Willis 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. O'Brien passed away shortly after the film premiered in Japan.
- The Dinosaur and the Missing Link (1915) - Director, Stop-Motion Animation, Cinematographer
- The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918) - Director, Stop-Motion Animation, Screenwriter, Actor [Mad Dick]
- The Lost World (1925) - Stop-Motion Animation
- King Kong (1933) - Stop-Motion Animation
- Son of Kong (1933) - Stop-Motion Animation [uncredited]
- Mighty Joe Young (1949) - Stop-Motion Supervisor
- The Animal World (1956) - Stop-Motion Animation [with Ray Harryhausen]
- The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956) - Screenplay [as El Toro Estrella, with Robert Hall and Jack DeWitt]
- The Black Scorpion (1957) - Stop-Motion Animation
- The Giant Behemoth (1959) - Stop-Motion Animation
- The Lost World (1960) - Effects Technician
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- Steve Ryfle. Japan’s favorite mon-star: the unauthorized biography of “The Big G”. ECW Press. p. 80-81. 1998.