Re­mem­ber­ing movie myth­mak­ing ‘Ti­tan’

Ray Har­ry­hausen’s daugh­ter trav­els from Scot­land to make a spe­cial ap­pear­ance at Sci­ence Mu­seum Ok­la­homa.

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - Brandy McDon­nell bm­c­don­nell@ ok­la­

When she was a girl, ev­ery­day life for Vanessa Har­ry­hausen meant be­ing sur­rounded by fight­ing skele­tons, fear­some snake women and the oc­ca­sional cy­clops or Kraken.

“I thought it was the norm un­til I went to board­ing school, and I had some friends over for the week­end. And they went, ‘This is def­i­nitely not nor­mal. This is amaz­ing.’ But it was just what I grew up with. I didn’t re­ally know un­til later on and ap­pre­ci­ate (it) un­til later on. He was just my dad do­ing this stuff,” re­called the daugh­ter of the late film­mak­ing trail­blazer Ray Har­ry­hausen.

“He al­ways had time for me. I was never a nui­sance or any­thing, and I used to sit on the couch in his sit­ting room and watch him ei­ther sketch­ing ... or just watch­ing him do­ing some sculp­tures.” Vanessa Har­ry­hausen will travel from her home in Scot­land to Ok­la­homa City next week to share more of her mem­o­ries of grow­ing up with the leg­endary stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion pi­o­neer. She will at­tend a spe­cial screen­ing of the 1981 film “Clash of the Ti­tans” and par­tic­i­pate in her first post-screen­ing ques­tio­nand-an­swer ses­sion Oct. 20 at Sci­ence Mu­seum Ok­la­homa. Sci­ence Mu­seum Ok­la­homa is the ex­clu­sive venue for “Ray Har­ry­hausen — Myth­i­cal Menagerie,” a com­pre­hen­sive ex­hi­bi­tion of nearly 150 orig­i­nal mod­els, pro­to­types, bronzes, sketches and sto­ry­boards from five famed fan­tasy films by the ground­break­ing film­maker. On view through Dec. 3, it is the first U.S. ex­hi­bi­tion of Har­ry­hausen's work since his death in 2013 at age 92.

“Nor­mally, I’m quite a pri­vate per­son, so I don’t re­ally do this a lot,” Vanessa Har­ry­hausen said. “This is sort of new. The last time I said any­thing I think was at the BAF­TAs (the Bri­tish ver­sion of the Os­cars) just say­ing con­grat­u­la­tions to dad on stage. So, I’ll just speak from the heart.”

Ex­clu­sive ex­hibit

The Oct. 20 screen­ing at Sci­ence Mu­seum Ok­la­homa also will fea­ture a lec­ture about the his­tory and le­gacy of “Clash of the Ti­tans” by Con­nor Heaney, col­lec­tions man­ager for the Scot­land-based Ray and Diana Har­ry­hausen Foun­da­tion. “Through lots of transat­lantic com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” Heaney and Sci­ence Mu­seum Ok­la­homa smART Space Di­rec­tor Scott Hen­der­son worked for more than a year to de­velop “Ray Har­ry­hausen — Myth­i­cal Menagerie,” which USA To­day named one of its “11 must-see fall ex­hibits at U.S. mu­se­ums.”

“You’re gonna be able to see all dif­fer­ent as­pects of Ray’s work.

… I think there are over 20 sto­ry­boards on dis­play that re­ally show you how de­tailed Ray had to be in ev­ery as­pect of his work. He had to plan out ev­ery se­quence, scene by scene, in much the way a di­rec­tor would nor­mally have to be­cause he had to en­sure that the ac­tors were in the right po­si­tion to make sure that his an­i­ma­tion would fit into the scene pro­por­tion­ally,” Heaney said. “I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing all of Scott’s hard work in per­son be­cause we’ve had a fan­tas­tic re­sponse so far.”

Hen­der­son was re­search­ing an idea for a show­case of sci­ence fic­tion movie posters and art when he came across the Har­ry­hausen Foun­da­tion web­site. He de­cided to reach out to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of putting to­gether an ex­hibit. “He was the grand­fa­ther of all spe­cial ef­fects and stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion in cin­ema,” Hen­der­son said. “I re­mem­ber th­ese movies as a child and how spe­cial they were to me.”

Since the spe­cial ef­fects in­no­va­tor’s col­lec­tion in­cludes more than 50,000 ob­jects gath­ered dur­ing his long ca­reer, one of the chal­lenges was de­cid­ing just what to in­clude in the “Myth­i­cal Menagerie.”

Hen­der­son opted to fo­cus the Ok­la­homa ex­hibit on five Har­ry­hausen films rooted in clas­si­cal mythol­ogy, but even with that nar­row fo­cus, Heaney said choos­ing from among the hun­dreds of art­works and ar­ti­facts was a her­culean task.

The ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes fa­mil­iar cin­e­matic ar­ti­facts like the cy­clops ar­ma­ture from “The 7th Voy­age of Sin­bad” (1958); the skele­ton war­riors and hy­dra from “Ja­son and the Arg­onauts” (1963); the gryphon and the cen­taur from “The Golden Voy­age of Sin­bad” (1973); the giant wal­rus from “Sin­bad and the Eye of the Tiger” (1977); and the Kraken, Me­dusa, Bubo the Owl, Pe­ga­sus and the mon­strous Cal­i­bos from “Clash of the Ti­tans.”

“What you’ll see on dis­play at the ‘Myth­i­cal Menagerie’ ex­hi­bi­tion are

some items which have prob­a­bly never been seen widely be­fore. As well as the Me­dusa model, we have the pro­to­type bust, which shows you the kind of the process of cre­ation that went into some of Ray’s most fa­mous crea­tures,” Heaney said. “There’s a big dis­tance between where we are in the U.K. and Ok­la­homa, and it just kind of shows you the global reach of Ray’s work and in­flu­ence.”

Cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion

The Ok­la­homa ex­hibit is one of the early en­tries in the Har­ry­hausen Foun­da­tion's #Har­ry­hausen100, a mul­ti­year world­wide se­ries of ex­hibits, film screen­ings and events lead­ing up to the 100th an­niver­sary Har­ry­hausen's birth on June 20, 2020.

“We want the next three or four years to re­ally act as a count­down around the world for ev­ery­one to cel­e­brate Ray’s le­gacy,” said Heaney, who will par­tic­i­pate in the Oct. 20 post-“Clash of the Ti­tans” Q&A with Vanessa Har­ry­hausen. “We’re sav­ing Vanessa for the very spe­cial oc­ca­sions. Be­cause this is the first ex­hi­bi­tion of Ray’s work in the United

States for so many years, we thought we would mark it with an ex­tra-spe­cial guest ap­pear­ance. For the big oc­ca­sions, we’re gonna have Vanessa (share) some of her mem­o­ries.”

“Clash of the Ti­tans” marked a num­ber of mile­stones for Ray Har­ry­hausen: It was his fi­nal film, and since he had a habit of re­cy­cling his mod­els, it’s the one from which there are the most sur­viv­ing ar­ti­facts. It also had the big­gest bud­get and most prom­i­nent cast of his movies, Heaney said.

Although it’s not her fa­vorite of her fa­ther’s films — she prefers “Sin­bad and the Eye of the Tiger” and “The Golden Voy­age of Sin­bad” — Vanessa Har­ry­hausen said she has fond mem­o­ries of vis­it­ing the “Clash” set on Malta dur­ing a hol­i­day with her mother. “I was sort of a stand in for height for Judi Bowker (who played An­dromeda) when she was get­ting chained up on the rock to the Kraken,” she said. “That was one of the things my dad got me to do.”

The adventures she had with her fa­ther’s ca­reer range from the most ba­sic hu­man ex­pe­ri­ences — she met ac­tress Caro­line

Munro and be­gan a life­long friend­ship with one of her daugh­ters on “The Golden Voy­age” set — to pure movie magic.

“It was ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­tu­ally to see the fi­nal print — you have a pri­vate show­ing of that — and to think, ‘Oh my God, those are the mod­els that I saw on the ta­ble and daddy was touch­ing up and do­ing var­i­ous poses for — and this is it in flu­id­ity on screen.’ It was just ex­tra­or­di­nary, and it re­ally is mag­i­cal how it all came to­gether,” she said.

She said it’s a credit to her fa­ther that peo­ple still love his work. Through­out her life, she’s heard from sev­eral film­mak­ers who’ve cited him as an in­flu­ence, and she’s en­joyed the way many have paid homage to his le­gacy, from the skele­ton sword­fights in “The Pi­rates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” to the sushi res­tau­rant named Har­ry­hausens in “Mon­sters, Inc.”

“I hope to in­spire young an­i­ma­tors and let some­one know that there is a chance out there to put some things to­gether and do some ei­ther stop­mo­tion or what­ever kind of an­i­ma­tion suits their style. I think his sketches as a whole, too, are very in­spir­ing,”

she said.

“I’m al­ways ex­cited to see Dad’s stuff and al­ways amazed how his fans are so gra­cious and sen­si­tive about Daddy’s work. It’s just won­der­ful and it’s very hum­bling. … Daddy was al­ways very hum­bled by the fans. He al­ways said, you know, if it wasn’t for them he wouldn’t be where he was, and he was ever so grate­ful for their en­thu­si­asm and in­ter­est in all his crea­tures.”


ACROSS THE TOP: Bubo the owl from the movie “Clash of the Ti­tans” is fea­tured in the ex­hibit “Ray Har­ry­hausen — Myth­i­cal Menagerie” at the smART Space gal­leries in Sci­ence Mu­seum Ok­la­homa in Ok­la­homa City. Ray Har­ry­hausen stands with his Kraken model...

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