Harryhausen, a Los Angeles native, was heavily influenced by the 1933 version of "King Kong," and began making his own stop-motion films while immersed in L.A.'s budding science fiction community. (He was also lifelong friends with sci-fi author Ray Bradbury.) He went on to work on many prestigious Hollywood projects, including joining the Oscar-winning effects team for the 1949 giant gorilla feature "Mighty Joe Young." (Harryhausen later made a cameo in the movie's 1998 remake.)
His work gained him notoriety in the film community and the opportunity to head his own effects team, pioneering a technique known as Dynamation, which changed the way actors could interact with stop-motion effects. The best examples of that work came in the 1958 film "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," where the titular hero sword fights with a skeleton, and in 1963's "Jason and the Argonauts," which featured a group of battling skeletons.
Harryhausen won the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for Technical Achievement at the Scientific and Technical Achievement portion of the 1992 Academy Awards, where host Tom Hanks lauded "Jason and the Argonauts" as better than "Citizen Kane," calling it "the greatest picture of all time." Other Hollywood legends have heaped similar praise on Harryhausen's work over the years, with directors like Peter Jackson, James Cameron, John Landis, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas citing his influence on their own filmmaking.
"Harryhausen's genius was in being able to bring his models alive," said a statement released by Harryhausen's family Tuesday. "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."