In the late sixties, Ryan Larkin was a talented young animator at the National Film Board who produced some of the most influential animated films of his time, films that are still shown in animation schools to instruct and inspire up-and-coming animators. Today, after a decades-long battle with cocaine addiction and alcoholism, he lives on welfare and panhandles for spare change on the streets of downtown Montreal. Academy Award7-nominated animator Chris Landreth, saddened and fascinated by Larkin=s life story, set out to try to understand the psychological and emotional factors that would take one=s life down such a path, and at the same time create and represent these very elements in animated form.
A poignant and at times revelatory study of artists, addiction and the creative process, Ryan is both animation and documentary, combining confessional interviews with animated interpretations to produce a narrative style that Landreth has aptly dubbed “psychological realism.” Similar to the work of Arthur Lipsett, the animation in Ryan is based on a sound recording – the film was conceived following a recorded conversation between Landreth and Larkin. Using Maya animation software, animated versions of Landreth and Larkin – who appear in the film as strange, twisted, broken and disembodied 3-D characters – were created, along with several other subjects (including legendary NFB animation producer Derek Lamb) who were interviewed about Larkin=s life and career. Even though the characters and locations in the film have the look of detailed realism, the film was created without CGI tools and utilized no live-action footage or motion-capture techniques.
One of the most widely heralded short films to emerge in years, Ryan won numerous awards at major international film festivals and received an Academy Award7 for Best Animated Short Film. It was also named one of Canada=s Top Ten of 2004 by an independent, national panel of filmmakers, programmers, journalists and industry professionals. The making of Ryan is documented in Laurence Green=s film Alter Egos (2004).