The Ottawa International Animation Festival was founded by the Canadian Film Institute (the second oldest film institute in the world, founded in 1935) in 1975 and the first OIAF took place in Ottawa in 1976, making it the first major animation festival to take place in North America. Ottawa already had a history of being the hub of animation in Canada, being home to the National Film Board and legendary animators like Norman McLaren (Neighbours).
The early editions of OIAF attracted animation pioneers like Lotte Reineinger, Alexeïeff & Parker, and McLaren, as well as all the up-and-coming independent animators in North America. After some ups and downs in the 80s, including the Festival’s move to Toronto, then Hamilton, the OIAF returned home to Ottawa in 1988 and has been going strong ever since.
The Festival grew throughout the 90s; more films submitted, more international recognition, more local attention, more staff members. In August 1999, the OIAF was on fire. No, literally. The OIAF office in the Arts Court building burnt to a crisp. Much was lost, or at least covered in soot, but the Festival was able to go on. After that year’s Festival, Chris Robinson stepped down as Executive Director of the OIAF, and instead created two Director positions; Artistic Director, for himself, and Managing Director, which Kelly Neall took on. Both are still in those positions, innovating and improving the Festival every single year.
The Animation Conference (originally named the Television Animation Conference) was created in 2004. This animation business conference is the only event in Canada designed to cater to professionals in the animation industry: including content creation, development, production, distribution and marketing. TAC has hosted animation heavy-hitters like Seth Green (Robot Chicken), Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas), and Rebecca Sugar (Steven Universe) and the connections made between animators and industry execs at TAC over the years have led to some of your favourite animated shows being created.
In 2016, the OIAF celebrated 40 years of the Festival with the monumental, interactive party, NightOwl. The Saturday night party full of dancing, drawing, VR, film screenings, and several bar options continues to be a highlight of every edition.
The OIAF brought more than just the animation community into the Festival in 2017 with the addition of InGenius Jr Day for kids and their families to enjoy screenings, workshops, and fun with their favorite TV characters, and Animation Exposé, which gives the public a chance to get behind the scenes of their favourite animated films and shows with high profile talks. The Animation Exposé Fair became the hotspot for attendees to find a job, a school or just learn about the world of animation.
Like most film festivals, the OIAF had to make big changes and create a new type of festival in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team took on the challenge of re-creating the atmosphere of the Festival in online spaces, and succeeded, with animation lovers from all over the world virtually attending, many for the first time.
Canadian Film Institute (CFI) Board of Directors
Jim McKeen, Chair (Ottawa, joined November 2016)
Hayley Cooper, Treasurer (Ottawa, joined June 2020)
Lauren Brown (Ottawa, joined February 2018)
Will Straw (Montreal, joined September 2017)
Patrick Dion (Ottawa, joined May 2018)
Joy Yang (Toronto, joined May 2018)
Ways to Support Us
There are many different ways you can show your support to the OIAF.
The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OlAF) is a unique and accessible space that fosters public appreciation for the art and craft of animation. It aims to inspire artistic minds, connect and engage a community and create a transformative experience. It fosters the development and growth of local, regional and national animation talent. While Canada’s animators and animation companies are among the most creative and successful in the world, the OlAF has been instrumental in helping these artists achieve commercial success and artistic excellence. It also provides a forum and a conduit through which artistic vibrancy and commercial expertise can be shared and exchanged among these various communities.
The Canadian Film Institute’s (CFI) overall mission is to encourage and promote the production, diffusion, study, appreciation and use of moving images for cultural and educational purposes in Canada and abroad. The CFI is a unique Ottawa institution that organizes ongoing public film programming and artist talks, provides educational enhancements on its websites, and publishes books and monographs on various aspects of Canadian cinema.
Within this broader mandate, the CFI is also actively exhibiting, promoting, and developing a critical context for Canadian independent cinema. The overarching objective of these activities is to demonstrate the depth and variety of Canadian cinematic expression that exists outside the dominant commercial models of film production, distribution, and exhibition. Moreover, the CFI’s independent film programming affords audiences in the Ottawa-Gatineau region opportunities to view challenging, alternative Canadian and International works to which they would not otherwise have access.
For more information about the work that the OIAF does throughout the year, you can view the 2020 OIAF Final Report.
Code of Conduct
Ottawa International Animation Festival Code of Conduct Policies
NB: Failure to read or understand this document does not exclude anyone from the consequences of violating these policies.
If you have any questions about the OIAF, you can contact us via the form below!