Report on TAAFI: Toronto Animation Arts Festival International

This past week you might have enjoyed the Toronto Fringe Festival’s selection of independent theatrical presentations at venus around the city. But nestled in the TIFF Bell Lightbox was a smaller event, Toronto’s first annual animation festival, the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International, or TAAFI. With Canada being home to Nelvana, Mainframe, and Cookie Jar, it’s pretty amazing it’s taken this long for an animation festival to spring up in Toronto. TAAFI took some influence from Ottawa’s animation fesitval and a few notes from TIFF, and ended up with enough coolness to rival TCAF.

While I’ve wanted to explore the Fringe Festival for almost a decade, I picked TAAFI instead because it was all held in a single location and is it their fist year, so I could lay claim to the ground floor experience. If those features weren’t already enough to persuade me, I would have made up my mind solely for the festival’s airing of Rock & Rule. I spent much of my free time between exhibits in the company of my friend, animation student Heather Leach, who assured me of the pedigree of the guests I was unfamiliar with.

One of the special guests was notorious animation icon John Kricfalusi, who’s almost as well-known for his animation theory as he is for his classic output.  Although I didn’t wait in his autograph line, I was lucky enough to catch him in the hall between events. He actually seemed pleasant and not the cranky guy I have heard legend of, so perhaps I’ll give his blog another chance.

The main highlight of the event was, of course, a cavalcade of short films: tons of brief pieces from around the world in every kind of animation. Bit and pieces  blending CGI, traditional 2D illustration, and stop-motion, among other techniques. Some pieces were pure abstraction, solely showcasing colourful integrations of shapes. But the message was clear: There’s a whole universe of amazing animated shorts outside of what you catch before Pixar movies. Many of the shorts are on Youtube, but seeing them on the big screen was well worth the ticket price.

The Girl & the Fox, Tyler Kupferer, USA.

Personal Favourites*:

• Fester Goes Fishing, dir. Aaron Long, Canada

• The Last Belle, dir. Neil Boyle, UK

• Being Bradford Dilman, dir. Emma Burch, UK

• Memory Tapes–Yes I Know, dir. Eric Epstein, USA

On the other hand..

• How To Raise The Moon (dir. Anja Stuck, Germany) was a bit too cold for me.

• While I personally found it both intense and fascinating, I imagine “Loom” (dir. Kan Bitzer, Llija Brunk, Csaba Letay) could have sent somebody with the wrong phobias into a coma.

(*Of the two presentations I caught)

There were also tickets sold to panels with industry specialists. I sampled the panel experience in the “Music In Animation” seminar, thinking it sounded cool enough. It was a treat to see hosts Norm Beaver, Tim Foy, and Paul Koffman discuss their field and give insight into the process behind music that untrained ears ignore. However, Norm Beaver’s experiment with the Ruby Gloom intro stretched a bit dull,  giving me a classroom vibe (white square room didn’t help). Still, I’ve taken Animation classes, and the information in the seminar at TAAFI was a lot more dense and relevant than most of the classes I took, aside from being maybe a hundredth of the price.

Later in the evening, the Rock & Rule airing was the big event for Saturday. The movie defines the term “cult classic” and is a historical part of Canada’s media culture, yet was also a financial failure. It manages to be both awesome and not especially good. After seeing the film on the big screen with the largest gathering of people to watch in one place, there was a brief Q&A with several people who were involved in producing the film (28 years ago). Since then, many of them, such as Scott Caple and Roger Allers, have enjoyed careers working on actually successful animated features like The Lion King. During their Q&A they all were happy to see that their film had found its cult, and none of them had any delusions that, while the music was great, a lot of aspects of the movie were extremely rough and occasionally nonsensical.

So I’ve already decided to return next year, and show up for both days. This year I was limited to one day, so I missed a lot of fun and interesting stuff like the premier of Ronal The Barbarian and the Kaj Pindal retrospective. Thanks to a well-written program, I’ll be able to Youtube most of the shorts I missed. The bonus copy the Animation Magazine “Stash” that came with admission will also keep me busy.

I’ll make sure to buy my tickets early next year, because while this year the theatres had plenty of spare seats, I can image within two years it will become a race. I don’t think they’ll ever be able to top this year’s Rock & Rule, But I do admit I’d totally get enthusiastic about special presentations of The Raccoons since, after all, I am Canadian.

• If you missed TAAFI but need something cool to do, the Beguiling is hosting the signing of the Adventure Time spinoff: Marceline & the Scream Queens.

• And you’re totally going to see The Dark Knight Rises, right?

ConBravo! is a cool upcoming convention with a lot of cool guests from the internet who are rare to catch in Canada.

For more events in the GTA, check our event calendar. If you know of any events we aren’t listing, please leave a comment bellow or E-mail us.

-Michael S Ryan, July 9th, 2012

Teletoon, please go back to being cool. Back in 2005 you seemed like you had the right idea but…. seriously, you’re airing Terminator 3 and Daredevil and it’s embarrassing.

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  • C Najork

    Glad you liked my video.