Quickdraw sticks its neck out with larger, online version of annual animation event GIRAF

Sometimes, serendipitously, a pandemic isn’t a deal-breaker, but an opportunity. That’s the way the folks at Quickdraw Animation Society view it, as they prepare to launch this year’s Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival – GIRAF, for short.

With nearly twice as many films as their roster would normally handle, and 10 full days of streaming, GIRAF, running from Nov.19-29, is accessible to far more animation aficionados than ever before.

“We’re really trying to focus on the opportunity of being able to bring the festival to everyone, rather than focusing on the negative of what we’re missing from the theatre experience,” says Peter Hemminger, executive director at Quickdraw.

While GIRAF organizers had once entertained the idea of taking the festival on the road to venues around the province, the plan just never came to fruition. 

Now, viewers from Alberta – and around the world – can stream any of the screenings, at any time during the festival’s run, giving viewers the flexibility they may not have had in years past.

Eighty short and feature films were selected out of over 1,000 submissions, so with shorts packages starting at $10 and festival passes at $50, viewers will get a lot of bang for their buck.

Not to be confused with your typical Saturday morning cartoons, Hemminger says GIRAF offers an accessible entry into the art form, but challenges audiences with more unconventional animation, from horror, to documentary, to “mind-expanding, transcendental animated experiences.”

One of the festival highlights will feature an artist talk with Oregon animator Christiane Cegavske. 

Known for her otherworldly creatures, and unsettling and imaginative storylines, Cegavske made her name creating the stop-motion animation in Asia Argento’s cult film, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, and for her first solo, feature-length film, Blood Tea and Red String, a project that took Cegavske over 13 years to complete.

Now well into her 12th year of production on her follow-up, Seed in the Sand, she says that despite the post-apocalyptic feel of her work, the world and creatures she’s created may exist in some sort of post-human landscape, but aren’t pinned to reality in any way. 

“It’s familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. There’s cuteness, and then there’s horror. I get surprised at which things people interpret as which, because it’s not always what I intend.”

She says her cute, hardy little anthropomorphic creatures “serve as a vehicle for considering our own natures from a comfortable distance.”

California-born, Vancouver-based “non-filmic animator” Anna Firth has a similar relationship with her line-drawn anthropomorphic characters, using them for what she calls “a blurring technique” to “explore identities that dissent from normal human traits and behaviours.”

Firth’s shorts and installations primarily feature never-ending loops and GIFs – a sense of infinity that may seem oddly familiar to anyone exposed to the tedium of a COVID-19 lockdown.

“My style of monotony and repetition fits really well within the framework of quarantine and COVID, which is coincidence, because a lot of that was just commentary on being a young adult in a late-capitalist world, stuck in this endless job I hate, or stuck in contemporary life, and as much as we try, we’re just treadmilling.”

Firth will be presenting a workshop on her own DIY animation techniques, which came about when she left art school and no longer had regular access to studio space, resources, and equipment.

“I came up in Olympia, Washington’s punk scene, in the aftermath of riot grrrl, so the whole DIY thing was the norm there. It was like, ‘We don’t need computers to do animation! We’re punk!’ And I’ve never really dropped that.”

A similar ethos is what drives former Quickdraw youth animation project producer, Anne Koizumi, whose documentary short, In the Shadow of the Pines, will be shown in conjunction with the Calgary Underground Film Festival.

Koizumi stumbled into animation after borrowing a library book about Aardman Animations, the studio responsible for the stop-motion Wallace and Gromit films.

“I am a self-taught animator. Everything I’ve learned is through that book essentially.” 

Koizumi based her first stop-motion short around a 3D diorama she created of Van Gogh’s room at Arles. She’s since made a name for herself in Canadian animation, and now works for the National Film Board.

In the Shadow of the Pines, which premiered at the Hot Docs Festival, is an ode to her father, who passed away eight years ago. 

It centres around a humiliating event that occurred while Koizumi was in elementary school – where her Japanese immigrant father happened to work as a janitor – and how the resulting shame she felt over his broken English and lowly occupation came to define her.

In the Shadow of The Pines took nearly four years to complete, and Koizumi says the extended production time was a result of her own personal and emotional attachment to the story.

“It was challenging, and there were moments where I would get really stuck and I’d stop working for three or four months. But I just knew it was something I needed to finish.”

Koizumi says the time spent building her sets, particularly recreating her family’s old living room, were among the most difficult.

“There were moments where I’d be making a specific prop and it would bring me to tears.”

Still, Koizumi found herself connecting with her father in a way she couldn’t while he was alive, for reasons that may have been attached to his own feelings of shame.

“He didn’t tell me any of his story when he was alive. I don’t know if that’s because it was painful for him, or if it was cultural, because within Japanese culture, things that are painful aren’t often talked about. And because there is oftentimes shame associated with that pain.”

Still, Koizumi says he was her biggest fan.

“He’s the one who made the biggest sacrifices so I could do what I wanted to do.”

Quickdraw Animation Society’s GIRAF takes place from Nov. 19-29. For more information please go to

Former dive bar doyenne Autumn Fox has spent 2020 discovering that she’s crap at jigsaw puzzles and wondering why she bought a day-timer. Find her on Twitter at @AudieCantFail.