Visual effects master Ray Harryhausen, whose stop-motion wizardry graced such films as Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, has died aged 92.
The American made his models by hand and painstakingly shot them frame by frame to create some of the best-known animated sequences in cinema.
His death in London was confirmed to the BBC by a family representative.
“Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive,” said an official statement from his foundation.
“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.”
Born in Los Angeles in June 1920, Raymond Frederick Harryhausen had a passion for dinosaurs as a child that led him to make his own versions of prehistoric creatures.
Films like 1925’s The Lost World and the 1933 version of King Kong stoked that passion and prompted him to seek out a meeting with Willis O’Brien, a pioneer in the field of model animation.
During World War II Harryhausen joined director Frank Capra’s film unit, which made the Why We Fight series to back the US war effort.
After the war, he made stop-motion versions of fairy tales that prompted his idol, O’Brien, to hire him to help create the ape in Mighty Joe Young – an achievement that won an Academy Award.
Harryhausen went on to make some of the fantasy genre’s best-known movies, among them One Million Years B.C. and a series of films based on the adventures of Sinbad the sailor.
He is perhaps best remembered for animating the seven skeletons who come to life in Jason and the Argonauts, a sequence which took him three months to film, and for the Medusa who turned men to stone in Titans.
Harryhausen inspired a generation of film directors, from Steven Spielberg and James Cameron to Peter Jackson of the Lord of the Rings fame.
Spielberg said Harryhausen’s “inspiration goes with us forever” while Cameron said Hollywood science fiction film-makers had been “standing on the shoulders of a giant”.
Meanwhile, Star Wars creator George Lucas, paid tribute by saying: “The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.”
Director John Landis described Harryhausen as a “true giant of the cinema” and said his creations were “not only the stars of those movies, but the main reason for those movies to exist at all”.
Peter Lord of Aardman Animations was quick to pay tribute, describing Harryhausen as “a one-man industry and a one-man genre” on Twitter.
Harryhausen inspired a generation of film directors
And Nick Park, Aardman’s Oscar-winning creator of Wallace and Gromit, told the BBC: “I’ve followed the work of Ray Harryhausen all my life.