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Ray Harryhausen Pledges Collection of Life's Work to National Media Museum
Ray Harryhausen pictured with Skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts. Courtesy of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation.

LONDON.- On the day of Ray Harryhausen’s 90th birthday, at the official opening of the exhibition "Ray Harryhausen - Myths and Legends" at the London Film Museum, the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation has announced its intention to deposit the Collection of the life’s work of celebrated special effects animator Ray Harryhausen at the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK.

Harryhausen made his name by developing fantastic animated creatures based on legends and classical mythology, and creating a unique body of fantasy films from the 1950s to the 1980s that took the movie making world, and the public, by storm.

His speciality was combining stop-motion puppet animation seamlessly with live action cinematography through his innovative technique of Dynamation. Harryhausen’s films include The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), One Million Years BC (1966), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Clash of the Titans (1981).

Though he retired from film-making in the 1980s, Harryhausen has continued to exert a major influence on the film industry by teaching master classes at major animation studios and special effects companies. A series of books, co-authored with Tony Dalton, has also met with considerable success.

The Ray Harryhausen Collection contains most of the material connected with the conceptualisation and realisation of his films – such as drawings, paintings and storyboards, together with his animation models and the original moulds used to make them. Examples include the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts and the Medusa and the Kraken from Clash of the Titans. The Collection also includes rare work by the pioneer special effects designer Willis O’Brien (1886-1962), the creator of King Kong, with whom Harryhausen worked early in his career and who was a major influence.

The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation is working with the National Media Museum in Bradford to establish a home in the UK for the Collection. Bradford was designated the world’s first UNESCO City of Film in 2009 and has a rich heritage in film production. The Museum already holds one of the world’s most important collections of motion picture technology and artefacts.

Highlights from the Museum’s Cinematography Collection include the camera used by Louis Le Prince to film the earliest moving pictures in 1888, collections from the pioneers of British cinema such as Robert W Paul, George Albert Smith and Charles Urban, and examples of equipment from major studios. There is also a unique collection of drawings and artefacts from the make-up artists at Hammer Films.

The Museum houses a dedicated animation gallery and holds the Bradford Animation Festival (BAF), now in its 17th year. Past BAF guests include animation legends, Nick Park, Bob Godfrey and Bill Plympton, as well as Ray Harryhausen.

Ray Harryhausen said: “I am so very pleased and honoured that my Foundation will not only be looking after my collection of 90 years but will also be ensuring that it is seen by as wide an audience as possible. It is also gratifying that the National Media Museum will, in conjunction with the Foundation, be storing and preserving my Collection for the foreseeable future.

“Now I have reached 90 it is important, certainly in my profession which does not have a reputation for looking after cinematic artefacts, to preserve my art in all its forms – models, drawings, equipment etc. and that this will be available for future generations.”

Paul Goodman, Head of Collections and Knowledge at the National Media Museum said: “With our proven expertise in caring for, exhibiting and interpreting such a range of artefacts, the Museum is an ideal place for this extensive and remarkable archive.”

Michael Harvey, Curator of Cinematography at the National Media Museum said: “This Collection comprehensively documents Ray Harryhausen’s career and working methods. The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation and the Museum are excited by the potential of this important Collection and the world-wide interest that its preservation and subsequent availability will generate, both in the film industry and the audiences that love Ray Harryhausen’s work.”

The Museum and the Foundation are preparing to embark on a fundraising campaign to secure the Ray Harryhausen Collection which will enable it to be preserved at the National Media Museum and made available for exhibitions, publications and scholarship. It will preserve the tools and techniques of traditional animation for future generations.

An exhibition entitled "Ray Harryhausen - Myths and Legends" opens today at the London Film Museum. The exhibition will be focusing on the work of Ray Harryhausen and showcase the techniques he used to bring his Dynamation creatures to life and will run for 12 months.

London | Ray Harryhausen | National Media Museum |

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