WILLIS O'BRIEN Biography - Fictional, Iconical & Mythological characters


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Name: Willis O'Brien                                                                       
Born: 2 March 1886                                                                         
Died: 8 November 1962                                                                     
Willis H. "O'Bie" O'Brien (March 2, 1886 - November 8, 1962) was a pioneering             
motion picture special effects Irish American artist who perfected and                     
specialized in stop-motion animation.                                                     
O'Brien was born in Oakland, California. He was a cartoonist for the San                   
Francisco Daily News, and a professional marble sculptor before he began working           
in film. He was hired by the Edison Company to produce several short films with           
a prehistoric theme, most notably The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A                     
Prehistoric Tragedy (1915) and the nineteen minute long The Ghost of Slumber               
Mountain (1918), the later of which helping to secure his position on The Lost             
World. For his early, short films O'Brien created his own characters out of clay,         
although for much of his feature career he would employ Richard and Marcel                 
Delgado to create much more detailed stop-motion models (based on O'Brien's               
designs) with rubber skin built up over complex, articulated metal armatures.             
O'Brien's first Hollywood feature was The Lost World (1925). Although his 1931             
film Creation was never completed, it led to his most famous work, animating the           
dinosaurs and the famous giant ape in King Kong (1933), and its sequel Son of             
Kong (1933). The film Mighty Joe Young (1949), on which O'Brien is credited as             
Technical Creator, won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1950. Credit           
for the award went to the films producers, RKO Productions, but O'Brien was also           
awarded a statue. O'Brien's protege (and successor), Ray Harryhausen, worked               
along side O'Brien on this film, and by some accounts Harryhausen did the                 
majority of the animation. Although O'Brien is widely hailed as animation                 
pioneer, in his later career he struggled for years to find work; shortly before           
his death he animated a brief scene in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963),             
featuring some characters dangling from a fire escape and was one of the writers           
for Ishiro Honda's King Kong vs. Godzilla. The 1969 film The Valley of Gwangi,             
completed by Harryhausen seven years after O'Brien's death, was based on an idea           
he'd spent years trying to bring to the screen.                                           
The log chasm scene from King Kong (1933).                                                 
O'Brien was married to Hazel Ruth Collette in 1925 and divorced by 1930. He had           
two sons from the marriage, but, in 1933, Hazel shot and killed the two boys and           
turned the gun on herself. She survived but died soon after suffering from                 
cancer and tuberculosis.                                                                   
O'Brien died in Los Angeles. He was survived by his second wife, Darlyne. During           
his lifetime, O'Brien was never interviewed in depth about his career or methods.         
In 1997, he was posthumously awarded the Winsor McCay Award by Asifa-Hollywood,           
the United States chapter of the International Animated Film Society ASIFA (Association   
internationale du film d'animation). The award is in recognition of lifetime or           
career contributions to the art of animation.