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Science and Media Museum

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Featuring original drawings and models, this exhibition explored the imagination and research that went into conceiving the fantastic creatures that populate Ray Harryhausen’s films.

Concept drawing for the skeleton fight scene in Jason and the Argonauts, Ray Harryhausen, 1963, courtesy of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation
Concept drawing for skeleton fight scene, Jason and the Argonauts, 1963, courtesy Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

Ray Harryhausen was the renowned creator of special effects for films such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Jason and the Argonauts. He is widely admired by filmmakers and audiences alike for his imaginative, groundbreaking animation work.

Myths and Visions looked at the imagination and research that went into conceiving the fantastic creatures which populate Harryhausen’s films, as well as his sources of his inspiration, ranging from Willis O’Brien—the creator of King Kong—to the prehistoric animal paintings of Charles R Knight and the work of 18th and 19th century artists whose subjects were drawn from the Bible and the Classical world.

The exhibition presented Harryhausen’s drawings, tracing his career from early fairytale films, through the monster movies of the 1950s and 60s, to his large-scale features based on the Arabian Nights and Greek and Roman myths. It included many key models: the Kraken and Medusa from Clash of the Titans; Gwangi from Valley of Gwangi; the Minoton from Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger; and Harryhausen’s bronze sculptures based on his original animated models.

The exhibition was drawn from Ray Harryhausen’s own collection with additional works from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Sir John Soane Museum and the Laing Art Gallery.