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I Want My NFB

Between the groundbreaking (and Oscar-nominated) Walking in 1969 and his equally revolutionary follow-up, Street Musique, three years later, Ryan Larkin cemented his status as among the most daring and brilliant animators of his time, taking hand-drawn animation to a previously-unseen level of surreal impressionism. He was the rising star of the NFB, the protégé of, and successor to, Norman McLaren, but the pressure to top his earlier triumphs exacerbated his already-present problems with drug- and alcohol-dependency. He left the NFB in 1978, and after a “hazy” decade during which he managed to get himself off of cocaine, Larkin took up panhandling outside (the greatest restaurant in the world) Schwartz’s deli in Montréal. This tragic fall from grace was chronicled in Chris Landreth‘s excellent 2004 Academy Award-winner for Best Animated Short, Ryan, which renewed attention on Larkin, who nevertheless chose to continue his long stint on The Main.
2006_12_21RyanRyan2.jpgThe last behind-the-camera credit listed in his IMDb profile being as an “animator” on an obscure (live-action) Canadian film from 1980 called Agency (starring Robert Mitchum!), it was nice to find out a couple of years ago that Larkin would be working on a new short called Spare Change, about his years asking Jews and others on smoked-meat pilgrimages for same. The film still looks to be a few years off, however, which is why it was with great delight (and utter surprise) that we tonight saw a “CTV Success Story” that, in a nice bit of cross-promotion, announced that Larkin is now employed by MTV Canada.
The channel’s original IDs having been inspired by Larkin’s work, his current “business partner,” Laurie Gordon of the band Chiwawa, put him in touch with producers at the Bell Globemedia-owned channel, and to their credit they were happy to commission three five-second long station ID tags, his first original creations since the unreleased (and apparently unreleasable) Ding Bat Rap from the mid-70s.
The press release notes that “As a Christmas present to the elusive genius, Larkin’s five-second bumpers will be the only channel IDs to air on MTV on December 25 and 26. Available for viewing now at [click on the "News" tab], the channel IDs will appear in regular rotation in the New Year.” This is, needless to say, also a wonderful holiday gift for all fans of animation and Canadian cinema in general. And so is this.
Still from “Bird to Plane” taken from Still from Ryan taken from


  • Ryan C.

    I had the privilege of seeing “Ryan” about 3 months before it was actually made available publicly, and it was a freakin’ masterpiece. To see that it helped bring the public eye back around to this legendary animator (partially so in part because of the fact he hit rock bottom a few years later) and that he has actually managed to get himself work and off the streets is incredible.

  • Laurie

    Thanks for the post. I was just wondering why you quoted “business partner”.I am producing the film and manage Ryan’s biz. My husband Krassy Halatchev and I,(the duo CHIWAWA), are composing the soundtrack to Spare Change.
    Also I would like to understand your quote here:
    “…it was nice to find out a couple of years ago that Larkin would be working on a new short called Spare Change, about his years asking Jews and others on smoked-meat pilgrimages for same.”
    Asking Jews for spare change…? St Laurent boulevard is multi ethnic and one is more likely to panhandle some spare change from a wealthy Catholic Portuguese or American tourist. Us Jews prefer lighter fare and are still busy seeking some coin for arts sake. :)
    Spare Change is slated for release in the fall of 2007

  • Jonathan Goldsbie

    I didn’t mean to imply anything sinister or subtextual by referring to you as Mr. Larkin’s “business partner.” I believe that’s what was written underneath your name in the CTV report, and I was simply quoting that. But, yeah, I guess it does look awkward and possibly misleading. Sorry about that.
    As for the second comment, about asking for change from “Jews and others on smoked-meat pilgrimages,” I was writing as a Jew who, when last in Montreal three and a half years ago, dragged people on a pilgrimage to Schwartz’s and has literally had, at least once a month ever since, dreams about returning there. It’s clear that I don’t know who actually lives and works in the area, so I was instead jokingly extending my perspective (perhaps shared by many Torontonians) to all of those who might find themselves outside of Schwartz’s.
    I really look forward to seeing Spare Change. Think you’ll have it ready in time for TIFF?

  • Laurie

    Always hard to decipher words especially when one mentions smoked meat in the same phrase. ;)
    We are working hard to get Spare Change finished as soon as possible for fall 2007. Happy Holidays!

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    As a vegetarian Jew sometimes I feel very lonely.