I mostly enjoyed the short film Ryan. It’s an animated documentary about an animator.

The filmmaker seeks out and interviews animator Ryan Larkin, who very briefly rose to the top of his field (Academy Award nomination for one of his creations, regarded as doing some of the most important and innovative work in animation in the late ’60s/early ’70s), and then disappeared.

He discovers that, maybe as a result of a hippie/druggie lifestyle that fried his brain, the animator lost his creative edge and stopped working. He eventually got off drugs, but continues to drink heavily. He has never been able to get back into animation or any kind of artistic work, which he blames in part on vague forces that screwed him over. At this point he’s “rock bottom” enough that he relies partly on panhandling to survive.

It’s a pretty compelling story, and if anything animating it seems to make it even more effective. A lot of times I would probably see something like that as gimmicky and distracting, but for whatever reason it worked for me here. It was a nice way of dealing with the dullness problem of “talking heads.” While you’re hearing the voices of the interviewer and the interviewee, there’s also something visually interesting going on, as the filmmaker makes certain artistic decisions of how to present the figures in surreal, offbeat ways.

Throughout the film you also get to see some examples of the innovative animation Larkin was known for. A lot of creative stuff with motion and such.

I wouldn’t put Ryan up with the top group of shorts I’ve written about so far, but it was probably no worse than in the second tier right below that for me. A worthwhile little film.


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