1998: "I don't think you want to make it quite real. Stop motion, to me, gives that added value of a dream world."

In 2004, Billboard Books published "Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life," a coffee-table-tome memoir written by Harryhausen and British film historian Tony Dalton.

"Some people think it's childish to do what I've done for a living," Harryhausen told the Toronto Sun at the time. "But I think it's wrong when you grow to be an adult to discard your sense of wonder."

Harryhausen's survivors include his wife of 50 years, Diana, and a daughter, Vanessa.

McLellan is a former Times staff writer.