“This is just going to be an absolutely special, stellar, impeccable show. We put countless time and effort into securing the absolute best films from all over the world — bar none,” said Craig “Spike” Decker of the festival’s 30th anniversary, running Feb. 9 through March 30 at Sherwood Auditorium in the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. “We’re really proud of what we put together. I’d but a ticket to this thing myself.”
The festival had humble beginnings. Along with Decker’s Sick and Twisted shows, which draw thousands annually, it began in Riverside as the “garage band of animation.”
“We used to do these little carnivals in the backyard and promote them, and then we got into promoting a band and doing midnight animation films opening with classics like ‘Max Fleisher,’ ‘Betty Boop,’ ‘Superman’ and ‘Popeye’ cartoons,” Decker said. “Then we put together a show with all shorts at Riverside City College that just kept evolving.”
The early animation shows, he said, were frantic, “straight out of ‘Animal House’ — really crazy stuff.”
The secret, he and business partner Mike soon discovered, was that animation shorts “could have a cool, adult application.”
“So we had to produce a lot of the films, which we did because nobody was making them except for a small group of animators in Vancouver, Canada,” Decker said.
When he found the perfect venue to showcase the animation festival — La Jolla’s Museum of Contemporary Art — he “escaped” to San Diego. The festival moved to MCASD in 1986 and remains there 30 years later, still drawing masses of fans and acting as a breeding ground for top names in film animation, from Wallace and Grommit to Tim Burton’s first film, “Vincent.”
For those who have a love for and knowledge of animation, the festival will provide an added element, said festival production manager Joseph Liebhardt.
“In a way, it’s almost a history retrospective of animation, going all the way back to ‘Bambi Meets Godzilla’ in 1969 to ‘Pixels’ (2011),” he said.
So if, 20 years from now, the Festival of Animation is celebrating its 50th anniversary, just how does Decker think the future of animation will look?
“They (animation shorts) will be in people’s teeth,” he said, half-jokingly. “You’ll watch it on people’s foreheads, or the palms of their hands.”
Regardless of technical improvements, Decker concluded, good animation will always be about good storytelling.
“If you tell a good story with pen and ink, or with a computer, people will enjoy it,” he said.For more information about Spike & Mike’s Festival of Animation, call (858) 459-8707 or visit www.spikeandmike.com.
Among the festival’s highlights:
A collection of the most award-winning and popular shorts in Spike and Mike’s 30-year history, including more than 10 Academy Award winners or nominees and international films from France, Germany, Holland and Italy.
David Silverman, director and producer of “The Simpsons” and “The Simpsons Movie” and a 2013 Oscar nominee in the Best Short Animation category, will be attending and signing autographs Feb. 9-10.
Rich Moore, 2013 Oscar-nominated director of the Walt Disney Animation Studios blockbuster “Wreck-it Ralph,” will be attending and signing autographs March 1-2.