Ray Harryhausen, skeletons Ray Harryhausen, skeletons

Postponed by the pandemic, a major new exhibition about stop-motion supremo Ray Harryhausen has finally opened at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. “Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema” bills itself as “the largest and widest-ranging exhibition of his work ever seen.”

Marking what would have been Harryhausen’s centenary, “Titan of Cinema” showcases his models and armatures alongside concept art, storyboards, test footage, and his personal tools. The exhibition covers the 16 features that made his name — Jason and the Argonauts, Mighty Joe Young, the Sinbad films, Clash of the Titans — as well as unrealized projects.

The American artist’s legacy is already secure: his groundbreaking use of stop-motion special effects in monster movies and mythological epics has influenced everyone from James Cameron and Peter Jackson to Henry Selick and Nick Park, not to mention generations of sfx and vfx artists. Steven Spielberg called him “the dean of special effects.”

But this exhibition sheds new light on the sheer breadth of Harryhausen’s work. Not just an animator, he exerted creative control over the whole production process, from model design to cinematography. And he was a prolific hoarder; the collection held by the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, which is involved in this exhibition, extends to more than 50,000 objects. Among the items on display are the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts, the Cyclops from the Sinbad films, and the UFOs from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.

“Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema” runs at the Scottish National Gallery until September 5, 2021. Here’s hoping it heads to other cities after that. The exhibition is accompanied by a new book by Harryhausen’s daughter Vanessa, which combines her reflections on his life with presentations of 100 objects from his archive.

Meanwhile, other events and initiatives are due to be organized under the banner #Harryhausen100. For more information, head to the Scottish National Gallery’s website.

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