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DVD Review: Ryan: The Special Edition DVD

Canadian animator Ryan Larkin is considered to be a genius. He was a child prodigy, and created some amazing animations in the early 70's. Unfortunately, like many other creative geniuses, drugs and alcohol played a big part in his decline from the creative expressionism that he was so great at. Nowadays, Ryan is living off of welfare, and spends his time panhandling for change. It's a sad tale, for sure, so it's amazing how such a disparaging and ugly tale can be captured so beautifully in full on 3D animation glory, and completely hand-animated no less.

This short film is most definitely not your average, ordinary documentary. Besides being a completely three-dimensional computer-generated animation, directory Chris Landreth uses a look he calls "psychological realism", which is difficult to describe. The screenshots in the image gallery will do a much better job of showing you what it looks like than my words every could, but basically it's near photo realistic 3-D CG animation... with some portions missing, like someone having only half a head, and other portions added, like out of someone's head pops a halo-shaped light bulb, and then a tiny little arm which turns it on. It's all very bright and colorful, and oh so very freaky looking, but unbelievably gorgeous.

The film starts out with a photo-realistic CG version of the director looking into a bathroom mirror just before he is about to walk out and do is interview with Ryan Larkin. The next thing you know, we're inside the mirror, where everything is now in the "psychological realism" state. A freak-looking version of Chris Landreth walks out and sits down at a table with Ryan Larkin, who is smoking, drinking, and missing most of his head. What follows is a real interview between Chris and Ryan. It wasn't animated first and recorded later like most anime series. Everything on-screen is animated to the audio taken from a real interview between the two men, and it all looks so smooth and fluid that it's hard to believe it was all hand-animated! It doesn't last very long, only about 13 minutes in total, but it sure is mesmerizing.

Ryan: The Special Edition DVD In February of 2005, Ryan won the Oscar for Animated Short Film. Of course, you can't just pack up one thirteen minute short film and plop it on a DVD, no matter how good it is. So the good folks at Rhino also included a bunch of other short films here, from both Ryan and Chris, along with a documentary called "Alter Egos", where director Laurence Green explores the similarities between Ryan Larkin and Chris Landreth, like of how Chris finds himself in a similar situation to what Ryan was in 30 years prior. It wasn't bad, but no where near as interesting to watch as Ryan. It does help to chew up time, though, as it's almost an hour long. I found the remaining short films to be all entertaining in their own right.

Ryan: The Special Edition DVD Probably Ryan's most famous short film, Walking, is included, and like Ryan, you won't believe that each of those drawings was hand-animated. It's so smooth and fluid, it totally looks motion-captured, or rotoscoped as they called it before computers, when they used to trace over live actors. It starts out very static, with no motion, then it adds a few head turns, and the next thing you know you're watching all these various animated characters walking... just walking. All different kinds of characters, from all different angles, in various types of clothing, from full robes to nothing at all. And Ryan doesn't shy away from the nudity part either; the gentle bounce of a boy's penis and a woman's breasts are animated just like all the rest of the clothes in the film. It's insane to think that it all comes straight from the mind and hand of one man.

Ryan: The Special Edition DVD Another one that I really enjoyed is "The End", which is an earlier 3-D CG creation by Chris Landreth. It's very bright and colorful, and extremely surreal, yet turns hilarious when the characters actually start talking to the animator! Also included are two other films by Ryan, Syrinx and Street Musique, and another 3-D CG creation by Chris called Bingo. Although I didn't find them as good as the previous ones I mentioned, all were still entertaining. Oh, and if all that wasn't enough, there are a bunch of commentaries too. So yeah, this is a good DVD, especially if you enjoy art just for the beauty of it.

Ryan: The Special Edition DVD was released on August 2, 2005 by Rhino.

Image Gallery: Ryan: The Special Edition DVD

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