Entertainment & Arts

Curator recalls 'hoarder' Ray Harryhausen

Image caption Ray Harryhausen's animations had a huge influence on future film-makers
Image caption Ray Harryhausen's animations had a huge influence on future film-makers
Image caption Ray Harryhausen's animations had a huge influence on future film-makers
Image caption Ray Harryhausen's animations had a huge influence on future film-makers

Visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who has died at the age of 92, left around 50,000 artefacts and pieces of memorabilia from films including Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans.

Tony Dalton, his friend, biographer and curator of the Ray Harryhausen Foundation, is currently cataloguing the animator's vast collection. He gives an insight into the life and work of the man he remembers as a "genius".

"It's such an important collection, probably only equalled by the Walt Disney collection. We've catalogued all the artworks but we've not done the models yet - we haven't even touched those. We reckon there are over 50,000 items in total. So it takes time.

"I always called him a hoarder - if he hadn't have been, we wouldn't have any of this that I'm looking at now. I can see Talos from Jason and the Argonauts, the original skeletons and dinosaurs. It's a living museum in many ways.

Image caption Tony Dalton (left) is cataloguing Ray Harryhausen's models and other artefacts

"We're still finding material as we're cataloguing it. The initial aim was to look after the collection when Ray had gone and to make sure his heritage survives. It's important that the art of stop-motion animation survives because it is an era of visual effects that isn't the same today.

"When we cleared out Ray's garage in Los Angeles, we came across very complex armatures that Ray had made with his father who was a machinist and who taught him about their construction.

"We found two armatures. One was a brontosaurus from a film Ray never made called Evolution, and one was a Tyrannosaurus Rex from the same movie. It was remarkable to see those, as we'd seen film of them but we didn't believe they still existed.

"There are a lot of unrealised projects - War of the Worlds was one he always regretted not making. He could never get it off the ground from the late 1940s all the way up to the 1970s. But we have the Martian from that and a few other things.

"He was a great fan of the 19th Century artist Gustave Dore, who was also an influence on Willis O'Brien, who made King Kong. That's how Ray picked up the influence of Dore on his work. We have all those original books of Dore.

"He also built his own Kong based on King Kong. But it was too limited for Ray, so he discovered stop-motion animation and he didn't look back.

"He did the first drawing for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, which was a drawing before it was a screenplay. He wasn't just an animator, he did so many other things as well.

"We don't throw anything out, as trivial as it may seem. Ray would never throw anything out in his entire life and that's why the collection exists here today."

Tony Dalton was speaking to BBC News arts and entertainment reporter Ellie Davis. Ray Harryhausen donated his collection to the National Media Museum in Bradford in 2010.

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