What is Bridges Festival?
Discovery Series

Bridges Festival is an international festival of Puppetry and Animation. The festival takes place all over the city of Mississauga. There are more than 15 events happening each year: puppet shows, short films, workshops, exhibitions and talks. We carefully select artists from around the world and across Canada to bring the best events for children and families to Mississauga. 

Bridges Festival’s mission is to inspire and ignite imagination, sense of wonder, playfulness and creativity of children and adults alike.

“High Quality Entertainment and Education for Kids” 

Tania, Mo

Who is Bridges Festival For?

Bridges Festival is for all ages! 

Bridges Festival aims to provide quality education and entertainment for families by presenting international award-winning puppetry shows, animated films, workshops, exhibits, and interactive activities for children of all ages. 

“My Daughter Had So Much Fun” 

Nikki, Mom of two

There is currently a significant lack of children’s programming in Mississauga. Bridges Festival seeks to remedy this problem, by presenting shows, family events and activities that encourage children to be curious about the world around them. These type of activities for children in Mississauga are very much needed today, especially since young people have been affected by the isolation of the pandemic. 

We believe that puppetry is a healthy form of entertainment for young children that encourages them to use their imagination and think outside the box. Puppetry is a great way for children to exercise their creative muscles and explore the way the things move. In fact scientific studies have discovered many health benefits of puppetry for children.

Did you know that puppetry increases cognitive, behavioural and social skills in young children? 

Bridges Festival also hosts industry events for artists and professionals. We invite artists to participate in professional development activities and networking events, including exposure to international curators and presenters. 

Our first audience member Ashwin Pillai watching the workshopping of Mirror with the emerging artists of the 2020 cast of Summer Ensemble
Young Audience Member (5yrs) watching puppetry show, Crane Creations Studio 2020

When is Bridges Festival?  

Bridges Festival happens every year in March. Most festival events happen in the three days on the weekend before March Break school holiday. However, some events happen the whole month of March. We chose the month of March because World Puppetry Day is celebrated around the world on March 21. The purpose of the World Puppetry Day, first celebrated internationally in 2003, is to celebrate rich puppetry traditions around the world. World Puppetry Day is an initiative of UNIMA, the international association of puppeteers. The idea of celebrating puppetry around the world came from Iranian puppet theatre artist Javad Zolfaghari. He made a proposal at the UNIMA’s congress in 2000 in Magdeburg, and two years later, at the congress in Atlanta, the date of March 21 was confirmed and World Puppetry Day was born. 

Don’t miss the next festival 

Where is the puppet festival happening?

Our puppet festival is happening in several locations across the city of Mississauga, in the province of Ontario in Canada. Events happen in Port Credit, Clarkson, Cooksville, Mississauga City Centre, Rathburn, Streetsville and Malton. For detailed list of this year’s locations see the festival’s program. We collaborate with local organizations like art galleries, museums, theatre venues, storefronts and outdoor locations like squares, city streets and parks. Bringing puppets into all of these different spaces increases the number of visitors and brings the city to life. 

Would you like us to animate your space with puppets? Give us a call.   

Bridges Festival, Celebration Square, 2020

What is a Puppet Festival?

A puppetry Festival, is a festival dedicated to showcasing and celebrating the art of puppetry. Puppetry Festivals, like Bridges Festival, select and invite professional puppeteers and theatre companies from around the world to travel to their city to perform their shows. Audiences watch some of the best puppetry from around the world and puppet lovers meet with fellow puppeteers to share their art.  Each puppetry Festival has a different mandate, mission and vision. Some Puppetry Festivals only showcase international work, while others only showcase local puppeteers. Some festivals present events for families, while other curate only shows for adult audiences.  

There are over 500+ puppetry festivals around the world. Did you know that the biggest puppetry festival in the word, World Puppetry Festival, is located in Charleville-Mézières in France?

Check out other puppetry festivals in Canada!  

What is Puppetry? 

Have you ever picked up two twigs and made them walk across the floor? Or taken any ordinary object like a pencil, or a stuffed animal and given it a voice? Have you ever cast a shadow on a wall with your hands to create a butterfly, a hopping rabbit or a barking dog?

Puppetry is the art of taking an inanimate object, an object that is not alive, and bringing it to life through manipulation. Puppetry can be traced all the way to bronze age. Despite the ancient origins of puppetry, animating objects is not an art form of the past, more so of the present and definitely future in a major way.

If you think about it, characters in video games are sort of puppets. These characters are not alive, they are just things, pieces of code, pieces of information really that are given life by a computer programmer. Animated films lean on some of the oldest principles of puppetry (like flip-books) to create an appearance of life by using a series of static images lined up to make it look like something is moving.

Robots, which are becoming more and more present in our daily life, are also puppets at their essence; complex combinations of inanimate parts assembled in a way that allows them to move. They are tasked with a specific actions, that result in an outcome. The most recent humanoid robots are even directly modelled after centuries old principles and techniques of puppet designs and building. Sophia, probably the most famous humanoid robot has actually even become a citizen of a country. 

Puppetry and animation are really a creation of life in their purest sense. 

Surely it is not a coincidence that the earliest puppets were mimicking humans. Were early humans trying to express the act of creation? Capture the divinity of bringing something into life? And have we now, by creating robots like Sophia, come full circle by slowly starting to create puppets so sophisticated that they are literally becoming us? 

There is so much that can be said about puppetry! These kind of reflections, and discussions are part of our Discovery Series at the Bridges Festival, where we invite everyone to engage in discussion about what puppetry was, is and what it could be. 

