Cinemanic: More Sick, More Twisted

Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation is not for the faint-hearted audience. No, this yearly festival of short cartoon pieces--which helped make Beavis and Butthead and South Park, among others, famous--is not to be confused with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Craig "Spike" Decker, co-creator and producer of "Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation" along with the late Mike Gribble, said he was aiming for an audience of "drug-addicts, students, partiers, ravers, punk rockers, hippies, and Siamese twins - two for the price of one." No, this is not an understatement. Just to give you a taste of the 21 cartoon compilation, the show begins with Spike, a scrubbier version of Mr. T minus the gold chains, taking swigs from a bottle and shooting Teletubbies with a rifle.

Spike and Mike began experimenting with short animation in the '50s and '60s when they hosted small concerts and midnight rock and roll events that opened with animated shorts such as Betty Boop and Superman. Soon they realized that people were more interested in the cartoons than in the actual music, though this could be a comment on the quality of the music rather than that of the cartoons. In 1977 Spike and Mike premiered their first-ever animation festival, and since 1990 they have been running the Sick and Twisted Festival in the fall, along with the Classic Animation Festival in the spring. When asked to describe the difference between the two festivals, Spike answered that, "the Classic [Animation] Festival is a charming vintage French wine, and the Sick and Twisted [Animation Festival] is a 40-ouncer of Old English." According to Spike the idea of the Sick and Twisted Festival was born because there were so many excellent, but revolting and shocking, cartoons that he could simply not include in the Classic Festival.

Some of these cartoons start out innocently enough. In "Billy's Balloon," a little stick figure boy carries a red balloon with him. The sun is shining in the peaceful clouds. Then, all of a sudden the balloon starts hitting poor Billy on the head and then hanging him from the sky and next dropping him to a gloomy fate below. Soon the sky is filled with a swarm of evil balloons carrying little children. This might not quite appeal to your sense of humor, but the films are short enough, ranging from the one-minute Forrest Dump and Foreskin Gump to the longest piece, the six-minute Swing Sluts, that you don't need a particularly long attention span. This is a great show to see after a full day of exercising your Harvard intellectual abilities. Give it a rest.

Which is not to say that all these cartoons are inane and depend on slap-stick comedy or just good old plain perversion to draw (sometimes uncomfortable) chuckles. Some of these cartoons attempt to make legitimate social commentary! The Beckers, for example, a parody of the '50s ideal of the suburban family, addresses the important and apparently relevant issue of teenage cannibalism. My other favorite, No Neck Joe, is not quite so high-brow. The title is pretty self-explanatory. The main character is a little human with no neck and the whole of the plot rests of the fact that No Neck Joe has no neck and can't do some of the things his necky friends can

This year's festival is filled with many more new shorts, as well as some pieces that Spike has produced himself, like Swing Sluts" featuring Summer and Tiffany, which he hopes will hit it big in the future as a full-length cartoon. Spike hopes to hit it big himself soon; after years of being passed over, he anticipates receiving the credit that is due to him as an artist and a business man. His plans include world distribution for film, DVD and pay-per-view, and world domination in general. Both the Classic Animation Festival and the Sick and Twisted now run in over 50 cities. This might not be your cup of tea, but it might be your mug of truck-stop-quality coffee.


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