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Chris Landreth

Director, Writer, Producer
(b. August 4, 1961, Hartford, Connecticut Hartford, Connecticut)

One of Canada’s most acclaimed and internationally celebrated animators, Chris Landreth originally planned on a career in engineering. After receiving his M.S. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from the University of Illinois, he worked as an engineer for three years in experimental research in fluid mechanics before making the leap to computer animation. In 1994, he joined the Canadian-based animation software company Alias, where he tested software in-house before it was released to the public.

His animated short The End (1995), in which Landreth discovers he's the character in his own film and tries to think of a decent ending for it, was widely heralded on the festival circuit and garnered an Academy Award® nomination for best animated short film. His follow-up, Bingo (1998), also received numerous international awards and a Genie for best animated short.

Landreth's 2004 film, Ryan,is his most acclaimed work. A poignant and revelatory study of artists, addiction and the creative process, it is both animation and documentary, combining confessional interviews with animated interpretations to produce a narrative style that Landreth has aptly dubbed “psychological realism.” Similar to the work of Arthur Lipsett, the animation in Ryan is based on a sound recording – the film was conceived following a recorded conversation between Landreth and subject Ryan Larkin.

(Larkin was a prominent animator at the National Film Board in the 1960s and the 1970s. Walking (1969), an elaborate and innovative study of how people move, was nominated for an Academy Award. His next project, Street musique (1972), further solidified his star status at theNFB. Following that film, however, his addiction to alcohol and cocaine stalled his career. He left the Board in 1978 and never made another film for them. He spent more than a decade living on the streets in Montreal, becoming a well-known fixture begging for change across from Schwartz’s delicatessen.)

Using Maya animation software, animated versions of Landreth and Larkin – who appear in the film as strange, twisted, broken and disembodied 3-D characters – were created, along with several other subjects (including legendary NFB animation producer Derek Lamb) who were interviewed about Larkin's life and career. Even though the characters and locations in the film have the look of detailed realism, the film was created without CGI tools and utilized no live-action footage or motion-capture techniques. The film was co-produced by the NFB and Copperheart Entertainment.

Ryan won numerous awards at international film festivals – including three awards at the Cannes Film Festival and the award for best Canadian short at the Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto – and received an Academy Award for best animated short film. It was also named one of Canada's Top Ten of 2004 by an independent, national panel of filmmakers, programmers, journalists and industry professionals.

(Larkin tried to re-establish himself following the success of the film, recovering from his addictions and even making short pieces for MTV. Sadly, he died of cancer in February, 2007.)

Landreth’s most recent film, The Spine (2009), also focuses on inner turmoil in the same expressionist, “psycho-realist” style as Ryan, this time to tell the story of a dysfunctional married couple. With The Spine, Landreth once again mobilizes the creative possibilities of animation without relying on live-action based, CGI technologies. Characters’ inner emotions are externalized in imaginative, often grotesque ways. When we first meet Dan (voiced by Gordon Pinsent) in couples therapy, he is literally formless, sitting in a cowed posture, an external expression of his backbone long since broken by years of domestic misery. Dan is dwarfed both visually and verbally by his grotesquely spherical wife Mary (voiced by Alberta Watson). Through the film’s visual scheme, we are instantly made aware of the couple’s deeply dysfunctional dynamic. The Spine debuted at the Annecy International Animation Festival and went on to win numerous awards, including the top prize at the Melbourne International Animation Festival. In Canada, The Spine received a Genie nomination for best animated short and was named one of TIFF’s Top Ten Shorts of 2009.

Currently, Landreth is working on his first feature-length project, Lovecraft, an adaptation of the graphic-novel biography of H.P. Lovecraft by Hands Rodionoff, Enrique Breccia and Keith Giffen.

Film and video work includes

The Listener, 1991 (director)
Caustic Sky: A Portrait of Regional Acid Deposition, 1992 (director)
Data Driven: The Story of Franz K, 1993 (director; producer)
The End, 1995 (director; writer; animator; producer)
Bingo, 1998 (director)
ZeD series, 2002 (director; TV, one segment)
Ryan, 2004 (director; animator; voice)
The Spine, 2009 (director; writer)

By: Andrew McIntosh
Additional notes by Ayesha Husain

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