Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema



Experiential - Incorporating: audiovisual, graphic and object-based displays




National Galleries of Scotland


Ray Harryhausen, the father of modern special effects, an icon of cinema who inspired the modern greats including George Lucas and Del Toro.  The visuals for an exhibition devoted to Harryhausen, one which would be the largest and widest-ranging exhibition of his work ever seen, could not be just inspired by or complementary, they had to not only be wholly authentic and respectful but be part of the narrative of the exhibition. 

Playdead were commissioned by the National Galleries of Scotland to create the visuals for the Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema exhibition.

Working closely with the NGS and with The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, we were permitted to 3D scan Ray’s original models from the 1963 film, Jason and the Argonauts. Our team led by Creative Director Kev McCrae carefully researched and referenced the original stop motion sequences.  The models were then rigged and animated. Using clippings from the film as reference, the team were then able to animate new, bespoke looping sequences of each of the individual characters and give them the stop-frame look they once had. We paid particular attention to the original material they were made from, to make sure they felt like a truly accurate portrayal of themselves and their traits within the film. These were then composited and projected into the gallery, back alongside the original Harryhausen models; the Skeletons, the Hydra, the Harpy and Talos. As well as this, we brought Ray’s hand drawn concept art to life and created a story where they fight between canvases that were then projected in-between his models and artwork. We animated the 1933 version of King Kong climbing the New York Empire State Building and exploded some of the footage from his most iconic films across three large Holo-Gauze screens to illustrate his incredible Dynamation technique. We created our own mythical ancient Greece scene and projected the visitors into that world, where they come face-to-face with their favourite characters. For the social and promo side of the exhibition, we worked closely with Smartify to produce an animation that would be used in their augmented-reality app, bringing to life one of the skeletons at your location.