Exhibition Ended

Ray Harryhausen | Titan of Cinema

From Sat 24 Oct 2020 - Sun 20 Feb 2022

This exhibition has now ended!


Film special effects superstar Ray Harryhausen helped elevate stop motion animation to an art. His innovative and inspiring films, from the 1950s onwards, changed the face of modern movie making forever. This  largest and widest-ranging exhibition of Ray Harryhausen’s work ever seen contained newly restored and previously unseen material from his incredible archive.

“This is not just special effects. This is art”
The Guardian

Ray Harryhausen's work included the films Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad films of the 1950s and 1970s, One Million Years B.C. and Mighty Joe Young.  He inspired a generation of filmmakers such as Peter Jackson, Aardman Animations, Tim Burton, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, and his influence on blockbuster cinema can be felt to this day.

Titan of Cinema traced Harryhausen’s career as a special effects guru, whose only limits was his boundless imagination. Titan of Cinema showed his creative processes: from embryonic preparatory sketches, through to model making and bringing characters to life who went onto terrorise and delight audiences in equal measure on the cinema screen.

At the heart of this incredible display were Harryhausen’s creatures. It included memorable characters like Medusa, the Kraken, and Bubo the owl, as well as his iconic skeleton army from Jason and the Argonauts. The exbitionion also featured Harryhausen’s sketches and storyboards as well as original movie posters. We also examined just how Dynamation works - the illusion of layering backgrounds and footage of real actors to show them interacting with models on film - which Harryhausen developed and used to incredible effect. 

Alongside this exhibition we also created Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema Virtual Exhibition Experience, a carefully curated package which includes a series of films, never-seen-before interviews, exhibition footage, film clips and specially created animation sequences which demonstrate Harryhausen’s innovative processes. 

This exhibition was a collaboration with the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday year. 

Please note that some of the films explored in the exhibition reflected outdated cultural stereotypes and themes.

If you would like to learn more about Harryhausen or some of the themes raised in the exhibition, the following is a select list for further reading:

Ray Harryhausen

Tony Dalton, Ray Harryhausen: A Life in Pictures, The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, Edinburgh, 2014
Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton, The Art of Ray Harryhausen, Aurum Press Ltd, London, 2005
Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton, A Century of Model Animation: From Méliès to Aardman, Aurum Press Ltd., London, 2008
Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton, Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, Aurum Press Ltd, London, 2003
Richard Holliss, Harryhausen: The Movie Posters, Titan Books, London, 2018
John Walsh, Harryhausen: The Lost Movies, Titan Books, London, 2019
Vanessa Harryhausen, Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2020

Cinema Special Effects

George E. Turner with Dr. Orville Goldner and Michael H. Price, The Making of King Kong, Pulp Hero Press, U.S.A., 2018
Richard Rickitt, Special Effects: The History and Technique, Aurum Press Ltd, London, 2006

Race and Gender in Hollywood

Ellen C. Scott, Cinema Civil Rights; Regulation, Repression and Race in the Classical Hollywood Era, Rutgers University Press, New Jersey, 2015
Rhona J. Berenstein, White Heroines and Hearts of Darkness: Race, Gender and Disguise in 1930s Jungle Films, Film History, Vol. 6, No. 3, Exploitation Film, published by Indiana University Press, Autumn 1994
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks; An interpretive history of Blacks in American Films, Bloomsbury, New York and London, 2016

TV programmes

BBC Two - Black Hollywood: 'They've Gotta Have Us' (three-part series available on BBC iPlayer)

Event highlights

Find out more

You can discover more about Ray Harryhausen and his influence in our series of blogs and films.

View all Harryhausen features



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Related features

Related features

Explore the work of Ray Harryhausen and his influence with these features and blogs.

Discovering Harryhausen

In these films author and classicist Natalie Haynes and horror podcaster Becky Darke share their childhood memories of discovering Harryhausen. 

The grandfather of stop-frame animation

Exploring the profound influence that Ray Harryhausen had on generations of visionary film-makers.

Art and Ray Harryhausen

A look at the art that inspired special effects titan Ray Harryhausen.

Queer Creatures

Three short films in which curator and educator Dan Vo explores mythologies in the films of Ray Harryhausen through a queer lens.

Ray Harryhausen and Aardman Animations

Peter Lord, co-founder of Aardman Animations on the legacy and influence of stop-animation auteur Ray Harryhausen.

Horror and Harryhausen

We revel in the darker side of Ray Harryhausen’s films and explore some of the films that inspired him and those that he inspired.

Golden Years

Marshall Julius catches up with Caroline Munro, who played a starring role in Ray's 1973 hit The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

Casting the Doctor

We look at the role that a Ray Harryhausen film played in casting the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker in Doctor Who.

Student Competition

See what animation students across Scotland created in response to our Ray Harryhausen | Titan of Cinema competition.

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