Although Willis H. O’Brien, may not be familiar to most people, one of his creations is known to all. He was the technical pioneer pioneer behind that mighty movie monster “King Kong”. He was also the mentor of the much more well known Ray Harryhausen, the stop-motion genius behind many of the special effects movies from the 50s through the 70s.
In 1915, almost 20 years before O’Brien created Kong, he put together a frame by frame animation called “The Dinosaur and the Missing Link“. The film was produced by Conquest Pictures,a Thomas Edison company.
Movie description from Watchthisletme
Two cavemen, The Duke and Stonejaw Steve, call on Miss Araminta Rockface. The hated rivals fight, and Steve wins when he throws The Duke into a pot of boiling water. A title card introduces a third rival, “our unassuming hero, Theophilus Ivoryhead.” Miss Rockface invites the three men into her father’s drawing room/cave, apologizing for not offering tea, since it has not been discovered yet. The Duke and Steve fight again, and everyone rushes out of the cave. Mr. Rockface notices his pot of food is empty; earlier, Wild Willie the Missing Link had eaten it. Mr. Rockface tells the three suitors they will have to procure their own dinner. Steve locates a desert quail and shoots an arrow at it, but the arrow misses the quail and happily (for Steve) hits The Duke’s behind. Meanwhile, Wild Willie is still hungry and goes hunting for snakes. He finds a dinosaur’s tail instead, and when he tries to eat it the dinosaur kills him. Luckily, Theophilus witnesses this scene; after the dinosaur leaves he stands on the dead monkey-man, as if triumphant. The others arrive and are shocked that Theophilus apparently has slain the terror of the countryside. And happy Theophilus finds himself smothered in Araminta’s kisses.
“Gertie the Dinosaur” by Winsor McKay, pre-dated “The Dinosaur and the Missing Link” by a year, but it was developed as an animated cartoon rather than stop-motion. For some reason, O’Brien’s film is not listed in many articles on the history of animation.
This was also the first movie to consider evolution, even though he took liberties with the concept.
Today we take computer generated dinosaurs, aliens, and other creatures for granted, and criticize movies if the graphics aren’t up to our standards. But Jurassic Park, Avatar, and their kin had an ancestor, and it was created by O’Brien.
Via Smithsonian Blog