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The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is currently hosting an exhibition about pioneering stop-motion special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, so famous for stop-motion animated monsters and other creatures in numerous classic films such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Clash of the Titans (1981). For those who can visit the exhibition in person in Edinburgh it looks to be a fantastic show, where you can see hundreds of artefacts and exhibits associated with his life and work in cinema.

Alongside the in-person exhibition the National Galleries of Scotland are offering a £10 virtual exhibition experience, allowing people who can’t go to the exhibition in person to experience a version of it from home. I took advantage of this offer, and thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts after viewing.

The virtual exhibition is focused around five specially created films that take the viewer through Ray’s life story and works chronologically and thematically. The five films are King Kong and the Early Years, Imagination to Life, Dynamation, Creatures of Legend and A Life in Objects. Each film is a visual treat, full of information, with insightful contributions throughout, including from Ray’s daughter Vanessa.

Through watching the films the viewer gets a good overview of how Ray Harryhausen worked. Frequent examples discuss specific animation features in detail, and there are good views throughout of his creatures, original designs and other artefacts. Panning shots of the exhibition space also give the viewer a sense of the physical exhibition in Edinburgh, though you have no option to view any given exhibit up close, if there is something you want personally to see more of at any given time. Many of the exhibits are shown well as part of the films though.

The total running time of the five special exclusive films is about one hour. The films don’t all need to be watched at once, and your virtual exhibition ticket remains valid until the Edinburgh exhibition closes in February 2022. The films and other resources available through the virtual visitor ticket are viewed and accessed through a password locked webpage.

Note there is additional material in addition to the core films. Virtual experience goers can view short videos of some 3D models relating to Ray’s work. They can also view an hour long special in conversation chat with Vanessa Harryhausen, the first of multiple planned virtual events for the virtual exhibition. This combined with the five core films gives already a solid two hours of extremely rewarding viewing for any fan of Ray’s work, film history or special effects.

Although I regret that I cannot go to the exhibition in Edinburgh I do feel that the virtual experience is a worthy alternative. In many ways it has probably given me a fuller understanding of Ray’s life than I might have picked up on the spot, especially if time was limited in Edinburgh. Though I would like to have been in the same room -as some of his more famous creature creations, which would have left me appropriately awestruck.

I do feel that the virtual experience would be worthwhile accompanying viewing for anyone going to the in-person exhibition. Indeed the National Galleries of Scotland offers a combined ticket option for in-person + virtual for this event.

I am very glad I saw this anyway. Thanks to the virtual experience I now have a deeper understanding of and greater appreciation for Ray Harryhausen’s work.

Another alternative to the face to face exhibition is the exhibition book, which is available from the exhibition shop, in person or online, along with other commemorative exhibition items.

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