Forbidden Worlds Film Festival Returns to Celebrate Cinema’s Most Iconic Creatures

Forbidden Worlds Film Festival returns to the former Bristol IMAX from 18-21 May.

This year’s festival celebrates some of cinema’s most iconic stop-motion pioneers and world-class puppeteers and their cinematic creations to mark the 90th anniversary of King Kong (1933). Special guests will include Vanessa Harryhausen, daughter of legendary stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen.

The programme will also honour action legend and Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh as well as screening genre classics from video shop 20th Century Flicks’ archives.

The line-up includes four UK restoration premieres and four special anniversary screenings.

Bristol’s biggest repertory genre film festival is back celebrating some of cinema’s most iconic big-screen creatures and their creators, action legend and Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh, and some genre classics found in the depths of the archives of video shop 20th Century Flicks.

Last May saw the launch of Forbidden Worlds at the former Bristol IMAX screen, Bristol’s first genre film festival dedicated to screening repertory fantasy, action, science-fiction and horror films from around the world and celebrating the people that made them. The first Forbidden Worlds Film Festival saw over 1,100 attendees enjoy genre classics and cult curios, including Blade Runner, Mad Max 2, Basket Case and more, on the city’s giant 18m x 15m screen.

Creature Creators

Ninety years ago, King Kong (1933) was unleashed upon screens around the world and changed cinema forever. This year, Forbidden Worlds is celebrating the pioneering Creature Creators who transformed how we perceived ‘monsters’ through their stunning use of stop-motion animation and incredible puppetry work.

Among the creature creators and masters of make-up and maquettes that are being celebrated are legendary stop-motion pioneers Willis H. O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen, whose iconic adventure films King Kong (1933) and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) are celebrating their 90th and 65th anniversaries, respectively.

Both films will be screened at this year’s festival and will be introduced by Ray Harryhausen’s daughter Vanessa and Connor Heaney, Collections Manager for The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation.

Other special-effects legends being honoured include Stan Winston, who created iconic screen creatures such as Jurassic Park’s animatronic dinosaurs, the Alien Queen and the Predator, with a special screening of James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984), for which Stan created the titular killing machine; Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) will celebrate the work of special make-up maestro Rick Baker, who won the first ever Academy Award for Best Makeup for his work on the 1981 horror comedy film An American Werewolf in London, and stop-motion legend Phil Tippett’s career will be celebrated with a special screening of Starship Troopers (1997) – the film that saw the Tippett Studio evolve its stop-motion work into CG… whilst still using practical elements such as a fully articulated Warrior Bug maquette.

Among these cinematic behemoths, audiences can also include cult classics Return to Oz (1985) and the UK premiere of a new 2K restoration of the horror Dolls (1987), whose memorable effects were done by Claymation pioneer Will Vinton, and stop-motion legend David W. Allen, who worked on The Howling, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

“With movies able to create anything in the computer these days, we wanted to celebrate the filmmakers that created some cinema’s most iconic creatures (don’t call them monsters!) through painstaking stop-motion and model work,” said festival director Timon Singh. “Growing up watching Ray Harryhausen movies made me fall in love with the work of special-effects artists like Stan Winston and Phil Tippett, so it’s great to be able to celebrate their work while watching some of their creations on the biggest screen in the city.”

Action icon

Forbidden Worlds Film Festival will also be celebrating action legend Michelle Yeoh, fresh from her Best Actress Oscar win for her stunning performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

As most audiences will be familiar with her appearance in western films like the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, recent hits like Crazy Rich Asians and Shang-Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Forbidden Worlds will be showing three Hong Kong action films from earlier in the action legend’s career with special screenings of Royal Warriors (1986), The Heroic Trio (1993), and Police Story 3: Supercop (1992)… which saw Yeoh come out retirement to beat Jackie Chan at his own game by jumping a motorbike onto a moving train!

“We have all seen Michelle Yeoh being celebrated this awards season and rightfully so, and we can’t wait to bring back some of her earliest and greatest work to the former Bristol IMAX,” said Tessa Williams, lead programmer.

“Michelle Yeoh is one of the most brilliant, multi-faceted actors of all time, and I am so excited to be able to spend much of the Forbidden Worlds Film Festival in May celebrating her work. Yeoh once said, ‘They won’t take you seriously because you are a girl. These guys had to understand that you are just as tough as them, and you have to take them on.’ This shines through in all of her performances. She is an absolute icon of the silver screen and it’s going to be a very special few days seeing her up on the former Bristol IMAX screen.”

From the Video Shop Archives

Deep from the archives of 20th Century Flicks come a host of cult and classic genre films, including the UK premiere of a new 4K restoration of classic sci-fi horror Invaders from Mars (1953); beloved cult horror Pumpkinhead (1988), which went straight to video upon its release here in the UK, but now for its 35th anniversary is getting a very rare theatrical screening; the UK premiere of a new 4K restoration of John Carpenter’s action classic Assault on Precinct 13 (1976); The Way of the Dragon (1972), the UK premiere of a new 4K restoration of the iconic martial arts epic that was the only film Bruce Lee ever directed to mark the 50th anniversary of the kung fu legend’s passing; Sylvester Stallone action spectacular Cliffhanger (1993) which celebrates its 30th anniversary the weekend of the festival and whose gravity-defying stunts will test the limits of audience members’ fear of heights when they view it on the former Bristol IMAX screen; cult British sci-fi-horror Prey (1977) from renowned director Norman J. Warren; and Amsterdamned (1988) that sees a killer terrorise the city of Amsterdam by using the city’s canal system to find and hunt his victims!

Says 20th Century Flicks’ proprietor Dave Taylor, “One of the main reasons for the first Forbidden Worlds Film Festival was to celebrate 20th Century Flicks turning 40 – and what better way to mark that occasion than by showing a host of 1982 video favourites on a gigantic screen? It was such a thrill to share that with our audiences, films that people like me had only seen on video on a small TV, so we naturally want to continue that tradition. Many of our attendees will never have had the chance to experience John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 or Bruce Lee’s The Way of the Dragon in such a setting, and they’re in for a real treat.”

There will also be other surprises for festival attendees including special introductions, guest speakers and, of course, the return of Forbidden Worlds festival beer, courtesy of New Bristol Brewery. There will also be vendors and traders at the festival over the course of the weekend.

Full Festival (Thurs-Sun), Weekend (Fri-Sun) and Day Passes are now on sale with individual screening tickets set to be available in a few weeks.

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For the full line-up, visit

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