Walking by Ryan Larkin

Ryan Larkin (1943 – 2007) was a Canadian pioneer animator who worked at The National Film Board of Canada where he created his most celebrated films: an Oscar-nominated Walking and Street Musique, considered a masterpiece of profound vitality and originality, as well as Cityscape and Syrinx.  He is renowned for his highly imaginative style, artistic flair for combining animation with music and innovative techniques involving charcoal, water colour and line drawings. Larkin’s first two acclaimed short animated films:  Cityscape and Syrinx employ charcoal drawings which put together in succession produce a stunning effect of perpetually shifting subtle, black and white smudges. However, it was Walking and Street Musique that catapulted Larkin to international recognition and has secured his place in the history of animated film making.

            Walking (1968) is a film based on sketches drawn painstakingly for two years of people walking around. Thousands of drawings of walking figures were put together one after the other producing remarkable study of human gait and anatomy, postures and facial expressions.  Using a combination of line drawing, colour wash and ink silhouette Larkin shows the movements of a large range of people: men, women and children, clothed and naked, slender and corpulent. It can be observed that the film is marked by gradually increasing dynamic.It starts statically with a display of pictures of people standing in a queue, sitting on a bench or stairs motionlessly. As the film progresses the process of walking of a range of characters is registered with precision, humour and uniqueness. The figures are viewed from varying angels and surveyed closely from head to foot in a whimsical way. As the animation is drawing to a close more and more lively, watercolour and shadow - like characters emerge. They are presented from distanced perspective and thus lack the anatomical scrutiny which distinguishes the earlier images. However, they superbly show the vast variety of human movements. The figures not only saunter leisurely and stride but also run, spring, prance, sway and pirouette. They show the languid, mincing step of young women, springy walk of youth and staggering gait of an elderly person.

            Although Larkin’s animation was created almost forty years ago it still considered an unquestionable masterpiece and amazingly influential observation of motion. It is incredible how perfectly this five minute animated film captures the way people move and how music synchronizes with pictures. What is the most astonishing however is the fact that it is all manual work behind the film. This short kaleidoscopic presentation of images in perpetual motion is wholly original and truly unforgettable work.