Born in Montreal, Canada in 1943, Ryan Larkin, grew up in Dorval, Quebec and studied with painter Arthur Lismer at the Ecole des beaux-arts de Montreal. The death of his brother in the 1950s affected Larkin, and he began drinking heavily in his teens.
Larkin began working at the National Film Board in 1961 where he was tutored by master animator Norman McLaren. Using new film techniques, he created the short “Syrinx” in 1965. In 1968 Larkin received an Academy Award nomination for his animated short “Walking”. In 1972 he created “Street Musique“ which was considered a masterpiece of animated movement. Larkin won dozens of awards during his 14 years with the film board.
In 1977, Larkin suffered from a combination of creative block and alcohol and cocaine addiction. He eventually left the NFB and began living on the streets of Montreal and panhandling. “I had difficulty handling my ego when I was famous. I’ve made a fool of myself.” Larkin once told an interviewer. “It was a psychological problem I had to deal with, and my first choice was to use drugs. “I had sexual proclivities, too – I was doing coke and getting hard-ons instead of what I should have been doing, which was making interesting, comical, beautiful animation films.”
Larkin was brought back into the spotlight as the subject of the film “Ryan“, a digitally animated tribute by Chris Landreth that won the Academy Award for best animated short in 2005. The film rejuvenated his career and he returned to animation by creating three short animated bumpers for MTV in December 2006.
Larkin died on February 14, 2007 of lung cancer in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. At the time of his death, he had been working on “Spare Change”, a film about his experiences on the streets of Montreal.