Jun 1, 2006


I just watched Ryan, an great documentary short on iCONTROL Free from the Sundance Channel. The documentary was made by Chris Landreth, who does amazing computer animation that brings to my mind the surreal imagery of MirrorMask. Ryan is roughly 15 minutes and shows Landreth talking with Larkin about his art, early success, the death of his brother, drug and alcohol use, and his current life as a pan handler.

Ryan, directed by Chris Landreth, is an animated tribute to Canadian animator Ryan Larkin. Thirty years ago, at the National Film Board of Canada, Ryan produced some of the most influential animated films of his time. Today, Ryan lives on welfare and panhandles for spare change in downtown Montreal. How could such an artistic genius follow this path?

In Ryan we hear the voice of Ryan Larkin and people who have known him, but these voices speak through strange, twisted, broken and disembodied 3D generated characters... people whose appearances are bizarre, humorous or disturbing. Although incredibly realistic and detailed, Ryan was created and animated without the use of live action footage, rotoscoping or motion capture...but instead from an original, personal, hand animated three-dimensional world which Chris calls 'psychological realism'.


Rather than using the traditional format of filming the subject, Landreth uses computer generated imagery of the subject and the director with the real voice track for the interviews. The result is grotesque and gorgeous symbolism. Ryan Larkin's work is shown in the documentary, which recounts his early success as a groundbreaking animator in the late 60's an early 70's. Looking at his animation it is easy to see the influence he had on a generation of animators. Larkin wasn't drawing Disney characters, his images were a kind of morphing art and music. There is a documentary of the the documentary short called Alter Egos, in which Larkin watches the short film, Ryan, and then discusses it with Landreth. These scenes are excruciating and you can see Larkin melting down just below the surface. Landreth addresses that people may feel he is exploiting the clearly fragile Larkin, but it is abundantly clear that he has great respect and admiration of Larkin and his art. I recommend both films to anyone who loves art, animated or not. All of pictures I've posted are stills from animation done by Chris Landreth for his animated short Ryan.

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