Oscar-winning animation creators and a New York Times bestselling author are among the highlights of this year’s Humanities Festival and Demorest Lectures at Casper College.

The four-day event from Feb. 20 through Feb 23. features a variety of local and national scholars along with workshops, performances, book signings and food.

This year’s theme is “Fables, Folklore, and Fantasy,” and the event explores the subjects through the humanities, festival chairwoman Valerie Innella Maiers said.

“We’re looking at fable through the lens of film and graphic novel and analytical study, family stories and music,” she said. “And this year, we are fortunate to include the culinary. It allows the community to really think about our collective ideas about folklore and fables and what we consider fantasy, because all of these overarching ideas have different meanings to different people.”

Keynote speakers include Walt Disney Animation Studios director and screenwriter Jared Bush, who co-directed and co-screen wrote the Oscar-winning “Zootopia.” Bush also screen wrote the Oscar-nominated “Moana,” becoming the first writer to be nominated for two Academy Awards for animated features in a single year. He’s also part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios Story Trust team, which helps develop the studio features, including Academy Award winners “Big Hero 6” and “Frozen.”

The festival also features writer and producer Steven Seagle, who co-created the original team and characters featured in Disney and Marvel’s Academy Award-winning collaboration, “Big Hero 6.”

Seagle also co-founded Man of Action Entertainment — creators of the “BEN 10” on Cartoon Network — where Seagle works as an executive producer and story editor. Seagle is also known for creating the “Generator Rex” series with Man of Action, along with the upcoming “Mega Man” – both for Cartoon Network. He developed and produced Disney XD’s “Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man,” “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” and “Zak Storm,” according to the website.

Welsh writer Jasper Fforde will also attend the festival. Fforde is best known for his New York Times Bestseller, “The Eyre Affair.” His writing includes “police procedurals featuring nursery rhyme characters,” a young adults series about magic and dragons and “Shades of Grey,” a post-apocalyptic dystopia where social hierarchy is based on colors you can see, according to the festival website.

The fourth keynote speaker, Lewis E. Mehl-Madrona, is a Stanford-educated doctor and author of the “Coyote” trilogy. He writes about the use of imagery and narrative in healing and is certified in psychiatry, geriatrics and family medicine, according to the festival website.

His writing explores healing practices from Lakota, Cherokee and Cree traditions, and their meeting with conventional medicine, according to the festival website.

New this year is a spotlight on food with a presentation and cooking class by Casper College organizational developer and continuing education class instructor Pam Jones. Her presentation, “Fairy Tales, Fables and Food” features tasty fare from a variety of stories.

“We will talk about the symbolism of foods in fairy tales and what food represents in them,” she said. “A lot of times food is magic, and other times it can be quite dangerous.”

The dishes she’ll create include greens from Rapunzel, pumpkin soup inspired by Cinderella, cinnamon baked apples for Snow White and a culinary nod to one of her favorite stories, “Stone Soup.”

From the Bible to modern day tales, the session will explore how food is still a major part of allegory and symbolism, she said.

“We use it over and over again to enforce our thoughts and our theories about humanity,” Jones added.

The Humanities Festival also features exploration through visual art, with a show by artists Maria Wimmer and Meghan Rowswell titled “Spooky Action at a Distance.”

“It’s about this idea of quantum physics connections, but I love the fantasy that you immediately connect with in the works of art,” Innella Maiers said. “It’s really dynamic and inventive in the way that the space is used.”

Installation’s of three-dimensional textile art by Rowswell and Wimmer’s drawings of circus performers explore quantum entanglement, a theory of quantum mechanics that Einstein described as “Spooky Action Theory,” according to the artists’ statement. The theory, in simple terms, states that the properties of two individual particles cannot be expressed independently.

Rowswell’s art includes references to particles and applications including a quantum computer, while Wimmer expressed ideas through drawings of circus performers.

“I instantly tried to personify particles to help me better understand the concept,” Wimmer said. “It was through that I started using a of lot doubles and figures that are interconnected in some way.”

Besides a joint talk during a reception for their exhibition, Wimmer offers a “Finding Your Own Creative Voice” workshop to help participants explore and gain confidence in their own creative style. In Rowswell’s workshop, “Soft Sculpture: Creating Pattern and Form with Textiles,” participants have a chance to create hand-sewn sculptures, according to the festival website.

Other presenters’ topics include children’s literature, family stories and the importance of science fiction in creating empathy and identity.

Highlights also include a “living library” where people can check out a person, instead of a book, and enjoy a conversation about the person’s story that “may challenge their ideas of thinking,” according to the festival website.

Innella Maiers is excited about the festival’s opportunities for young people, including a performance by the Pine Ridge High School’s Flute Society, she said.

This year’s festival also features a family movie night Feb. 23 at the Natrona County Public Library with a screening of “Moana” and “Big Hero 6” along with a Q&A with Jared Bush and Steven Seagle.

Most of festival sessions are free, through tickets are required for the Casper College dance concert “Rock n’ Roll Fantasy” featuring 1980s music, and “The Fantastic in Poetry and Song” recital featuring singer Adam Ewing and pianist Teodoro-Dier.

“The humanities festival is an exciting, multi-day event that speaks to the creative spirit and provides a chance to our community an opportunity to probe ideas,” Innella Maiers said.

Follow reporter Elysia Conner on Twitter @erconner

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