Manchester Animation Festival is back and with it comes yet another colourful line-up that’s literally bursting at the seams with fun for families, students and animation fanatics alike. 

Taking place at HOME and various venues around town between Sun 12 and Fri 17 Nov, this year’s fest features a sneak peek at Aardman sequel Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget alongside an airing of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim Takes Off anime before it hits Netflix. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also giving Northern film fans exclusive early access to Studio Ghibli’s new one The Boy and The Heron in the film’s only non-London-based preview. 

While seats for these hot-ticket events were snapped up quick, there’s plenty of other stuff to see and do that’ll keep animation fans of all ages smiling. With that in mind, here are our top picks for the stuff you can’t miss at Manchester Animation Festival 2023…

Family Day ft. Free Kids Films | Sun 12 Nov | 9am - 2.30pm | HOME

Winter is upon us and the weather is officially terrible. If only there was a way to keep the kids happy while avoiding the rain… come to think of it, MAF’s Family Day ticks all the right boxes. Taking place at HOME throughout most of Sun 12 Nov, this one delivers exactly what you might expect. The fun kicks off with a ‘box set’ of BBC family favourites at HOME’s cinema, featuring Bluey, Ninja Express, Hey Dougee, Boy Girl Dog Cat Mouse Cheese and more – all for free. You can even keep your Sunday cinema day going with the beautifully animated adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom in the early afternoon. That one’s ticketed but well worth it.

Kids’ Animation Workshops | Sun 12 Nov | Various Times | HOME | £20

Got a budding animator in your house? Get them started early with MAF’s family-friendly animation workshops. Each is suitable for kids aged 5 to 9 although if parents want to get involved too, we certainly won’t judge. There are two different workshops set to take place during the festival’s Family Day on Sun 12 Nov, including one focusing on Claymation and another delving into the world of Lego-based stop-motion. Each will allow kids to flex their creative muscles by learning easily accessible techniques and using tablet-based software to create their own characters and bring them to life in their very first animated film. No previous experience is necessary, just a healthy dose of imagination. 

Feature Film Debuts | Various Dates | Various Times | HOME | £10/£8 conc

MAF wouldn’t be complete without a few previews of the season’s best animated films and this year, it’s properly spoiled us. In addition to previewing Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget and Hayao Miyazaki’s already-highly-praised The Boy and The Heron, 2023’s festival also features a scattering of must-see features throughout its time at HOME. White Plastic Sky whisks us away to a dystopic future where humans are transformed into trees, Chicken For Linda tells a touching story of a mother, daughter and a delicious dish, The Peasants takes animation to new levels of detailed innovation and Mars Express heads to the year 2200 to uncover a sinister mystery. Meanwhile, an animated classic celebrates its 50th birthday with Fantastic Planet returning to the big screen. Catch them all while you can.

Learn New Skills | Various Dates | Various Times | Various Venues | £20

Manchester Animation Festival isn’t just a place for movie previews, it also provides a space for educators and industry professionals to share their knowledge with the next generation of talent. This element is perhaps best showcased in the festival’s Industry Excellence Award workshops where experts from a range of disciplines teach hands-on sessions focusing on different animation-related topics. This year, you’ll find workshops on storyboarding and character design – and the best bit is you don’t even have to be a student to get involved. So if you’ve been toying with pursuing a new career path, this could be the push you need to help set you on your way.

Worldwide Animation | Various Dates | Various Times | HOME | £10/£8 conc

It may have Manchester it in its title but make no mistake: this festival is a global affair. In addition to welcoming speakers from Disney and some of the most critically praised filmmakers around, this year’s event will also host 103 different animated shorts from 26 different countries, bringing a taste of international animation right to our doorstep. If you’re keen to indulge in some foreign language fare, we’d recommend MAF’s celebration of Coration animation which spans both its contemporary and historical output and features packages of shorts catering to each. Elsewhere, Animated Africa aims to take punters on a journey through the continent’s most prolific storytelling moments via a variety of tales, visual styles and themes. 

Sun 12 Nov - Fri 17 Nov
Simon Bland
Published on:
Wed 8 Nov 2023