Lonely Planet Writer

Ray Harryhausen exhibition opens at Science Museum Oklahoma

For a certain generation, the films of Ray Harryhausen were the Jurassic Park or Avatar of their childhood. In a time when special effects were not something that could simply be drawn up by computer … the only option available to movie makers was stop motion animation.

Legendary special effects man Ray Harryhausen at work
Ray Harryhausen behind the camera. Photo courtesy of Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation

For a younger audience, that’s the technology used in movies like Wallace & Gromit – an absolutely painstaking process where hand-made models have to be moved frame by frame to create the illusion of action. At the time, this was considered the absolute pinnacle of movie SFX and in films from the 1950s right through to the early 1980s, it captivated audiences worldwide. And in the pantheon of stop motion special effects, Ray Harryhausen was the Steven Spielberg or James Cameron of his time.

Movies like Jason and the Argonauts and Sinbad are a fixture in the imaginations of millions who grew up to love the action films of that time. And so for movie buffs from times gone by and latecomers to the ‘stop-motion’ classics of the past, Science Museum Oklahoma is running a retrospective of Ray Harryhausen’s work.

Ray Harryhausen exhibition opens in Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation.

This week, Vanessa Harryhausen – his daughter – has given one of only of a handful of talks in which she has spoken publicly given where she talks about her childhood, growing up surrounded by drawings and scale models of skeletons, krakens, centaurs, and other mythical creatures.

In the museum, more than 150 models from Harryhausen are on display as part of their Mythical Menagerie exhibition, celebrating the work of one of film’s greatest innovators. Among the exhibits will be the original models of the Cyclops from Sinbad, the skeleton warriors and Hydra from Jason and the Argonauts as well as the kraken, owl, and Pegasus from Clash of the Titans.

Oklahoma exhibition celebrates the work of legendary producer Ray Harryhausen
Ray Harryhausen with one of his creations. Photo courtesy of Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation

The Science Museum Oklahoma has also been running a series of screening of some of his most famous films including Jason, Clash of the Titans, and the 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Scott Henderson, museum director, said: “This exhibition showcases the importance of Ray Harryhausen as the forerunner of move special effects and how his innovation in stop-motion animation has led to the special effects and CGI animation people are familiar with today.”