This fall, School of Art Lecturer Dr. Harry Heuser is curating an exhibition featuring a unique album commemorating the production of the 1949 Hollywood fantasy movie Mighty Joe Young. The brainchild of the creative team responsible for King Kong (1933), Mighty Joe Young earned an Academy Award for Special Effects.
The album contains over 100 stills from the film as well as documentarian photographs, drawings and watercolour paintings. It provides insights into the production of Hollywood movies, and in pre-CGI visual effects and the work of the celebrated stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen (1920–2013) in particular.
The album has never been displayed before, and little is known about its origins or provenance. Along with hundreds of books and journals, it was bequeathed to Aberystwyth University by the film historian Raymond Durgnat.
As a curator, Dr Heuser is keen to recover and display objects of visual culture that encourage us to explore connections between the arts as well as the creative industries and academic disciplines devoted to them. The Mighty Joe Young album tells stories of ingenuity and collaboration, of artistic influences and commercial enterprise. The film, meanwhile, is a story of friendship, a friendship that conquers the exploitation of innocence.
While the work of Ray Harryhausen has long attracted enthusiasts of fantasy, horror and science fiction, there is renewed interest in his artistry at the moment. Leading up to the centenary of Harryhausen’s birth, major institutions, including Tate Britain in London, have been staging exhibitions of his drawings and sculptures. Our album has attracted the attention of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, who will be giving a presentation in the School of Art galleries on 22 November. We will also hold animation workshops during the run of the exhibition, and the videos created as part of those workshops will be shown in our galleries.
The album will be displayed alongside film posters and promotional materials, as well as 1940s concept drawings for animated movies and shorts. Also on show are prints by Gustave Doré whose sublime and fantastic imagery was a precursor to Hollywood magic and served as an inspiration to Harryhausen.