Why Do We Call Ourselves Bridges Festival? 

At Bridges Festival we celebrate puppetry traditions from around the world. We live in a wonderfully diverse city and we hope that our festival will create a bridge between people of different cultures through the art of puppetry. For us, puppetry is a lot more than muppets, or string puppets. We believe that animation is anything that brings life to an object that is not alive (inanimate). The animation our puppetry festival is interested in touches on many different fields such as traditional and contemporary forms of puppetry, automata, stop-motion animation, film and digital animation and even robotics.

Bridges Festival hopes to also create a bridge between different puppetry traditions and also between other related fields by presenting engaging content on all of these topics. 

Lastly, the word bridge is also an element used in a marionette puppet theatre. It is the area above the stage where puppeteers stand to animate the marionettes, out of sight from the audience.

The festival hosts family events and activities for children during March break every year.

A mini crowd cheering and clapping while watching a show in front of a library from Crane creations Theater company
A crowd cheering for a show at Bridges Festival, hosted by Crane Creations Theatre Company

Who organizes Bridges Festival?

Bridges Festival is proudly produced by Crane Creations Theatre Company. Crane Creations Theatre Company is the only artists run not-for-profit professional theatre company located in Mississauga and the Region of Peel. We create and present high quality professional theatre and events for families in the all over the city of Mississauga. Our goal is to help enrich children’s lives with one of a kind artistic experiences, that encourage their curiosity and wonder.

Introducing puppetry to children at an early age is a great way to get young kids interested in robotics and engineering. Puppetry helps children think about the way objects move and interact. 

Puppetry is helping us make significant leaps in technological and social advancement.  Even the most complex machines, such as Spot, the robot dog, created by the American engineering and robotics company, Boston Dynamics, is based on principles of puppetry.

Today, more than ever, we are surrounded by puppetry.  Video Games use Puppetry! So do Robots and Machines! Your favourite animated television shows, like Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol and Pokemon use puppetry as well!

Puppetry is all around us. Can you think of three different ways puppetry is used in your life? Share your thoughts on our social media

The History of the Festival

Bridges Festival was launched in March 2020. It was Friday the 13th, and that ominous date lived up to its reputation: the COVID-19 pandemic had just swept through Mississauga and the city decided to shut down all venues, including the theatre all of the programmed shows were happening in. We were only allowed to have one performance of the first show in front of a very limited audience. Puzzle Theatre from Montreal opened our brand new puppet festival with their show Plastique. We also presented outdoor large scale puppets and exhibited a giant dragon at the Small Arms Building, a wonderful community space in Mississauga. Despite the shutdown, we were able to have a few successful events with tremendous response from the audience.

A dragon puppet made by Erindale Theatre at the University of Toronto Mississauga on display during march break
Online Puppet Show, Bridges Festival 2021

In 2021, the festival returned thanks to generous support from the Department of Canadian Heritage. The 2nd edition of Bridges Festival was held entirely online, due to Covid 19. Our team had to learn a lot of new skills like operating cameras, managing live-streamed links, automations and SEO optimization. Transitioning online meant that our audience was expanded; Bridges Festival 2021 was seen in 23 countries around the world. The festival successfully completed its full three days of activities for the first time! We had 3 full days of professional puppetry, all online, as well as a selection of animated short films. 

In March 2022, the Bridges festival returned for the third year, presenting a combination of in person and online events for children and families. It was a challenge to navigate the various restrictions due to COVID-19, (venues opening and closing, and capacity limits). We were thrilled with the outcome, resulting in partnerships with Maple Magic Festival, Heart Comonos, Red FM, Kinderfest, Halo Espresso Bar, Paradigms in Photography and more! Our team worked tirelessly to bring the third edition of the festival to live, with puppet shows, animated shorts, workshops and discovery events taking place all over the city!

How can you get involved

We have several ways for you to get involved in Bridges Festival. 

Volunteering

Our festival wouldn’t be possible without the massive support we receive from our volunteers. Volunteers help us by distributing flyers, assisting visiting artists as they find their way around town, helping to give out programs to audience members, helping with social media and many other activities. Many of our volunteers are students who find Bridges Festival is an easy way to get their 40 volunteer hours completed. 

If you would like to help us with the festival sign up for opportunities here. 

For children 

We are offering a great opportunity for children between 5 and 16 to sit on the Bridges Festival children’s jury. The jurors will watch all the shows for free and decide who should get the Children’s Jury Award. 

For artists

If you are a puppeteer or a puppet theatre looking to come to a puppet festival in Canada, we would love to hear from you! We publish an open call for artists each year. The best way to follow us on social media.  

Be on A Jury Panel

Being on a jury is a big responsibility. Our jury panels select and award shows at Festivals. They also help us determine the future of the festival. We have three jury panels; Short Animated Film Jury, that selects which short films to feature at the festival: Industry Award Panel, that hands out awards at the Festival, and the Children’s Jury Award Panel which awards the Children’s Award.

Land Acknowledgement

Crane Creations Acknowledges The Land Which We Operate On Is Part Of The Treaty Lands And Territory Of The Michi Saagiig, Commonly Referred To As The Mississauga First Nations. We Acknowledge The Territory Of The Anishinabek, Wendat, Haudenosaunee, Ojibwe Peoples, As Well As All Caretakers Of This Land Acknowledged And Unacknowledged, Recorded And Unrecorded, And Past, Present, And Future.

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