Tuesday, 29 June 2010




Today is the 90th birthday of one of the masters of cinema: Ray Harryhausen, the man whose mastery of stop-frame animation began with the King Kong-esque Mighty Joe Young in 1949 and which led him to develop the technique known as Dynamation, by which animated models were integrated with live action.

Among his masterworks of animation that were part of a generation's childhood and adolescence and which inspired the careers of a diversity of cinematic talents including Peter Jackson, Nick Park and Terry Gilliam were The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1952) based on a short story by Ray Harryhausen's friend (and mine) Ray Bradbury who will be celebrating his 90th birthday in two months time, 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Mysterious Island (1961), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), One Million Years BC (1966), The Valley of Gwangi (1969), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) and Clash of the Titans (1981).

To celebrate this remarkable milestone, Ray opened a new exhibition, Ray Harryhausen - Myths & Legends, at The London Film Museum, filled with many of the amazing miniature creatures from his mythological zoo, including Cyclops, Medusa and Pegusus as well as giant scorpions, skeletal warriors and assorted dinosaurs.

The aforementioned Jackson and Gilliam were there to pay homage, as were make-up supremo, Rick (An American Werewolf in London) Baker, visual effects guru Randy (The Lord of the Rings) Cook, director John (The Twilight Zone: The Movie) Landis and quite a number of lesser mortals...

Happy 90th Uncle Ray!

And here are just a few of Ray's wondrous children...















The Mask


The exhibition, Ray Harryhausen - Myths & Legends continues at The London Film Museum, County Hall, Riverside Building next to London Eye, South Bank, London SE1 7PB. Read more about Ray Harryhausen at The Official Website

Ray's Birthday Cake

Images: Brian Sibley and David Weeks © 2010, uploaded with my flickr Photostream.


SharonM said...

And indeed, wondrous they are!

Nice pic of you, too.

Bill Field said...

Ray is in the same class as Scarfe- A total original, and artisan with no equal. These are artists that make life and its many mediums really amazing!

Phil said...

Are the Harryhausen critters behind glass? I've seen some of them before at other exhibitions, but never been able to get any decent photos (thanks to auto-focus). (I know, I should get a proper camera...)

It's a shame that the more feathery creations, such as the Pegasus, haven't aged too well. And is that the original Rhedosaurus, or a modern replica? It looks too new to be real. And a BLACK lighthouse? Dramatic, but surely counterproductive!

Brian Sibley said...

SharonM - I love them! They are really small and exquisitely crafted and they are so evocative: I look at them and I am suddenly 9 years old again! :)

BILL FIELD - As you say, a class act. One has only to look at the rubbish that was the latest Clash of the Titans to see (despite all the wonders of modern technology) how very crummy cgi can be when compared to brilliantly executed stop-frame animation.

Phil - They are behind glass but with very low room lighting so if you get your camera up close to the display case, you can get some not too bad shots.

And, yes, The Rhedosaurus is one of Ray's sculptures as opposed to the model used in the film.

Sheila said...

I agree with SharonM, Brian. You take a good photo - in both senses!

Brian Sibley said...

Well, of course, David took that picture!! :)

Boll Weavil said...

Harryhausen has the advantage over many of todays film makers in that he has imagination. I was going to say that when I was little, we were more terrified of his creations than anyone elses but looking at Taylos and the Teeth of the Hydra, I'm still scared ! Both he and his friend Bradbury were pioneers in their day but, possibly uniquely, their work has never really been outdated or invalidated by what has come after. We still appreciate their creations with the same thrill we did half a century ago.Live forever !

Brian Sibley said...

You are right, Boll Weavil, timeless and, therefore, immortal!

Eudora said...

A master, a craftsman, an artisan, I love his work... by the way, that skeleton seems to take one of this souvenir-swords of Toledo ;)

alex milway said...

And the best thing is, all those creatures move!

Lovely photos Brian!

Brian Sibley said...

Eudora - Not surprised about the skeleton: he's a shifty-looking individual! :)

Alex Milway - I know, but guess what? all the time I was looking, they never moved once!

Phil said...

When Harryhausen was honoured by BAFTA and the BFI a couple of weeks ago, the whole event was filmed. And it's available to view online:


Ray Bradbury puts in his "sorry I can't be with you tonight" piece at about 34:00. The best bit, though, is Peter Jackson near the end, showing his teenage attempts to emulate Harryhausen.