CUFF’s Cartoon Party a nostalgic flashback with the sugar high of all-you-can-eat cereal

What is your must-see cinematic event of the year? For some it’s the Oscars. For others it’s a tentpole franchise flick. But for some (this writer included), there’s nothing that tops the Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat Cereal Cartoon Party at the Calgary Underground Film Festival.

For about eight years now, programmers at CUFF have curated a nostalgic, if not curious, collection of cartoons from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. These lost gems and wonderfully odd time capsules are lovingly sequenced with station IDs and commercials from the past. The idea is to go back to that lost time when animation was solely restricted to Saturday mornings and kids would have their eyes glued to the tube for hours to soak it all in.

To fully recreate the experience, the team at CUFF runs this epic program with no breaks and an all-you-can-eat cereal bar. And CUFF doesn’t do it halfway. The selection of cereal on the table is as eclectic and obscure as the cartoons they show. The festival’s lead programmer Brennan Tilley has gone to great lengths to ensure that.

“I gather most of the cereal. I certainly can’t take credit for hitting every store, but most of it goes through me,” says Tilley. “I picked up about a $1,000 worth of cereal this year.” 

And this isn’t just a trip down the cereal aisle at the local supermarket. This is a world wide-affair, where Tilley mobilizes his operatives to optimize cereal variety. There will be seven types of Lucky Charms on the table. He sourced a Wal-Mart in North Dakota that has an amazing selection of sugar cereals. He even managed to score a box from Down Under. Australian cereal! But for Tilley there is one box of sugary goodness that really stands out.

“Unicorn was kind of my holy grail last year and I managed to finally find a box at a Halifax candy store about a week after the festival, which wasn’t much use,” he says. “This year I was able to find a box on one of my travels down in the States.”

Tilley admits he doesn’t try the cereals prior to the event. He can’t speak to the quality of the Chicken and Waffles or the Sour Patch Kids cereal. (Both sound potentially amazing and horrifying at the same time.) It’s probably for the best, too. He’s the kind of guy that just eats dry cereal out of the box. And if we’re honest, his tastes are far more responsible than the all-you-can-eat cereal bar would suggest.

“I was more of an Oatmeal Crisp kid,” he says. “I guess that goes with my childhood image of being nerdy.

“Out of anyone on the team, I probably eat the least cereal and I’m the one who goes really crazy for finding things.”

Brendan Tilley’s tips for making the most of the all-you-can-eat cereal party 

1. Pace yourself: There is a lot of cereal and the boxes will be continually restocked during the event. Just ride the wave of what’s there.

2. Try something new: Embrace the spirit of the event. Don’t eat boring. You can do that on your own time.

3. Come back as many times as you want: There is no need to pile your bowl high with a gross mix of all kinds of cereal. You won’t be able to appreciate the subtle flavour differences.

4. BYOB: Bring your own bowl. CUFF provides compostable bowls and spoons, but it never hurts to do your part for the environment. 

5. BYOB: Buy your own bowl. This year CUFF is selling branded cereal bowls at the event.

The Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat Cereal Cartoon Party! screens at the Globe Cinema at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 27 as part of the Calgary Underground Film Festival.

Jason Lewis is a writer who used to watch Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears animated series and eat a lot of Froot Loops.