Lorne Lanning

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Lorne Lanning is an American game designer, artist, writer and voice actor best known as the creator of Oddworld and, along with Sherry McKenna, co-foundeder of Oddworld Inhabitants in 1994. More recently he co-founded Xmobb with McKenna, Larry Shapiro and Daniel Goldman to release the social networking platform of the same name.


Early life

Lanning was born in Connecticut, New England,[1]:10 to a lower-middle class family[2] that had a long line of war veterans.[3] His maternal grandfather was an immigrant who had grown up in Latvia while Soviet forces were occupying the country, and whose father—who ran a resistance spy network out of his barber shop—was one night taken away by secret police and never seen again, according to rumours, having been turned in by turncoat Latvians. Being told this story by his grandfather, Lanning inherited his hatred of traitors, although those he saw in the political, business and religious world were traitors to human decency and values.[4]

His father served for years on US nuclear submarines through the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and his advice to his son was:

Never trust what you read in the papers or see on the news. These things are not there to inform you. They are here to shape our opinions in favor of someone else’s objectives. Read and watch but only with caution.[4]

As early as the 1970s his father told him that future wars would be fought over water, the most valuable resource on Earth.[4] He later became an engineer for Coleco and would bring things home from work, fueling Lanning’s early interest in videogames.[5] The first videogame Lanning played was Pong at a local diner, previously only playing pinball,[6]:20 although as a child he also had G.I. Joe dolls. Having a number a war veterans in his family and seeing the investigative journalism of the Vietnam War on television, Lanning had to wonder why the accessories for these dolls didn’t include wheelchairs, whiskey bottles and joints.[3]

Lanning’s mother, never formally educated, was a nurse who became addicted to painkillers at a relatively young age because of her back problems, and married a man she didn’t love because she was worried about raising two children. Lanning always saw his mother as a tragic character and used several elements of her life to inspire the story of Sam, Abe’s mother. Although he says they weren’t close, he did try to get her to take responsibility for her health before she passed away in the mid-2000s.[2][1]:1 One thing in particular he remembers his grandmother telling him:

God gave you eyes to see the world for yourself. So never let anyone tell you what you can see, what you cannot see, or what to think of what you do see.[3]

Lanning used to work in the fruit and produce terminal in the South Bronx, loading and unloading trucks, and would routinely have to dump numerous tonnes of cantaloupe off the edge of the dock because of legistlation concerning acceptable methods of dealing with excess. The waste of this food bothered Lorne, who saw all the hungry people when he drove through the city or took the subway.[7]


Lanning was classically trained as a painter of fine art,[8]:2 beginning his professional education in the early 1980s when he studied photo-realism and commercial illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He supported himself by working as the studio manager and assitant painter to artist Jack Goldstein. As an ‘art factory with artists’, they would complete ten paintings every eight weeks, each presold for $500 000.[9] Being around the New York art scene in the mid-1980s, Lanning quickly realized that paintings no longer influenced popular opinion, this being done by mediums that were electronic and mass in distribution.[8]:2 Encouraged by the paintings and philosophy of Goldstein, Lanning persued his interests in technology, storytelling and animation by attending the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he was awarded a BFA in Character Animation. Here his roommate was Josh Gabriel, who went on to be the audio producer and music composer for Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus.

Once seeking criticism of his work Lanning was told ‘Your technical abilities are fine… you just don’t have any ideas.’ Realizing that ‘art could be more than just craft and commerce,’ Lanning began to see his work in what for him was a revolutionary way, as a platform for his interests and concerns in media, the environment and public trust.[3][4]

Lanning has an honorary doctorate degree from the San Francisco Academy of Art College.[10]


Lanning found work at the TRW Engineering Visualization Center in Redondo Beach, California, where he was a technical director of computer animation for aerospace programmes such as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). This afforded Lanning a look at high-end military technology and insight into its future integration into commercial and entertainment industries. He then sought and obtained a job at Rhythm & Hues Studios in Hollywood, drawn by its cutting edge computer animation. Here Lanning worked on feature films, advertisements, station idents and motion-based attractions across a number of different roles, including technical director, lead technical director, art director, creative director, and visual effects supervisor.

