Rare first glimpse at restored creatures created by stop motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen
If you're old enough to remember the terrifying creatures of Sinbad, then you'll be thrilled to hear that Ray Harryhausen's models have been restored to celebrate his 99th birthday anniversary.
Created by the legendary filmmaker who changed the face of modern cinema, the iconic characters have been taken from his remarkable archive and include the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts and from his Sinbad series, the Minaton from Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Medusa from Clash of the Titans.
And next year, you'll get the chance to see them in the flesh, so to speak, as they're set to go on display at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema, the largest and widest-ranging exhibition of Harryhausen’s work ever seen.
Marking the stop motion pioneer's centenary, the models will join newly restored and previously unseen material from Harryhausen’s matchless collection and archive, from 23 May 2020.
Of course, Harryhausen’s models didn't just cause nightmares for millions of us 1970s kids, they also directly inspired many of today’s greatest filmmakers, including John Landis, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Peter Jackson. Some of Harryhausen’s models from The 7th Voyage – pictured above with Vanessa – stirred a young Landis into a lifetime of creating films.
Writing specifically for the legendary filmmaker’s 2020 centenary celebrations next year, and sharing the massive impact Harryhausen has had on him, Landis said: "The 8-year-old me was no longer sitting in my seat at the Crest Theater in West Los Angeles, I was on the beach of the island of Colossa and as awe-struck and fearful as Sinbad and his crew when the first Cyclops made his appearance. I was spellbound by Sinbad's adventures and marvelled at the Cyclops, the Two-Headed Roc, the fire breathing Dragon and the Skeleton brought to life by the evil magician Sokurah. Only later did I learn that these extraordinary beasts were really brought to life by the magician Ray Harryhausen.
"The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was a truly life-changing experience for me. Thrilled by the movie I went home and asked my mother, “Who does that? Who makes the movie?" She replied, “Well a lot of people honey, but I guess the right answer is the director.’ And that was that – I would be a director when I grew up. All of my energy went into that goal and I read everything about film I could get my hands on."
Spielberg has hailed Harryhausen as, 'the Dean of special effects', citing how his own early exposure to, "all the leviathans of the Saturday matinee creature features inspired me, when I grew up, to make Jurassic Park…He inspired generations”. Lucas has said, "Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars", whilst Jackson called The Lord of the Rings his, "'Ray Harryhausen movie'…Without that life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling, it would never have been made – not by me at least".
Special effects superstar Harryhausen elevated stop motion animation to an art form during the 1950s to 1980s. As well as Jason and the Argonauts and the Sinbad series, his pioneering work included One Million Years B.C and Mighty Joe Young, and a wider portfolio including children’s fairy tales and commercials.
The generation of filmmakers he has inspired is itself inspirational, and also includes Tim Burton, James Cameron and the UK’s much-loved Aardman Animation. His influence on popular and blockbuster cinema can be felt to this day. About Harryhausen, the late author Ray Bradbury wrote, "He stands alone as a technician, as an artist and a dreamer. He breathed life into mythological creatures he constructed with his own hands".
Vanessa Harryhausen is currently writing a book to accompany next year’s landmark exhibition, to give her own perspective on her father’s ground-breaking career and collection. It will mark the first time Vanessa has spoken about her father’s work in such detail and will include a personal biography of her father, from the beginnings (in the 1930s) through to projects he was working on just less than a decade ago.
She said: “Our plans to celebrate Dad’s centenary at the National Galleries in Edinburgh are so exciting; if he was still around, he would be so enthused by all of our plans for 2020! It’s wonderful that we are able to display so much of Dad’s collection: the space at the Galleries gives us great scope to display as many of his models and artworks as possible, as well as personal items which have never been exhibited before, such as his equipment and tools.”
Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema will launch next May at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA). Stay in the loop via nationalgalleries.org.