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Celebrate Halloween and International Animation Day with 8 dark, weird, and wacky films

Celebrate Halloween and International Animation Day with 8 dark, weird, and wacky films

Celebrate Halloween and International Animation Day with 8 dark, weird, and wacky films

Not only is my favourite holiday of the year coming up—Halloween!—but we’ve got something else to celebrate. Did you know that October 28th is International Animation Day? Cool!

In honour of this wacky week of fantasy and creativity, we’ve plastered with tons of colourful, creepy, and campy animated delights. A few of these gems even come from our Hothouse animation apprenticeship program, so this is your chance to see the work of emerging animators before they make it big.

Nothing says Halloween like a good ol’-fashioned vampire

Our blood-sucking nocturnal friends are probably the most lasting and universal symbol of Halloween. Let’s explore what they’ve been up to.

In Land of the Heads, we meet an undeniably adorable yet creepy little vampire whose job it is to go out at night and separate children from their heads. The Tim Burton-esque imagery is intricate, lively, and quite funny, and the opening song sounds more than a little like that master of the macabre, Tom Waits. Check it out:

Land of the Heads, Cédric Louis & Claude Barras, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

In Kali the Little Vampire, our title character must, of course, stay out of the daylight. But this secluded existence in the dark causes Kali to be jealous of the other kids, whose sprightly playtime takes place in the sunshine. Will Kali find his place among the other kids? This touching and moody short animation is narrated by the venerable Christopher Plummer, and is available via DTO. Watch the trailer here:

Kali the Little Vampire, Regina Pessoa, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Finally, in what is perhaps our most hilarious and campy vampire offering this Halloween, a well-meaning vampire tries to teach one of his potential victims about the dangers of cigarette smoking. Ashes of Doom was made as an anti-smoking PSA for the Department of National Health and Welfare in the 1970s. More recently, the film has experienced a bit of a viral revival online, because of its campy soap-opera-ish aesthetics. Take a look, and have a laugh:

Ashes of Doom , Grant Munro & Don Arioli, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Celebrating animation in the Hothouse apprenticeship

Every year, we gather a group of talented young animators in our Montreal studios for a 12-week paid apprenticeship in hands-on animation. Each participant emerges from the hectic yet instructive atmosphere with a short (usually 1-2 minute) film, and we’ve got an entire playlist of Hothouse gems, past and present, on Check it out here!

Each Hothouse iteration features a Mentoring Director whose knowledge of and experience in animation is a veritable treasure chest for the young minds hoping to soak up all things animation. This year’s Mentoring Director is none other than Chris Landreth, the acclaimed Oscar®-winning filmmaker behind Ryan and Subconcious Password. You can learn more about Chris on his official website. And we’re streaming Subconscious Password on for free this week, so check it out while you can!

Subconscious Password, Chris Landreth, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

And why not also check out a gem from last year’s Hothouse apprenticeship? In Brendan Matkin’s Observer, traces of the world’s many, many cell phone signals are mapped onto a beautifully abstract animation of the perceptive powers of our tiny robot friends.

Observer, Brendan Matkin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Not for kids: dark and dramatic animation for serious audiences

While animation may have a reputation as being a whimsical medium for the young—and young at heart—it’s also a very powerful artform that can address social issues with as much strength, conviction, and artistry as the most hard-hitting documentary.

In Patrick Bouchard’s tragicomic film Subservience, we enter a dark, sombre world of exploitation and domination. But what will happen to a world in which one human enslaves another? Watch this stunning and accomplished oeuvre to find out:

Subservience, Patrick Bouchard, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

In Paula, a young boy witnesses a harrowing attack on a sex worker in his neighbourhood, and what he sees will stay with him forever. This tragic film is a meditation on what happens when two seemingly disparate worlds collide.

Paula, Dominic-Étienne Simard, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

End off with a heartwarming tale of perseverance

You’ll need your spirits lifted after those sombre films. In From Far Away, you’ll get to know Saoussan—a young girl who has just emigrated to Canada from her war-torn homeland. Saoussan’s first experience of Halloween will be a challenging one. The scary costumes and acvtivities remind her of the violence and death that she experienced back home. But all ends well: Saoussan finally learns that there’s nothing as scary as what she remembers here in Canada.

From Far Away, Shira Avni & Serene El-haj Daoud, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

In Montreal? Go to the International Animation Day screening at cinéma Excentris!

If you’re located in the Montreal area (or just visiting), make sure to check out the Animate Yourselves screening at the Excentris cinema on Tuesay, October 28th. It’s a celebration of all things animation, including some of the best short animation to come out of our studios in recent years. This is your chance to see, among other gems, Oscar®-winner Torill Kove‘s latest, Me and My Moulton. Watch the trailer below.

Me and My Moulton, Torill Kove, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Happy Halloween, everyone—and don’t forget to celebrate International Animation Day on October 28th!


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