Creating Oddworld

Lanning first started writing short stories in about 1987 as a way of expressing his frustration at the injustices he saw on the news. At this point the stories were unconnected and not called Oddworld, but the consistent themes in some of them led to their being compiled into one long epic, what became the Oddworld Quintology.[11] The story of Citizen Siege became fully formed before the Quintology.[12]

Lanning recognized that to give him the greatest chance at succeeding in

Partnership with Sherry McKenna

Lanning used to see Sherry McKenna on HBO and Entertainment Tonight specials in the early 1980s. McKenna became a client of Rhythm & Hues while working on Back to the Future: The Ride for Universal Studios Floridia, on which Lanning also started working. They were introduced by a mutual colleague, allowing Lanning to recognize McKenna’s insight and skill as a producer and giving him the opportunity get to know her and make a ‘lasting impression’. Eventually he got her to work at Rhythm & Hues by convincing her they would be able to make CGI films while there.[13]

In 1992, the two were working together on a motion-based ride for Japan when Lanning first started sharing his ideas about the gaming industry with McKenna, then his boss, but she didn’t like or understand videogames or want to produce them, and his attempts to explain ‘owning the content’ didn’t appeal to her, a lifelong vendor of services, so Lanning had to take a different approach. One day while they were sitting by the swimming pool at McKenna’s house he offered to tell her a story; she loved stories so she said ‘Sure’.

He then told her the story that would become Oddworld: Squeek’s Oddysee when put together with other stories of his to form the Oddworld Quintology. She was enthralled by the story and immediately wanted to make a feature film about it, but he said that they were instead going to make videogames, at which she became furious. It took another two years for Lanning, now aged 29,[6]:21 to convince McKenna that they should start their own videogame company, having to persude her that they could get the funding and produce film-quality graphics.


  1. a b Lanning, Lorne (11 June 2008). ‘Hot Seat: Lorne Lanning’, interview by Michael Thomsen. IGN.
  2. a b Lanning, Lorne (14 April 2008). ‘Part 4: The relationship between Abe and Sam’ (08 August 2008) from ‘Nate interviews Lorne Lanning’. OddBlog. Oddworld Library.
  3. a b c d Lanning, Lorne (28 October 2006). ‘The Appetite for Escape: Sleepwalking Giants, the Sacrificed Message, and the Quest for Modern Myth’. BAFTA Vision Statement 2006. GameCity keynote speech. Broadway Cinema, Nottingham, U.K.
  4. a b c d Lanning, Lorne (6 July 2009). ‘Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath Interview with Lorne Lanning’ by Nick Henderson. 4Player Podcast.
  5. Lanning, Lorne (10 December 1998). ‘Abe's Exedus - The Story’. Nasty’s Dungeon.
  6. a b Lanning, Lorne (30 January 2001). ‘The Oddworld Interview’ by Floris van Eck. GlobalXbox.com. Archived by the Wayback Machine (9 April 2001).
  7. Lanning, Lorne (17 September 1997). ‘Interview with Oddworld Team’, p. 138 in Rusel DeMaria (17 September 1997). Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee: The Official Strategy Guide. Roseville (CA): Prima Publishing.
  8. a b Hellard, Paul (12 February 2009). ‘The Art of Oddworld Inhabitants: The First Ten Years Folio Edition Special Feature’. CGSociety.
  9. Lanning, Lorne (23 August 2008). ‘Q&A with digital arts guru Lorne Lanning: Will we learn to appreciate digital art as a profession and a business?’, interview by Dean Takahashi, q. 1. VentureBeat.
  10. Oddworld Inhabitants. ‘Oddworld Executive Profiles’. Company. Oddworld Official Site Page.
  11. Lanning, Lorne (6 September 2000). ‘An interview with Lorne Lanning’ by Robb Guido. Happy Puppy. Archived by the [/archives/scriptures/interviews/2000/09/An_interview_with_Lorne_Lanning Oddworld Scriptures]. Oddworld Archives. Oddworld Library.
  12. Bunce-Edwards, William (08 November 2006). ‘Meeting Lorne & Sherry’. OddBlog. Oddworld Library.
  13. Lanning, Lorne (8 April 2008). Interview by Philip Jong. Adventure Classic Gaming.

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