Although Richard Condie was born in Vancouver in 1942, it should come as no surprise that the celebrated animator moved with his family to Winnipeg by the time he was four. Condie’s eccentric vision, musicality and laconic charm fit perfectly with the sensibility of late twentieth century Winnipeg. The city’s remarkable surge in animation, which mirrored the growth in quirky indie films by Guy Maddin and his contemporaries, was fuelled by Condie’s award-winning shorts, particularly The Big Snit (1985). One can’t imagine the retro cool NFB hits Get a Job and The Cat Came Back coming out of Winnipeg without the inspiration of Richard Condie, going back, appropriately, to his first masterpiece, Getting Started. When asked recently whether he would ever leave Winnipeg, Condie’s response was characteristic: “It’s cold and I seem to still be here.” (1985). One can’t imagine the retro cool NFB hits
After graduating with a B.A. from University of Manitoba in the mid ‘60s, Condie didn’t immediately “take the plunge into poverty” that he assumed would befall him by embracing a career in the arts. He tried to become a teacher but his first practice session was a disaster and soon Condie and then wife Linda departed for the West Coast where he took a job on a project dealing with juvenile delinquency at the University of British Columbia. Two years and a “ton of graphs” later, the couple returned to Winnipeg, where Condie applied for a Canada Council grant to make an animated film.
According to Condie, there was no “ah-ha” moment when he realized that animation was going to be his chosen field. “I was fascinated by sound and pictures and music,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘what an avenue to put them all together.’” Two Canada Council grants yielded Oh Sure, a short that the NFB later purchased and distributed. In it, one guy on a park bench outdoes the other in goofy tricks. Whether it was a metaphor for Condie’s embrace of his “inner animator” may be speculated but it’s clear that the bespectacled, guitar-playing artist had found his métier.
After one apprentice piece, John Law and the Mississippi Bubble, Condie found his voice and vision with Getting Started, a hilarious depiction of a pianist procrastinating when he should be practising for a big concert. It touched on a universal theme and garnered awards around the world. Condie followed with a funny commissioned short, Pig Bird, for the Customs department, then hit his stride with a trio of classics: The Big Snit, The Apprentice and La Salla. Two were nominated for Oscars and all won prizes at prestigious film festivals.
In recent years, Condie had to contend with the declining health of his parents, who both suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Despite these blows, he was able to complete the pilot for The Ark, a proposed TV series that concentrated on a dysfunctional family living in a boat after a big flood had destroyed civilization. When change in management at Nelvana shelved the show, Condie returned to the Film Board to create an exciting Web-based project entitled Etudes and Impromptus.
Richard Condie continues to live and work in Winnipeg where he smokes too many cigarettes, drinks Coca-Cola, plays guitar and keyboards and is thinking about making another film.