Book Review: Ray Harryhausen's Fantasy Scrapbook

PrintE-mail Written by Martin Unsworth

Review: Ray Harryhausen's Fantasy Scrapbook / Written by: Ray Harryhausen, Tony Dalton / Published by: Aurum Press / Release date: Out Now

The past 10 or so years have seen a brace of books by and about the legendary Ray Harryhausen's work, and you would think that between the rather large volumes that precede this slimmer offering, everything you wanted and needed to know about the great special effects wizard and stop motion genius had been covered. Well, I'm happy to report that is not the case, and when you see the wealth of material unearthed and photographed for this new book, you'll be glad they decided to have one more outing.

Like the previous Aurum Press books, this is co-written by Tony Dalton, a long time friend and curator of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation – a charity set up to preserve his work and legacy for future generations to enjoy. A lot of the new material pictured in the new book was discovered when Ray's LA garage was cleared and audited for the first time, in 2008. Amongst the newly discovered artefacts are original marionettes which date back to Ray's early animated fairy tales series, hundreds of sketches and  hundreds of feet of film that has not seen the light of day for decades. I consider myself a big fan of Rays', have met him a couple of times and have seen some of his work up close, and was practically salivating at some of the items pictured.

Rather than take in his work chronologically, the book is laid out by subject – so we have sections on his dinosaurs, the Sinbad and Arabian Nights stories, and the Greek myths. There is plenty of material for his un-filmed version of War of the Worlds in 1949 and what would have been a collaboration with Michael Winner in 1983, People of the Mist, in the form of storyboards both rough and detailed drawings. One thing the casual film fan may not be aware of is Ray is an amazing artist. One of the previous books focused purely on his artwork, and there is very little repetition in this volume, such was the amount of material found in his garage.

This collection truly is a thing of beauty, well laid out, and plenty to dip in and out of, if you're not one to read a full book at once. However, be warned, you may think you're just going to dip, but you will find yourself turning page after page for a lot longer.

A must buy for Ray's fans, and an immensely interesting read for anyone with the remotest interest in animation, cinema history, or who just remembers the days when not everything was created in a computer.

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