Some of them had beady eyes you’d never want to turn your way; others had squirmy tentacles like pythons. Still others had exoskeletons. No matter the variation, though, it was always clear when visual effects don Ray Harryhausen’s work was on-screen. The creatures Harryhausen designed early on tended to move at a languid pace, but their influence spread fast, far, and wide.
"The Lord of the Rings is my Ray Harryhausen movie," Peter Jackson said in a statement regarding the effects specialist’s passing on May 7. "Without his lifelong love of his wondrous images and storytelling, it would never have been made—not by me at least."
Harryhausen himself was influenced by King Kong (later to be remade by Jackson), when he worked as a technician on 1949's Mighty Joe Young. But by the time he made stop-motion effects for the many beasts of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad nearly 10 years later, he’d come into his own and changed monster movies forever. His comfort zone was the stuff of nightmares, and those nightmares tickled the imaginations of every generation of directors that have seen them.
It’s hard to overstate the influence of Harryhausen. Certainly, you can see the larva of possibilities he unleashed in movies like Jason and the Argonauts, which bloomed into full-winged glory in the creepy-crawly work of Jackson, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg. Fittingly enough, many artists saw fit to return the favor and pay tribute to the great special effects wizard on-screen in their movies and shows.
Have a look in the slide show above for some of Harryhausen’s greatest hits, the best homages and direct references to Harryhausen’s work, and watch a video introducing all of his creatures below.