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'It is a medium' is the message: Animators, puppeteers celebrated at Festival of Animated Objects


It's a 20-day festival hosted by a number of Calgary venues with 118 creators from southern Alberta featured along with four international performers from France.

The Festival of Animated Objects showcases the wildest imaginations come to life on stage and screen with puppets and masks.

Mackenzie Bedford, an animator as well as the festival's marketing co-ordinator, says this year's event is for people of all ages.

"It's not just for kids," Bedford said.

"Puppetry, animation, mask arts, they seem to really resonate with children, but it is a medium. It is not a genre. It's not just cartoons. You can create some really deep, heavy, thought-provoking work with puppets and masks with frame-by-frame animation."

The festival will host a number of exhibits and workshops on how to make a puppet or mask along with animation screenings.

"I believe it's important to showcase this art form because it is timeless," Bedford said.

"It is one of the oldest art forms we've had. It's still here, there are still stories that you can only tell with puppets, with masks, with animation, because real life just doesn't have that."

This year's international feature is by four members of Label Brut from France called ici ou (pas) la.

It's a wordless show using fragmented puppets and projectors, about understanding the body and coming to self-acceptance.

"On Friday (March 17), ici ou (pas) la, in English that means 'here are not there,'" Bedford said.

"It is a show about how to just find your space within yourself and grow in your body through change and metamorphosis, and that's for ages eight and up."

Celestine Twigg, a grades 7-12 Blackfoot language teacher at F.P. Walshe High School in Fort Macleod, Alta., worked on an animation project highlighting English words with their Blackfoot translation, helping produce 29 short cartoons.

"I like to make it easier and fun to learn, so I use any kind of tools (in the classroom)," Twigg said.

"I use pictures and my hands a lot, I've used puppets and I get all these kinds of ideas through cartoons, especially Sesame Street – it's my favourite and that's the best tool so far."

It was Twigg's dream to have cartoons made so more people could learn the language.

She says some of her students take to it quickly while others aren't interested because it's too hard to learn.

"It was my first language and so nowadays, the young (generation), it's their second language," she said.

"For me, the language is who we are and we want to keep it going."

Twigg worked with producer Xstine Cook, who is also the co-artistic director and founder of festival.

Cook learned that the Blackfoot language only uses 16 characters compared to the English language's 26.

"So, the words tend to be really long and if you just hear it for the first time as an English speaker, it's impossible to understand what you're even hearing," she said.

Along with the animation, the Blackfoot word is spelled out at the bottom of the screen, where the syllables are highlighted to help viewers sound it out.

Cook and Twigg are impressed by what the animators came up with to showcase the translations.

Learn more about the festival at Top Stories

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