Willis O'Brien

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Willis O'Brien
Willis O'Brien animating Jill on the back of Joseph Young
Born March 2, 1886
Oakland, California
Died November 8, 1962
Occupation Special Effects Technician
First work The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy (1915)
Notable work King Kong (1933)

Willis Harold O'Brien was an American special effects pioneer who has been credited as the creator of stop-motion animation.


In his spare time, O'Brien enjoyed sculpting and illustrating which led to his being employed as a cartoonist. During this time he also worked a variety of other jobs including a professional boxer. A 1915 short film made with some of his sculptures called The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy greatly impressed innovator Thomas Edison, and he was subsequently hired by the Edison Company to produce more dinosaur films. Much later, after taking a job with RKO, O'Brien began work on an eventually-scrapped film entitled Creation by studio head Merian C. Cooper, who instead offered to use his dinosaur models on his own project, King Kong, due to his being so impressed with his work.

However, he distanced himself from the film's sequel, Son of Kong, which he allegedly felt to be "cheesy," and asked not to be credited in the film. O'Brien would later write a story treatment for a follow-up to King Kong pitting Kong against a giant version of Frankenstein's monster in San Francisco. The treatment was sold to independent producer John Beck, who hired screenwriter George Worthing Yates to flesh it out into a full screenplay, under the title King Kong vs. Prometheus. Beck pitched the script to Toho, who instead purchased the rights to the Kong character from RKO and produced King Kong vs. Godzilla.[1] O'Brien passed away shortly after the film premiered in Japan.

Selected filmography




This is a list of references for Willis O'Brien. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. Steve Ryfle (1998). Japan’s favorite mon-star: the unauthorized biography of “The Big G”. ECW Press. p. 80-81.


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