Ray Harryhausen film memorabilia ‘to tour Scotland’

Ray Harryhausen with a skeleton model on the set of 1958's The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad

Ray Harryhausen with a skeleton model on the set of 1958's The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad

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HE WAS the groundbreaking Hollywood special-effects guru who amazed generations of film fans before the digital revolution transformed the world of film.

Ray Harryhausen’s iconic creations for science fiction and fantasy films would go on to inspire the likes of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton and Peter Jackson.

Now the legacy of Ray Harryhausen will live on in Scotland after it emerged his collection of movie memorabilia, which is being held in a storage facility on the outskirts of Edinburgh, is expected to go on tour around the country.

A trust set up by the late special-effects master and his wife, who had Scottish roots, has unveiled plans to take models, moulds, storyboards, artwork, scripts and film stills to venues around Scotland.

Harryhausen’s wife Diana, who died shortly after he did in 2013, was the great-granddaughter of the celebrated Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone.

Harryhausen donated a huge sculpture of Livingstone being attacked by a lion to the National Trust for Scotland for the grounds of his birthplace museum in Blantyre, Lanarkshire.

It is hoped a series of exhibitions, events, film screenings and conventions will be held to celebrate the life and legacy of Harryhausen, who was famously inspired to pursue a life in movies after seeing King Kong at the age of 13.

Film festivals, museums and galleries around the country will be offered the chance to stage a Harryhausen celebration in the run-up to 2020, the centenary of his birth.

Items from the collection, which is being held in a secret location for security purposes, will also be offered for overseas exhibitions.

In an interview before his death at the age of 92, Harryhausen said: “It is the largest collection of its kind because I kept everything.”

Film and television-related exhibitions have proved huge draws in Scotland.

Shows devoted to Star Wars and Star Trek have been staged at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh in the last 20 years. Glasgow’s McLellan Galleries hosted a James Bond exhibition in 1998, while one devoted to Doctor Who ran for a year at the city’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery in 2009-10.

Harryhausen was a regular visitor to Scotland and spoke at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2008 when Jason And The Argonauts was awarded a gala screening.

Connor Heaney, collections manager at the foundation, said: “Although Ray was American, he moved to the UK in the 1960s when he married Diana. They lived in London, but they had very strong links to Scotland. It was like a second home to them.

“It is those strong family connections that have led to this collection ending up in Scotland, which is obviously very unusual for a large Hollywood collection like this.

“It is all boxed up in a storage facility, so there is nothing really to see at the moment.

“As the collection is now based here, we have the opportunity to do bespoke exhibitions and events that might not be possible elsewhere.”

Los Angeles-born Harryhausen was a pioneer of stop-motion animation. His films included Mighty Joe Young, It Came From Beneath The Sea, and One Million Years BC.

However, he is best known for the 1963 adventure Jason And The Argonauts, which included an extended battle between three actors and seven skeletons, and his final feature Clash Of The Titans, a lavish 1981 blockbuster.

After he passed away in May 2013, Star Wars creator George Lucas said: “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars.”

Lord of the Rings mastermind Peter Jackson said: “His patience, his endurance have inspired so many of us.”

Trustees of the Edinburgh-based Harryhausen Foundation include Harryhausen’s daughter Vanessa and former Bond girl Caroline Munro, who starred in another Harryhausen adventure, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

Mr Heaney added: “The very reason the foundation exists is to preserve all this stuff.

A lot of the models are very fragile and he actually kept most of the collection in his garage in Los Angeles for much of his life.

“But he didn’t throw anything away. For every single one of his films, there is a vast collection of stuff.

“Much of the material has never been seen anywhere, so it’s very exciting. As well as providing an influence for future filmmakers, we wish to showcase the artistry and genius of Ray’s creations, and emphasise his unique talents.”

Award-winning filmmaker John Walsh, another trustee of the foundation, who made an acclaimed documentary about Harryhausen in 1989, added: “As 2020 will be Ray’s centenary, we want to do a series of events counting down to this date.”

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