Ahead of his Outwith event on Saturday, we asked Connor Heaney of the Ray Harryhausen Foundation about the great animator and his ongoing influence:
AS: Who was Ray Harryhausen and what are his most famous works?
CH: Ray Harryhausen was a stop-motion animator and one of the most important filmmakers of the 20th century. He created some of the most iconic special effects sequences in cinema history, bringing unique creatures to life on the big screen. His films are still regularly shown on television and in cinemas today and include The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, One Million Years BC, and the original Clash of the Titans.
Ray adapted science fiction novels, mythological stories and fine art influences for a 20th century cinema going audience, using groundbreaking techniques which astounded filmgoers and influenced a future generation of creators.
AS: What does the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation do?
CH: The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation care for the estimated 50,000 items that comprise Ray’s collection, including stop-motion models, original artworks, moulds, tools, library, film collection and much more. Ray Harryhausen was proactive in keeping his artworks and creature collection safe and established the Foundation in 1986 to preserve these important items, as well as to educate future generations on the techniques used in his films. It is a great privilege to promote his work and legacy which I am delighted to do at Outwith Festival.
AS: Can his influence still be seen today?
CH: Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, James Cameron, Guillermo Del Toro, Nick Park, John Landis and many others have cited Ray as a major inspiration. Peter Jackson described the Lord of the Rings trilogy as his ‘Ray Harryhausen movies’. Upon Ray’s passing in 2013, George Lucas said, ‘Without Ray Harryhausen, therewould likely have been no Star Wars.’ Ray’s influence can still be seen in 2022, with movies and prestige television shows such as The Mandalorian and Jurassic Park: Dominion containing direct tributes to his work. Stop-motion animation is still used to great effect by contemporary studios such as Aardman and Laika, as seen in modern day classics such as Early Man, Kubo and the Two Strings and Missing Link. Upon being nominated for an Academy Award in 2016, Laika’s animation team took the opportunity to pay tribute to Ray.
AS: What is Ray Harryhausen’s connection to Scotland?
Ray’s wife Diana Livingstone was Scottish and a direct descendent of Victorian explorer David Livingstone. One of Ray’s latter-day projects was a bronze of Livingstone’s famous encounter with a lion in Africa; the design was then used for the basis of a large statue which greets visitors at the Livingstone Birthplace in Blantyre. Ray established the Foundation in Edinburgh in 1986, and we were pleased to showcase the largest exhibition of his work at the National Galleries of Scotland in 2020 to mark his centenary.
AS: What can people expect from the awards showcase on Saturday?
CH: The Ray Harryhausen Awardsare designed to encourage young filmmakers, recognise excellence in the animation industry and pay tribute to those notable artists who have carried Ray’s legacy through their own work.
We were astounded by the diversity of entries across all six categories for the inaugural awards in 2022. These ranged from first time filmmakers in our Best Children’s Animation category, through to our Best Feature Film Animation Mad God – a stop-motion epic from legendary animator Phil Tippet which was literally decades in the making! We will be sharing clips from each of the winning films at Outwith, as well as an acceptance speech from Phil Tippett, who was inducted into the Harryhausen Hall of Fame.
I will also give some background on how Ray continues to inspire artists from all walks of life, and how his journey shows how important it is to maintain persistence and tenacity with any creative endeavour.
The Ray Harryhausen Awards Showcase is at 2pm on Saturday 10th September in Abbot House Workshop. Tickets are free and you can book you place here. For more information about this and all the other events at Outwith, click here. For tickets to the Laika Studio produced Missing Link, which is showing at 11am on Sunday at Fire Station Creative, click here.