September sees the return of one of the more singular events in the North American animation calendar. Festival Stop Motion Montreal is the world’s longest-running festival dedicated to this medium, and perhaps its most ambitious. The 11th edition, which runs September 16–22, will center on the theme of “stop motion in the digital age.”

This year’s program boasts 80 films alongside a range of masterclasses, workshops, and other activities. In total, 57 of the stop-motion shorts are playing in competition, including heavyweight award-winners like Bruno Collet’s Mémorable (which scooped the top prize at Annecy) and the Oscar-shortlisted Lost & Found by Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe. Out of competition, there are a number of themed screenings, as well as guest programs courtesy of Thessaloniki Animation Festival (Greece) and Bit Bang Festival (Argentina).

Festival Stop Motion Montreal reliably draws interesting guest speakers, and this year is no exception. Masterclasses will be given by vfx titan Phil Tippett, Laika animator Philippe Tardif, and Johan Oettinger, a director of stop-motion films and games and founder of Wiredfly studio. Here are the official program notes:

The festival is proud to welcome Phil Tippett, a legendary stop-motion visual effects artist, who has been working for several years on the short film series Mad God as an independent filmmaker. Three episodes of this series will be presented, in addition to its virtual reality version. Phil Tippett will also offer a conference that allows festival goers to learn about the different aspects of his work.

Originally from Gatineau, Philippe Tardif studied stop motion at Concordia University. An animator for several years at Laika, in the United States, he has participated in five of the six feature films by the American studio. He knows all the secrets and tricks behind the unique visual style that characterizes the studio’s features. Philippe Tardif will share his knowledge during a conference focusing on the digital tools used in the creation of stop motion films.

The other special guest of this edition is Johan Oettinger, founder of the Danish animation studio Wiredfly, which specializes in animated short films, puppetry, and video games. The studio is currently developing the video game Vokabulantis, produced by Kong Orange, an episodic game where the puppet film and video game merge. Segments of the game can be experienced by the public during the festival. Johan Oettinger will give a lecture, taking the public behind the scenes of this interesting production.

Tippett, whose credits include the Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Twilight films, is the subject of a feature documentary that will play at the festival, Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters.

Tying into this edition’s theme, the festival has a new offering: an area where attendees can try out video games made with stop-motion techniques. This complements the stop-motion virtual reality zone, which was launched in 2018 and returns this year. These games and vr projects reveal to what extent some artists are integrating stop motion into digital media.

This year’s edition of Festival Stop Motion Montreal is the first since the event changed leadership. The festival was founded in 2009 by Érik Goulet, who steered it through its first ten editions. Earlier this month, Goulet passed the torch to Marie Valade and Dominique Côté, respectively a former coordinator and programmer of the festival. Valade and Côté will serve as co-directors. “They are the perfect fit to pursue our mission and bring new ideas and a fresh look to our beloved event,” said Goulet in a statement.

The films and masterclasses will be held September 20–22 at Concordia University and Cinéma Moderne, in Montreal, Canada. They will be preceded by four days of workshops hosted by professionals. For the full program and ticketing details, head to the festival’s website.

(Image at top: “Untravel,” which is playing in competition.)

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