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Graphic by Dianne Miranda

The Festival of Animated Objects brings the whimsy and magic to the arts in Calgary

By Dianne Miranda, March 16 2024—

The Festival of Animated Objects is Calgary’s long-running festival for all ages happening from March 8 to 24 that wonderfully combines the art form of puppetry and masks with contemporary spaces, themes and ideas. 

This year includes 11 workshops in an increase from last year’s two, three new works by local artists, an adult-only feature presentation from Vancouver and more. 

“I think that there [are] a lot of magical, whimsical things to find every year, but this year we have expanded specifically our educational component,” said Cosmo Christoffersen, managing producer, in an interview with the Gauntlet. “There are a lot more ways to get your hands dirty with the festival this year, whether you’re a beginner or you have been performing for years.” 

“We have our Dolly Wiggler Cabaret, which is like the crown jewel of the festival. It’s been going since the festival was founded in 2002. It’s hosted by our founder Xstine Cook, who is just one of the most entertaining and kind women out there. It will be a very eye-opening wacky time because there are a million unexpected ways to animate objects that are beyond your wildest imagination.”

The theme of this year’s festival is Growing Together. Christoffersen suggests that this theme is an acknowledgement that signals a return to pre-COVID levels for festival and theatre artists, emphasizing the gradual rise of both the artists themselves, the communities they engage with and the audience attending the events.

“This festival is bigger than last year’s and it’s just a continuous growing. We want to highlight that we’re not at the place we were pre-Covid, but we’re well on our way. We are growing to reach new community partners, new audiences and always finding new little pockets in the city who are interested in this very niche art form,” they said. 

For Christoffersen, puppetry is this niche art form under the umbrella of theatre in Calgary that welcomes everyone in and can touch everyone’s lives in a different way.

“We like to say that we have the weirdest artists in the theatre industry in the city. There’s a web of the festival that reaches out to everyone in the community,” Christoffersen said. “Even though it’s not the biggest festival and we might not be the most widely known festival. There are a lot of people out there who are die-hard into puppets and of the people who know us, they really love the work that we display.”

The landscape and art form of puppet and mask arts is ever-growing, holding relevance in today’s world through the ways that puppetry can be a means to bring lightness and whimsy and find expression to themes all deal with on a daily basis.

“I think when people think of puppets, they might think of something that they’ve seen as children, which is absolutely still an important part of the art form, but there are so many different ways to embed [all of these intense heavy themes] into puppetry by animating different objects or building different puppets and masks,” they said. 

Christoffersen hopes that attendees will be inspired to bring some of the creativity and magic they experience in the events into their own lives. They state that the creativity that blossoms from the festival is beautiful and that it can ignite the inner artists in all of us. 

“Whether it’s seeing more shows in different art forms that are bringing things to life in a new way, or whether it’s checking out a workshop or just going into your garage or junk drawer and putting things together and seeing what you can make.”

In a final statement, Christoffersen would like to highlight the talented artists not only involved in the festival but also in the city.

“There are so many talented, wonderful artists in the city. Keep an eye out for all of them and what they’re doing and building, and if there’s any chance of meeting them or seeing their work or of learning from them, I think that everyone should take the opportunity at least once.”

If you’re looking to spice your life with a sprinkle of the whimsical and the magical, the Festival of Animated Objects has just the right events for you. The festival runs until March 24. To view the calendar and buy your tickets, please visit their website

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