October 7, 2008
Ryan Larkin, who animated Walking, and who was also the subject of the Oscar-winning Ryan, has a posthumous co-directing credit on Spare Change (with Laurie Gordon). The film will be showing at the Festival du nouveau cinema. It will also be showing before the feature, All Together Now, a documentary about the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil, which is also premiering at the FNC. Spare Change will precede the feature as it screens across Canada in the next week:
Vancouver: Ridge Theatre
Québec City: Cinéma Quartier
Sherbrooke: La maison du Cinéma
Montreal: Cinema Du Parc
April 17, 2007
On Wednesday, April 18th at 6:30 p.m., the animation community will pay tribute to Ryan Larkin, who left many—friends and strangers—heartbroken when word of his death from cancer occurred in mid-February. Just before his death, Larkin had begun animating again and had embarked on a project called Spare Change (the producer still plans to finish this film).
This event is graciously hosted by the Cinémathèque Québécoise with the collaboration of the National Film Board of Canada. The following films will be screened:
- excerpts from Pin Screen, Norman McLaren, 1973
- excerpts from Chez Schwartz, 2006 (documentary)
- Alter Egos, 52 min (documentary on the making of Ryan)
- interstitials for MTV
- Forest Fire Clip: Burning Fox, 1971
- Canada Vignette: Trading Post, 1978
- Cityscape, 1966
- Syrinx, 1965
- Walking, 1968
- Street Musique, 1972
The evening promises many tributes from his friends and peers, including Chris Landreth and David Verrall.
February 16, 2007
More sad news in the animation community today. Ryan Larkin died on Wednesday at the age of 63 of metastasized lung cancer.
If you've been anywhere near a film festival in the last few years you've probably seen Chris Landreth's documentary Ryan, which traced his brilliant but relatively brief career as an animator at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and his subsequent downward spiral into drug and alcohol addiction. Larkin was panhandling in Montreal and living in the Old Brewery Mission when Landreth befriended him and started making Ryan.
Ryan, I think, proved to be something of a watershed for Larkin. When I met him briefly at the Ottawa festival in 2004, he said he was working on a new film—something I'd heard through the NFB grapevine before, but which I didn't entirely believe until I heard him say it. There was a determination in his voice and his manner that I rarely hear, but at the same time he was still drinking. I remember thinking at the time that he was at a crossroads, and I hoped that the creative side of him would win.
I was elated when I read that Ryan had produced some idents for MTV a few months ago, and was looking forward to seeing his film—and, especially, talking to him about it—when it was completed. That he completed the MTV work indicated to me that he at least had alcohol under control, if not beaten. The sad irony is that while people were most concerned about his drugs and drinking problems, it was his other addiction, smoking, that killed him.
I'm glad I got to meet Ryan, if only for a few minutes. My regret is that I never did tell him about the effect his films had on me. I loved Syrinx because I've always been interested in Greek mythology, and Street Musique's shimmering, transforming imagery hypnotized me when I was a teenager.
Walking affected me the most, but I didn't see it until I was in my early twenties, studying animation at Concordia University. When I did see it, it was like being struck by lightning. Watching Walking while all your receptors are open for analyzing movement is a bit like bringing a butterfly net to a Monarch migration. Animators talk about how physics and character are the two essential components of a walk cycle, but Walking is the masterclass. More remarkable, although the film made it starkly clear just how much I had to learn, I didn't get that familiar feeling of despair at my lack of ability in the face of such talent; the effect it had was of pure inspiration. That was a rare thing, and I remember that feeling every time I see it.
Ryan made Walking in 1968; I suspect that in the 39 years since then, an uncountable number of animators were inspired the same way that I was. Larkin's genius burned briefly, but it burned bright, and while I'm sad that we won't get to see the new direction he was going in, I'm forever grateful that we could be touched by his work—and that, for a while, he knew how much he meant to us.
February 28, 2005
Now that Ryan has won the Oscar for best animated short, it's as good a time as any to recommend Alter Egos, an hour-long making-of documentary that goes beyond just the technical aspects of making the film itself—it also delves into the life of Ryan Larkin, and how the relationship between him and Chris Landreth develops. I found it riveting when I watched it a few months ago.
Alter Egos will likely be airing on CBC Newsworld again in the near future, and it looks as if Country Canada will be airing it as part of their Greatdocs.ca series the morning of March 11. You can also find it on the Ryan DVD currently available for preorder at the NFB Store.