A new exhibition remembers Ray Harryhausen as a titan of cinema

Coinciding with the late filmmaker’s centenary, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s new show delves into his fascinating creative process and far-reaching legacy

Ray Harryhausen is known for having almost singlehandedly elevated stop-motion animation to an art form in the second half of the 20th century.

Born in California, the filmmaker began experimenting with models as a teenager after discovering the work of special effects supervisor Willis O’Brien in the 1933 version of King Kong, which he ended up going to watch 33 times.

Ray Harryhausen with the Krakan, Clash of the Titans. All images © The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

From those early experiments Harryhausen went on to earn a reputation as one of cinema’s most ingenious movie-makers, in turn inspiring the likes of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

Curated in collaboration with The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a new exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is celebrating the trailbrazing filmmaker’s life story and legacy.

The original skeleton models from Jason and the Argonauts, 1963

Launched to coincide with the filmmaker’s centenary, the show features many of the original models that were miraculously brought to life on screen by Harryhausen’s mastery of stop-frame animation.

These include the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts (1963), the Cyclops from his Sinbad series, and the trademark UFOs from 1956’s Earth vs the Flying Saucers, which would go on to inspire cult film such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Pan’s Labyrinth.

Ray Harryhausen with skeleton model from Jason and the Argonauts

Also on display are a young Harryhausen’s early models, including a marionette inspired by the gorilla from King Kong conceived by O’Brien, and artwork from Mighty Joe Young, the first film that Harryhausen and O’Brien worked on together.

These miniature monuments to cinematic history are joined by a whole host of posters, personal memorabilia, original photographs, storyboard illustrations and the drawings and art that inspired Harryhausen’s iconic creatures and films.

Ray Harryhausen: A Titan of Cinema is on display at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art until September 5 2021; nationalgalleries.org