At a young age, Harryhausen actually was not into fantasy or creatures that much. But over time as he watched films, read novels, seen paintings, visited museums and marionette shows, his interest for that area developed. Having tried model making in school, he developed his skills and at the age of 18, he won himself an award at a local competition.
Having seen and thoroughly enjoyed The Lost World and King Kong, this all naturally clicked into place as a revelation to him. He loved fantasy and creatures!
His earliest professional works were of dinosaurs and his is work was very well received. By the time that unfortunate chapter in history took place that we call World War II, he was commissioned to work on some propaganda films as well.
But there was a bit of a problem with his works though, whilst it had gained a good amount of attention, audiences at the time were not into sci-fi that much. So he was creating (or at least had the intention to) create a number of fantastic pieces of film but it just wasn't commercially viable to tackle something big. Projects dropped included a War of the Worlds adaptation which to my knowledge never saw the light of day.
But his works left an impression on the world of film and animation, he has won a lot of awards and there are so many animators out there who have paid homage to his work. And really who can blame them? Harryhausen was one of the earliest pioneers of stop motion animators in feature films, of which a lot of us still look up to.
Here is a little something to conclude this for us all to think about.
The thing that finally persuaded me to quit was that I saw that the nature of the hero was changing. When I was growing up we had heroes such as Cary Grant, Ronald Colman and David Niven, real gentlemen on the screen. Now, all you have is Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and all those people who solve problems with their fists. It's a different world and I sometimes feel I'm not part of it. Say what you like about Hollywood in my time, but they were in the business of happy endings, of escapism. Now, you have to sit through two hours of people dying, you know. Today, everything's so graphic it's rather unnerving. - Ray Harryhausen