The Glenbow Museum will be the only host of Watch Me Move: The Animation Show in North America

The Glenbow Museum was bustling on Saturday, Oct. 15, for the opening of its newest exhibit, “Watch Me Move: The Animation Show.”

Animation is a visual medium that pervades our collective perception of pop culture, and seeing as its been around for 150 years, this shouldn’t be surprising. From Saturday morning cartoons to the ever-advancing technologies behind computer graphic imaging (CGI) or the newest 3D extravaganzas that have become a mainstay for moviegoers, animation is all around us — even when we may not realize it.

“Watch Me Move” is the world’s largest and most comprehensive animation exhibit organized by the Barbican Art Gallery in London, England. Calgary will be the only stop in North America before the tour moves on to Asia.

Megan Bailey, Glenbow’s communication specialist, said it makes sense that Calgary was chosen to be first on the exhibit’s tour.

“Calgarians appreciate big cultural experiences and that’s what this is,” Bailey said.

The exhibit features six sections on two floors, each with a particular theme. The films range wildly from a look at the first animation projects like Disney’s classic “Silly Symphonies – Skeleton Dance” (1929), to more experimental endeavors like the bizarre stop-motion-installation exploration “The Rhinoceros and the Whale” (2008), which involves adult themes.

There are lesser-known pieces by well-known filmmakers like Tim Burton’s “Vincent,” narrated by Vincent Price, and plenty of iconic characters like Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse make appearances as well.

Films that involve more adult themes are curtained to give parents discretion as to whether they are appropriate for the little ones.

A time line of the history of animation, encased presentation of animation cels, actual stop motion characters and sculptures of the original conception of characters like Woody from “Toy Story” are displayed to give some tangible context to the largely spectator-orientated exhibit.

There are 111 films to see, totaling 14 hours — impossible to see all the films in one visit. For this reason the Glenbow is offering to put the admission price toward a membership, which has a number of other benefits; including access to other museums across Canada.

The exhibit opening featured a first time film screening of “C’est La Vie,” a film chronicling local animator Chris Melnychuk’s battle with tongue cancer, which he eventually succumbed to. The film was ultimately finished by 19 animators when Melnychuk wasn’t able to animate the interviews he had done. People stood and some plunked down on the floor to watch the short film that was both humourous and moving.

The Quickdraw Animation Society was approached to participate in the opening of the exhibit and Karilynn Thompson, programming and communications co-ordinator, said they were thrilled to be invited to screen a project. The society was looking for ways to fundraise for a memorial scholarship in Melnychuk’s name and this was a perfect opportunity.

“This is the biggest animation show in the world, so it really fit with what we were doing anyway,” Thompson said.

Along with the various films the exhibition features, a portion called the Discovery Room is where visitors can explore their inner animator by creating a spinning picture or thaumatrope (which creates an optical illusion by making two pictures look like one), or cel overlays (a clear acetate sheet with a character painted on it), which are used in many types of animation. Clarissa Hlidek was creating a blinking eye and said she was enjoying the exhibit.

“I think that it’s set up really nice, a good environment. There’s so much to see.”

Sharmaine Warne, a museum educator, was on hand in the Discovery Room to introduce people to the hands-on portion of the exhibit. She said visitors were really expressing themselves, and whether young or old, the creative juices certainly flow when people are surrounded by such inspiring works of moving art.

Explore your animated side at the Glenbow’s newest exhibit until Dec. 24th.