Puppets grace Montreal screens for 10th consecutive year

Stop Motion Montreal celebrates the milestone with worldwide talent, as 58 films from nearly 30 countries are being shown at Concordia's De Sève theatre this weekend.

Stop Motion Montreal celebrates milestone with worldwide talent this weekend

Erik Goulet felt stop motion animation was an underappreciated art form and decided to try to change that himself in 2009. (Shanna Segal/Stop Motion Montreal)

Though millions have seen his work, few would recognize Tim Allen's name — or his face. Allen's hands and puppetry skills are behind such films as Corpse Bride and Isle of Dogs.

Based in London, the animator is in Canada for the first time, for the 10th edition of Stop Motion Montreal, a festival that celebrates the filmmaking technique in which objects are moved at miniscule increments and filmed, to then later appear to move at full speed.

Allen had known about Montreal's festival for years and didn't hesitate when he was asked to participate, giving stop-motion enthusiasts a behind-the-scenes look at some of his films this weekend.

"This was a very special hub for stop motion, and I always knew that at some point I'd love to come here and see what this is all about," Allen said. "Clearly there's something very special here," Allen said.

Allen is one of dozens of filmmakers hosting workshops and screening their work at Concordia's De Sève theatre this weekend.

With 58 films from nearly 30 countries, the festival is a far stretch from what its founder and director Erik Goulet imagined it would be a decade ago.

"I was always a bit sad because I wasn't seeing enough [stop motion], and at some point my wife told me, 'If you want to see more, maybe you should start your own film festival,'" Goulet recalled. A festival was born.

Goulet launched the first edition of the festival in 2009.

It was supposed to be a one-off, until an audience member came up to him as they were cleaning up after the event and patted him on the back.

"See you next year," he said.

Goulet realized people expected him to keep the festival alive — and he hasn't stopped since.

The festival now receives funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Quebec Arts Council, the Conseil des Arts de Montreal, as well as a few sponsors.

Years in the making

Montreal filmmakers Sylvie Trouvé and Dale Hayward are grateful for the opportunity the festival gives independent filmmakers like them to show their work to a larger audience, on a larger screen.

They worked for nearly five years on their first narrative film Bone Mother, which premieres at the festival this weekend.

An adult take on classic folklore tales, Bone Mother employs 3D-printing techniques and tells the story of the mythical Baba Yaga and her house of bones. With a visit from Vlad the Impaler, the characters go on a journey that challenges the stereotype of the "evil witch" and teaches others to respect their elders.

Trouvé and Hayward's first narrative film, Bone Mother, premieres at the festival this weekend. (NFB)

The couple watched their nine-year-old daughter grow along with the characters of the film and bounced ideas off her throughout the production. When their second child was born, Trouvé and Hayward only took a two-week break before heading back into production.

That means focusing on small details — sometimes dedicating entire days to moving miniature blades of grass. Many wonder why they continue to do stop motion, Trouvé said, especially now that so many filmmakers have moved on to computer animation.

For them, it's simple: stop motion reminds them of the feeling they had playing with toys as children.

"We're professional kids," Trouvé said.

"There's a certain aspect of animation, if it's done right, that you can believe the world that it's trying to create more than you can in live action," Hayward said.

About 1,500 people usually attend Stop Motion Montreal, and with new categories added to this year's program, Goulet expects to see a larger audience this year.

One of the additions, "Youth Film," is dedicated to films geared toward children.

All films are shorts, and most are without dialogue, so that people from all corners of the world can understand them.

The festival will feature workshops, seminars, screenings and booths where adults and children can try their own hand at stop motion animation.

More information about Stop Motion Montreal is available on the festival's website, here.