Giant and still growing

Annual festival of animation has plans for expansion

For animation fans the Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival is one of the biggest and brightest in Canada. Quickdraw Animation Society’s celebration of all things animated (GIRAF for short) is entering its ninth year with some new faces including festival co-ordinator Jolie Bird. She says the festival will feel new in some ways but that the focus is still on presenting as much independent animation as possible. “I don’t think the vision has changed but I’m approaching it with a fresh set of eyes” she says.

Amongst the indie offerings audiences can expect to see some more narrative accessible films that Bird hopes will draw in a more diverse crowd. “The festival has always wanted to see more people come out to the events” she says. “That part’s not really new but I’ve tried to focus on increasing our audience through forming stronger ties within the Calgary community.”

This includes adding a number of community partners including Alliance Française Sled Island the Calgary Underground Film Festival and the Calgary International Film Festival.

Bird says the festival has the potential to become even more giant (as the name suggests) with more screenings and workshops for fans and professional animators. “There are some amazing animation festivals around the world that we watch closely and drool over their long in-depth programming” she says.

But there’s only so much you can do in five days. “Deciding to do a spotlight on a country like France for example is tricky” she says. “Our spotlight is but a small selection of what is actually being produced there. The same goes for the Canadian package. It would be great to turn those individual packages into a series where we can go more in-depth like focusing on regions or schools or a historical survey.”

She adds that she’d like to see the festival expand further into the community including art gallery exhibits revisiting 2011’s Animated City event and adding an artist residency.

Bird says the biggest challenge this year was managing a huge increase in submissions — more than 600 not including those she and co-programmers Laura Leif and Peter Hemminger hunted down themselves. “In the end we programmed around 85 shorts so that’s a lot of films to turn away” she says. “Fortunately we work with a dedicated programming committee who watch all the submissions which really helps us keep a broad selection of films while we narrow it down to such a small number.”

She says there are a few criteria when picking the ideal GIRAF film. “Quality — it has to be executed really well” says Bird. “That doesn’t mean slick and polished. That’s fine sometimes but there’s such a thing as a well-executed crudely drawn animation or the misuse of technology that produces something really wonderful.”


Whether this is your first visit to GIRAF or you’re a festival regular the shorts packages are always a sure bet. There are seven offerings this year jam-packed with the best in Canadian and international animation. My favourite is the adults-only version the Late Night Party Pack — a high-dose blast of occasionally offensive psychedelic candy. Jolie Bird GIRAF festival co-ordinator suggests checking out the International Shorts in Competition 2. “It features works from 11 countries includes some incredible experimental works plus some beautiful and haunting narrative stories” she says.

This year’s features include something from every genre from horror to documentary narrative and experimental. Stop-motion enthusiasts will want to check out the creepy gothic tale O Apóstolo featuring a score by Philip Glass. Persistence of Vision explores the work of animator Richard Williams (of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? fame) and his failed attempt to bring what would have been his animated masterpiece to the screen a film he toiled on for more than 25 years.

I’m excited to see Peter Burr’s “live television show” Special Effect featuring animated shorts music and a live laser beam show. Bird’s pick is the live action animated hybrid The Congress from Waltz with Bashir director Ari Folman. It’s a through-the-looking-glass tale about an actress (Robin Wright) who sells her computer-generated identity to a film studio that promises to keep her digitally forever young. It promises to be a wildly varied lush spectacle. “I am interested in the labour involved in producing art of any kind” says Bird. “Over 60000 individual drawings from 200 animators were produced to make up the 55 minutes of animation in the film.” The Congress is the kind of film that stretches the boundaries of what is considered traditional animation. “I think it’s part digital art and part animation” says Bird. “Using a camera or computer you can create the illusion of movement by repeatedly capturing either a series of static images or by manipulating a 3D object. From there it’s a matter of looking for a variety of interpretations of this definition.”

Cartoons aren’t only for kids of course and there are a number of family-friendly events including the yearly National Film Board screening featuring classic and contemporary shorts. There’s also Ernest et Célestine about a bear whose best pal is a mouse. It’s in French (with English subtitles) so Bird says it’s suitable for kids between eight and 10.

After watching the flicks if you’re left wondering “How did they do that?” there are a few workshops exploring the more technical side of the medium. “(Our) visiting artists Peter Burr and Mikey Please will teach the more advanced workshops but we also have something happening for people with little to no experience” says Bird. These include a stop-motion class with Stephanie Wong and a flip-book workshop with Brian Batista.

And don’t miss the Log Driver’s Waltz Gala returning to the Jubilee Auditorium on Saturday November 9 from 7 p.m. to midnight. Everyone’s welcome especially lumberjacks sporting their best plaid flannel. There’s an outdoors screening of NFB animated shorts workshops bands a special screening of CAOS (Calgary Animated Objects Society) films drinks dancing and more.