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By Barry Hertz

Animation is dead. Long live animation.

To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, this sense of revival and evolution in the field of animated films is strongly felt in Chris Landreth’s Oscar-winning animated short film Ryan.

“It’s not even an animated film, but more of an animated documentary,” said Landreth, who wrote, directed and co-starred in the film. The movie revolves around Landreth’s meetings with legendary National Film Board animator Ryan Larken, who is now an alcoholic and panhandler in Montreal.

Both Larken and Landreth’s forms take on surreal proportions in the film, changing every so often to show their frustrations and creative struggles. The characters are so bizarrely animated and the dialogue is so raw, that the audience forgets it’s watching nothing more than computer code.

The film was created entirely using computer graphics, without any hand-drawn images. It leads the audience to wonder if traditional two-dimensional cartoons are gone forever. “There are a lot of visually unusual things in it,” said Landreth, citing the use of computer technology.

“Everything was different to create, from the hair we replicated, to the impressionistic, painterly effects.” Ryan also has its poignant moments.

When Landreth dares to ask Larken about his addictions, Larken shouts back in fury, his animated figure literally bursting at the seams.

Though running a brief 13 minutes, Landreth has crafted a truly unique work of Canadian cinema; it is both visually daring and emotionally challenging.

If Ryan is where animation is headed, then audiences will have a lot to look forward to in the future.

***1/2 out of *****

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