Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
O'Brien was born in Oakland, California. He was a cartoonist for the San Franciso 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.
O'Brien's first Hollywood feature was The Lost World (1925). He is most famous for animating the gorilla in King Kong (1933). The film Mighty Joe Young (1949), on which O'Brien is credited as Technical Creator, won an Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects, but the credit for the award went to the producer and director. O'Brien's protege (and successor), Ray Harryhausen, worked along side O'Brien on this film.
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, mentally disturbed and despondent, shot and killed the two boys and turned the gun on herself. She survived but died soon after from cancer and tuberculosis.
O'Brien died in Los Angeles. He was survived by his second wife, Darlyne. In 1997, he was posthumously awarded the Winsor McCay Award by Asifa-Hollywood, the United States chapter of the International Animated Film Society. The award is in recognition of lifetime or career contributions to the art of animation.
- "Willis H. O'Brien". The Internet Movie Databas (IMDb). Retrieved Apr. 14, 2005.
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