Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation 2001
2001, NR, 68 min. Directed by Various.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 26, 2001
It's tremendously reassuring to realize that some things never go out of style. Converse's Chuck Taylor high-tops, for example, have remained the best-selling athletic shoe in history since their introduction in 1917. (The same cannot be said for Mr. Taylor's basketball team, the Akron Firestones, having long since passed from the scene.) Henry Ford's eponymous automotive corporate entity may have a slow sales year now and again, but there's still a lot of his burnished Detroit steel cruising American highways. And the comic joy of watching an animated preacher defile a nubile corpse only to subsequently have his organ devoured by worms, well, heck, everyone knows that never goes out of style. Three cheers, then, for the fine folks at Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation, who've been bringing us just those sort of cartoon yucks for going on 23 years now. Admittedly, it's not for all tastes (but then, neither is Wheaties). As in the past, Spike & Mike's show is less your standard animation fest and more of a bad taste rally. Introduced by one of the touring show's live hosts, who exhorts the audience to shout along with the program and generally behave as though they were at a cheerleading camp run by Screw editor Al Goldstein, the whole shebang revels in the kind of sick humor that catches most people around the age of eight and, apparently, never lets go. I'm not talking Lenny Bruce here, either, though, as in previous versions of this annual event, there are a few animated examples that attempt to do more than go for the gross-out. Among the less offensive shorts included are Austinite Geoff Marslett's “Monkey vs. Robot” -- essentially a computer-animated music video about, well, a monkey versus a robot -- done with gleeful silliness to a track by James Kochalka Superstar. Aardman Animation's “Angry Kid” (the same company behind British animator Nick Park's award-winning “Creature Comforts” and “Wallace and Gromit” shorts) is a series of claymation stopgaps featuring a frazzle-haired, buck-toothed pubescent antagonist steadfastly egging his father into ever-greater realms of dismay while on a Sunday drive. It's not quite up to Aardman's usual high standards, and it also seems to be a bit dated (not all of the shorts here are brand-new). Pixar, the legendary CGI studio behind Toy Story, weighs in with “For the Birds,” the tale of an avian high-wire act that runs afoul of the laws of physics. It is neither sick nor twisted but instead, downright cute. All of this is but a precursor to the festival's single greatest moment, “Rejected,” by fan favorite Don Hertzfeldt. Predicated on the notion that the animator submitted some bumper promos to the Family Learning Channel which were in turn rejected outright, this is the highlight of not only this year's Spike & Mike fest but quite probably of the last five or so years as well. It's that good. Combining Hertzfeldt's trademark line-drawing style with sublimely surreal nonsequiturs and self-reflexive stop-motion, it's one of those rare animated works that not only makes the laughter fairly explode out of you but also virtually guarantees itself a spot in animation history. Hertzfeldt's short alone is worth the price of admission. And then, of course, there's the crude, the vile, and the disturbing, represented this year by such shorts as Roy T. Wood's "Wheelchair Rebecca," Jeff Pee and Chris Graphenburg's "Mute and Motormouth," and Clayboy Enterprises' outright depressing claymation death-trip “Sloaches Fun House” (itself a holdover from previous years), which promises to haunt my dreams for days to come. “Ick” is something of an understatement with these three. It's said that this sort of renegade humor frequently appears as a counterpoint whenever the more conservative elements of society come to the fore. Judging from the recent political changeover, then, Spike & Mike are right on time.