UI grad wins Oscar

By Laura Varland

At the 77th Academy Awards on Feb. 27, University graduate Christopher Landreth won an Oscar in the Best Animated Short Film category for his movie, Ryan.

The animated, 14-minute documentary is about the life of Ryan Larkin, a once-successful animator in Canada who now lives on welfare. It is considered a groundbreaking film because of its highly technical computer graphics animation.

In an earlier interview with Hour (XPress) magazine, Landreth said his goals go beyond just highly technical animation.

“I wanted Ryan to open up a whole range of conversations,” Landreth told Hour. “Among other things, it opens up questions about truth, fiction, interpretation … I am hoping that Ryan takes subjectivity to a different level. I hope, anyway, that I’m using animation tools not to try to stylize and make cool images but to tell another layer of truth.”

Landreth, who was an engineering major as a University student, was first introduced to computer graphics animation during a visualization lab he took at the University’s Beckman Institute, which promotes cooperative work among different departments.

Donna Cox, director for visualization and experimental technology at the National Center for Super Computing at the Beckman Institute, taught Landreth in his first visualization lab.

“He was a renaissance man, talented in both art and technology,” Cox said. “He was gifted. It was his first time in computer graphics and I could tell he was exceptional right away.”

During his time at the University and Beckman Institute, Landreth was the head animator for the short film Venus and Milo. The film, which won the Japanese Nicograph Award, told the story of an art museum janitor who interacted with the artwork.

Chris Lukeman, president of the Illini Film and Video Club, said he was very excited when he heard of Landreth’s win.

“It’s simply incredible and serves as a great inspiration to student filmmakers, myself included, that someone could go from the cornfields to the Oscars,” Lukeman said.