Hollywood special effects legend's iconic monsters are 'let loose' in Edinburgh

Monsters created by a Hollywood special effects legend have taken over some of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks ahead of the city’s visitor attractions and hospitality businesses reopening next week.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 10:08 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 8:48 pm

Iconic creatures from some of Ray Harryhausen’s best-known films have appeared on Princes Street, Calton Hill, the Royal Mile and emerging from the Firth of Forth.

They were “let loose” around the city ahead of the reopening on Monday of the biggest ever exhibition devoted to the legendary movie-maker, which is being staged at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in the city.

The National Galleries of Scotland, which runs the attraction, has spent years working on the exhibition with the family of Harryhausen, whose “stop-motion animation” work famously inspired the likes of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Sir Peter Jackson.

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The iconic painting of The Skating Minister, on Duddingston Loch, has become The Skating Skeletons, in honour of Harryhausen's classic creations for Jason and the Argonauts, as part of the marketing campaign devised by the National Galleries.

Other images show a skeleton posing as a tourist on the Royal Mile, the giant gorilla from Mighty Joe on the rampage on Princes Street, The Kraken from Clash of the Titans emerging behind the Forth Bridge and Medusa, from the same film, appearing inside the National Monument on Calton Hill.

The exhibition was originally due to open last May but had its launch delayed until October only for it to be halted again in December when new lockdown restrictions were imposed. Its new run will continue at the gallery until February next year.

Simon Groom, director of modern and contemporary art at the National Galleries, said: “Some of Ray Harryhausen’s most iconic creatures have been let loose from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art to venture across some well-known locations.

“We spotted The Kraken at The Forth Bridge, the Medusa of Greek mythology at the symbol of the Athens of the North on Calton Hill and three of his iconic skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts on Duddingston Loch paying homage to another icon, our famous Skating Minister.

"Fortunately they’ve been rounded up and are back in ‘Modern Two’ for visitors to enjoy from this Monday.”

The exhibition features an extensive array of models of monsters to create the effects in some of Harryhausen’s best-known films, as well as original photographs, storyboard illustrations and drawings, posters and other personal memorabilia.

The exhibition recalls how Californian-born Harryhausen was massively inspired by the work of Willis O’Brien after seeing King Kong on its release in 1933.

The Kraken, the legendary sea monster which features in Harryhausen's final movie, Clash of the Titans, has emerged from the Firth of Forth. Image: National Galleries of Scotland

As a teenage boy, he went to see the film 33 times and was soon experimenting with models and stop-motion animation in his back yard.

He was later mentored by O’Brien, working together on Mighty Joe Young, Harryhausen’s first movie.

Mr Groom added: “Harryhausen’s creative vision, and ability to realise scenes of enduring dramatic and imaginative power, are as relevant now as they have ever been.

"The exhibition transports all visitors, young and old, into the amazing world of one of the greatest innovators of special effects in the history of cinema.”

The giant gorilla featured in Ray Harryhausen's first film, Mighty Joe Young, which some of King Kong's creators worked on. Image: National Galleries of Scotland

"Those who cannot make it to Edinburgh can still take in the riches of his imagination through our virtual exhibition experience, available online, from anywhere in the world.”

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The Skating Minister has been replaced by skating skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts as part of the National Galleries of Scotland's campaign. Image: National Galleries of Scotland
Medusa, who appeared in Harryhausen's last movie, Clash of the Titans, has been spotted at the National Monument on Calton Hill. Image: National Galleries of Scotland
A visiting skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts ventures up a deserted Royal Mile ahead of Edinburgh's tourism sector reopening on Monday. Image: National Galleries of Scotland