Ray Harryhausen Exhibition

As a creator of special effects for the movies, Ray Harryhausen developed new cinematic techniques with great imagination. He worked as a stop-motion animator before pioneering visual effects for films including Clash of the Titans. Approached by the National Museum of Scotland to design a retrospective exhibition of his work, we drew from Harryhausen’s own resourcefulness to get the very most out of a tight budget, a compromised space and an incredible collection of artefacts.


We played games with perspective throughout the exhibition, inspired by Harryhausen’s techniques.

1. Collage experimenting with false perspective, Gibson Thornley Architects.

2. Sectional drawing of Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico (1585) in Vicenza. False perspective is used to give a feeling of depth in a shallow space.

The exhibition spaces were somewhat disjointed, arranged over two floors in a former school, so we worked to create an immersive feel across the exhibition. We storyboarded the narrative to begin with Harryhausen’s childhood experiments with models and maquettes, moving on to the more complex techniques he employed in the movies. The early galleries celebrate visible making, with puppets and stop-motion characters exhibited on raw ply trestles.

Upper-floor galleries explore the techniques developed by Harryhausen as he worked for larger film studios, including a room devoted to his ‘Dynamation’ process, in which animated sequences are sandwiched between live action footage so the two appear to be integrated. We designed the space so visitors feel they are placed into a similar structure, between models and the filmed action.

We used Harryhausen-style techniques to create illusion, play with ideas of scale and force perspectives. Tiny models are animated on the wall as large shadows to bring them to life. Between rooms, supergraphics of monsters are applied around door openings at suitably monstrous scale (but with an artificial, pixellated feel) to lead visitors through the exhibition.

Client: National Galleries of Scotland Graphic design: BOB Design AV design: Cultureshock Media