Abstract | This article explores the role of film producer and special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen in the development of the so-called “kidult” film. It examines the origins and the significations of the word “kidult”, which was seen to refer both to a specific type of film and to the audiences it mobilises. It denoted appeal to child and adult audiences, while asserting a distinction, a breaking away from parallel conceptions of the “family film” and “family audiences”, which had held sway in Hollywood’s industry and promotional discourses since the early 1930s. Harryhausen claimed to have invented the word and his film 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) was explicitly promoted as a “kidult” film on initial release. Through close analysis of Harryhausen’s fantasy films, this article argues that these productions adopted many of the essential narrative and representational elements of the 1950s Hollywood teen film, while still recognisably residing within a broader definition of Hollywood family entertainment. It contends that Harryhausen’s films were precursors to the contemporary Hollywood fantasy blockbuster in their address to the conceptual “kidult” consumer, their fast-paced, action-adventure narratives, and their emphasis on spectacle.

Keywords | Hollywood; “kidult”; family film; 1950s; Harryhausen.