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. Between 1958 and 1961, O'Brien would write a screenplay treatment and draw some concept art for a second sequel to King Kong pitting Kong against a giant Frankenstein Monster in San Francisco. The treatment and artwork were sold to independent producer John Beck, who hired screenwriter George Worthing Yates to flesh the treatment 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.All of this was done without O'Brien's knowledge and he was never given any credit for his ideas. O'Brien died shortly after the film premiered in Japan in 1962.
- The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy (1915) - Director
- Prehistoric Poultry (1916) - Director
- R.F.D. 10, 000 B.C. (1917) - Director
- The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918) - Director / writer / cinematographer
- Along the Moonbeam Trail (1920) - Director
- The Lost World (1925) - Stop-motion animation
- Creation (unfinished, 1931) - Stop-motion animation
- King Kong (1933) - Stop-motion animation
- Son of Kong (1933) - Stop-motion animation [uncredited]
- Mighty Joe Young (1949) - Stop-motion supervisor [with Pete Peterson]
- The Black Scorpion (1957) - Stop-motion animation [with Pete Peterson]
- The Giant Behemoth (1959) - Stop-motion animation [with Pete Peterson]
- The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918) as Mad Dick
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