Ryan Larkin

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Ryan Larkin
Ryan Larkin, portrait.jpg
Born(1943-07-31)July 31, 1943
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
DiedFebruary 14, 2007(2007-02-14) (aged 63)
Occupation(s)Film director
Years active1964–2007

Ryan Larkin (July 31, 1943 – February 14, 2007) was a Canadian animator, artist, and sculptor who rose to fame with the psychedelic Oscar-nominated short Walking (1968) and the acclaimed Street Musique (1972). He was the subject of the Oscar-winning film Ryan.

Early life[edit]

Larkin had idolized his older brother, Ronald, whom he described as "the epitome of cool".[1] In 1958, at the age of fifteen, Larkin witnessed his brother die in a boating accident and, because he had never learned to swim, was unable to save him.[1] Larkin stated that his brother's death deeply scarred him.[1]

Larkin attended the Art School of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts where he studied under Arthur Lismer (a member of the Group of Seven) before starting to work at the National Film Board of Canada in 1962.[1]

NFB years[edit]

At the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), Larkin learned animation techniques from the ground-breaking and award-winning animator Norman McLaren. He made two acclaimed short animated films, Syrinx (1965) and Cityscape (1966), before going on to create Walking (1969). Walking was nominated for an Academy Award in 1970 in the category Best Short Subject, Cartoon, but lost to It's Tough to Be a Bird by director Ward Kimball. Syrinx won many international awards.[1] He went on to direct the award-winning short Street Musique, which premiered in 1972 and would be the last of his works, finished during his lifetime.

He also contributed art work and animation effects to NFB films including the 1974 feature Running Time, directed by Mort Ransen, in which Larkin also played three bit parts.

In 1975, the NFB commissioned Larkin to create a mural for the entrance foyer at its Montreal headquarters.[1][2] Larkin, who was bi-sexual, delivered a piece featuring an adolescent boy with an erection, which the NFB removed from viewing.[2][3]

Larkin left the NFB in 1982.

Ryan, the film (2004)[edit]

In later years, Larkin was plagued by a downward spiral of drug abuse, alcoholism and homelessness. By this time, estranged from his parents, he had developed a routine of spending his nights at Montreal's Old Brewery Mission, and his days panhandling at Schwartz's Deli, eating at Mondo Fritz, drinking beer at the Copacabana bar, or reading a book in the lounge at Welch's used book store.[1] In 2004, he was back in the limelight when a 14-minute computer-animated documentary on his life, Ryan, by Canadian animator Chris Landreth, won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film and screened to acclaim at film festivals throughout the world. Alter Egos (2004), directed by Laurence Green, is a documentary about the making of Ryan that includes interviews with both Larkin and Chris Landreth as well as with various people who knew Larkin at the peak of his success.[4]

Later work[edit]

As of 2002, Larkin was working with composer Laurie Gordon of the band 'Chiwawa' on a new animated film entitled Spare Change, his first auteur film since working at the NFB. Together, they founded Spare Change Productions and sought funding for the film through Gordon's production company MusiVision. They received grants from Bravo!FACT, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and SODEC but were still short of financing. MusiVision and the National Film Board of Canada went into co-production only after Larkin's death.

Spare Change, which premiered at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 9, 2008, features three Chiwawa tunes for which Larkin created storyboards and animation, including Do It For Me from the 2005 album Bright.[5] The 2009 Chiwawa album Bus Stop Chinese Buffet include tracks from Spare Change; the lyrics of Overcast Skies were penned by Larkin.[6][7]

MusiVision's Gordon and Nicola Zavaglia also produced the documentary film Ryan's Renaissance for CTV Television about Ryan's final years, his return to creating art, and Spare Change.[8] Larkin, who had panhandled outside Montreal Schwartz's deli, appeared briefly in a documentary on the famous restaurant, Chez Schwartz, directed by Garry Beitel.[9]

In December 2006, Larkin created three five-second bumpers for MTV in Canada, a preview to Spare Change. Each frame was hand-drawn. It was the first professional work he had executed in over 20 years.[10] Larkin said that he had given up some bad habits, including drinking, in order to better focus on his animating career.[11]


Larkin died in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, on February 14, 2007, from lung cancer, which had spread to his brain.[12]


  • The Ball Resolver in Antac – animated short, Bernard Longpré 1964 – co-animator with William Pettigrew [13]
  • Syrinx – animated short, 1965 – director[14]
  • Cityscape – animated short, 1966 - animator, producer, director[15]
  • The Canadian Forces Hydrofoil Ship: Concept and Design – documentary short, Martin Defalco and Kenneth McCready 1967 – co-animator with Sidney Goldsmith[16]
  • Walking – animated short, 1968 – animator, producer, director
  • Street Musique – animated short, 1972 - animator, producer, director
  • Running Time – feature, Mort Ransen 1974 – co-animator with Co Hoedeman[17]
  • The Agency – feature, George Kaczender, RSL Entertainment 1981 – co-animator with Ida Eva Zielinska
  • Gulf Stream – documentary short, William Hansen and Bruce Mackay, 1982 – co-animator with Meilan Lam, Kenneth Horn and Sydney Goldsmith
  • Spare Change – animated short, 2008 – writer, animator, designer, cinematographer, co-director with Laurie Gordon [18]


Syrinx (1965)[19]

  • 18th Canadian Film Awards, Montreal: Genie Award for Best Film, Arts and Experimental, 1966
  • Golden Gate International Film Festival, San Francisco: Certificate of Motion Picture Excellence, 1966
  • International Film Festival at Addis Ababa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: First Prize, Best Short film, 1966
  • Philadelphia International Festival of Short Films, Philadelphia: Award for Exceptional Merit, 1968

Cityscape (1966)[20]

  • Golden Gate International Film Festival, San Francisco: Honorable Mention, Film-as-Art, 1967

Walking (1968)

Street Musique (1972)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Stone, M.J. (12 March 2007). "Ryan Larkin, filmmaker and derelict, 1943-2007". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2014-01-04.
  2. ^ a b Marchand, Philip (17 February 2007). "Animator never lost artistry". Toronto Star. Torstar. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
  3. ^ "Ryan Larkin, the Self-Destructive Genius". WFMU-FM, July 30, 2011.
  4. ^ "Alter Egos". NFB.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  5. ^ "Bright". discogs.com. Discogs. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  6. ^ "Bus Stop Chinese Buffet". discogs.com. Discogs. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  7. ^ chiwawa. "CHIWAWA's 1st projectopus entry - DIGGIT". Project Opus Technologies. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  8. ^ Doyle, John (19 February 2011). "February's hard. And these shows don't make it better". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  9. ^ Nestruck, J. Kelly (2006-09-28). "May the Schwartz be with you". National Post. Archived from the original on 2007-12-06. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  10. ^ Whyte, Murray (21 December 2006). "Filmmaker's reanimation". Toronto Star. Torstar. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
  11. ^ "Animator Ryan Larkin off the streets, onto MTV". CBC Arts. 2006-12-21. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  12. ^ "Ryan Larkin Dies at Age 63". Animation World Network. 2007-02-16. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  13. ^ "The Ball Resolver in Antac". onf-nfb.gc.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  14. ^ "Syrinx". nfb.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  15. ^ "Cityscape". onf-nfb.gc.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  16. ^ "The Canadian Forces Hydrofoil Ship: Concept and Design". onf-nfb.gc.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  17. ^ "Running Time". onf-nfb.gc.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  18. ^ "Spare Change". onf-nfb.gc.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  19. ^ "Syrinx". onf-nfb.gc.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  20. ^ "Cityscape". onf-nfb.gc.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 9 March 2023.

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