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Ottawa International Animation Festival

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The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) is an animation film festival in Ottawa, established in 1976. Its current Artistic director is Chris Robinson.


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In 1976, the Canadian Film Institute founded the biennial Ottawa International Animation Festival. First held August 10 to 15, 1976, the OIAF created a gathering place for North American animation professionals and enthusiasts to ponder the craft and business of animation. It also provided their international colleagues with a unique opportunity to gain an appreciation for and access to the North American scene.

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Canada's capital was a natural choice for an international animation festival. Home to animation innovator Norman McLaren, some of Canada's first private animation studios, and the former headquarters of the National Film Board, Ottawa's animation community provided a nurturing atmosphere for the fledgling festival.

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In 1997, the OIAF launched the International Student Animation Festival of Ottawa (SAFO). Held in alternate years to the OIAF, the SAFO was created to provide a venue for student and emerging animators to draw extra attention to their work. Children, high school, undergraduate, graduate and first-time filmmakers were provided with a distinct venue to show their films, discuss issues, and meet other young filmmakers, animation educators, and industry representatives. When the OIAF moved from a biennial to an annual festival in 2005, the student categories become a part of the main festival.

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Since the beginning, the OIAF has put out a call for entries for films to compete for festival prizes, including the prestigious Grand Prize, the festival's highest honour. Beginning with just over 400 films at the 1976 festival, the number of entries received for OIAF 09 was a record-breaking 2,185 films, the most entries ever received by any international animation festival to date.

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To further meet industry needs, the OIAF organized its first-ever Television Animation Conference (TAC) in 2004, a chance for Canadian and international animation producers, broadcasters, and buyers to network, discuss industry issues, and do business. The two-day annual conference is held during the festival at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in downtown Ottawa.

Founded at the dawn of computer animation, the festival continues to display the latest in animation technology, while still celebrating the variety and talent behind so-called traditional animation. From the first computer-generated animation workshop led by National Research Council scientist Nestor Burtnyk in 1976 to the expansion of the New Media category from one umbrella to four sub-categories in 2004, the festival remains on the cusp of animation's cutting-edge.

In 2008, the Ottawa International Animation Festival celebrated its 32nd anniversary with a number of very special events, including a gala screening of Richard Williams’ classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit in honour of its 20th anniversary. Lauded in the press and enjoyed by thousands of attendees, OIAF 08 not only paid tribute to the past but launched the Festival toward more success in the years to come.

The last ten years have seen the Animation Festival grow in attendance and programming with the OIAF hosting an official film competition featuring the most interesting and original animated features from around the world. Short film competitions featuring selected films from over 2000 entries are shown to a growing audience of over 30000 attendees. There are at least three (3) showcase screenings featuring new animated works from Canada and the world, and up to eight (8) special programs that explore a wide range of animation styles and techniques and the work of today’s prominent animators. There is a variety of entertaining programs and activities curated for young children, teenagers and families.

In 2013, Genndy Tartakovsky, a 20 year veteran of the art, attended the screening of his latest work, Hotel Transylvania. Tartakovsky’s work and creations have been featured in a number of well-known animated franchises including: Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Sym-Bionic Titan. Tartakovsky has received an impressive 12 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and been awarded three Emmys for work on the series Star Wars: Clone Wars and Samurai Jack, both for Cartoon Network.

The 25th anniversary of the Disney classic animated film ‘The Little Mermaid’ was rereleased at OIAF 2014 with the original directors, Ron Clements and John Musker in attendance for a conversation at the St. Brigid Centre for the Arts. The Little Mermaid film helped revive the Disney franchise and marked the end of cell painted animation as it moved into the digital age.

In 2015, the Ottawa Arts Court studio hosted an art exhibit and all night screening featuring the work of acclaimed Canadian animator Michele Cournoyer, showcasing her stark animation addressing themes of addiction, sexuality and abuse.

A Japanese animator, Sarina Nihei, walked away with the prize for best independent short animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival for her film Small People With Hats she made as a student. Nihei is a recent graduate from London’s Royal College of Art. She now lives in Tokyo, Japan. Over the course of the last 40 years, the OIAF has produced innovative programming with spotlights on the Czech Republic, Estonia, a program with the theme of hip hop in animation, food and animation, Indigenous animation, the Not for Children program featuring artistic adult content, and Japanese anime, with a historical review of Japanese films from Astroboy to Studio Ghibli.

“We've got fan favourites from the big studios, Oscar winners, along with our usual assortment of quirky, provocative work guaranteed to confuse, inspire and maybe even get under your skin a little bit.” says Chris Robinson, OIAF’s Artistic Director. “It's fascinating to watch the continued evolution and maturity of feature animation. Not only are films like The Magic Mountain and Adama tackling difficult political and historical subjects, but they're doing so using an intriguing mix of techniques. And even more conventional family fair like Possessed and Over the Garden Wall are approaching genres with an originality and diversity that is rarely seen in the feature world.”


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