I did not necessarily plan on seeing this annual institution of irreverent humor, but after making the trek across town to buy tickets for an upcoming screening of the silent version of Phantom of the Opera, I figured, I might as well stick around and see the show. It was midnight, I was up, and in need of a good laugh, but it did not take long before I was noticing just how hot it was in the packed theater or how uncomfortable my seat was or how great the comfort of home and the Internet suddenly seemed.
It is not as if I am unfamiliar with Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. Off and on, I’ve been going for several years and each year I’ve gone it seems to get a little bit worse. There are always the unexpected stand out animations, but the garbage you have to wait/wade through to see these momentary breathes of creativity and inspired humor are really starting to outweigh the pay-offs. Perhaps, I am just getting too old for this shit. It’s no leap of logic to note that as I grow older the sophomoric humor of the festival becomes less laughable or even tolerable. The audience seemed to laugh more often then I so I could be, once again, completely off base in my assessment or perhaps I might have progressed past immature references to illegal substances and male genitalia. Outside of a few decent new cartoons and one or two classic ones the majority of the films are poorly realized and poorly constructed one-note jokes better suited for the walls of a men’s room, if not the toilet bowl itself.
I’m not sure if it’s worth it (for me or any reader) to mention every film that played, but I think I shall try as some did certainly deserve a bit of praise and others were so inane that they deserve a lashing.
Intro Starring Spike and Mike – sour take off on the candy counter classic, “Let’s all go to the lobby” promos that used to play before screenings. This one ending in bloodshed, poorly timed jokes, forced profanity, clunky animation, and the egotistical appearance of our hosts. All the violence that is inflicted upon the animated hosts would feel more rewarding after this lame showcase or in reality, out back, behind the theater.
No Neck Joe – Animator Craig McCracken must have substantial dirt on Spike and Mike as his one note No Neck Joe animations seem to play at every Spike and Mike festival I have ever attended. No Neck Joe is the Bob Hope of the animation festival circuit. He needs to be put out to pasture or beheaded.
The Boy who Could Smell The Future – Another one note piece with basic computer animation and an effective punchline. The film ends before the laughter, but without a program I would have forgotten I ever saw it.
Proper Urinal Etiquette – By the same animator as the last one, this is a longer piece, using a cruder form of computer animation, most likely Flash, to bring to life a “game” I recall seeing ten years ago in some rag publication, but one that has taken on a second life thanks to the Internet. Styled to look like a 50’s educational film this animation helps one elementary school boy run through the proper permutations that dictate which urinal it is appropriate to use when various combination of other bathroom users are at the urinals. Not helpful. Not really that funny. The joke ends long before the piece.
The Answer – Yet, another one note animation that looks like it took many hours to create, but only about ten seconds to think up. Not caring if I spoil the joke because it’s already been written in a dozen bathroom stalls, the Answer is in relation to the question: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg.” If that doesn’t make sense, let it cum to you.
Lobster Schmobster – I am not sure if this was a draft or if this unfinished look is a new style of animation. The story is not bad, but again there are too few jokes for a film this long and the animation detracts from the little humor there happens to be.
Rip Wack – Noting that this same festival is playing in Chino, CA and that this particular piece is set in Chino, I have to assume that is the only reason this animation was part of the package. Imagine a computer animation student who has spent too many days playing Tony Hawk and smoking shitty drugs while only going out of the house to hang out at the mall and you are half way to the stupid place this animation takes you. Throw in gross stereotypes poorly performed by subpar, stoned friends on shitty audio equipment and a director who tries to create humor through racist dialects and you’ve almost made had the experience of this piece. If you are at home and you want the full experience of Rip Wack, grab a hammer and repeatedly slam yourself in the eyes with the claw portion of the hammer for two whole minutes and you’ll full understand the pain this film inflicts on the audience. I wasn’t the only one not laughing. In fact, no one was laughing. We were all too busy hoping the director was in the audience awaiting our demands for a refund and then some.
Happy Tree Friends (Milkin’ It, Class Act, and Out on a Limb) – I know I’m old because I’m just not learning about these lovely lil’ creatures. I recall seeing their smiling faces on t-shirts and DVD’s, but I ignorantly avoided them due to a nasty aftertaste left in my mind from so many other Internet animators. Well, I’ll admit it, I missed the boat. These three shorts were very well constructed, visceral, visual, well times, a bit too gross, but who’s keeping score. Still, I chuckled a deep hearty chuckle and wondered how uncool it would be for me to like these gibbering little woodland victims. Too old, bandwagon jumper, call me what you will, but I think the creators of this series are exhibiting far more intelligence and comedic knowledge than any other Internet animator out there and that makes me happy. Maybe humor is not dead.
Crab Revolution – Certainly my favorite of the festival, this particular French film about crabs – the sea creatures, not the VD – that is worth the price of admission, though it’s more philosophical than sick and twisted.
Baby Hunter – Another case off too much time spent playing video games. I’m not sure if this is a commercial for a video game, a longer animation, a spoof of some existing game, or what. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, it’s utterly feeble, unfunny, and a good argument for crackdown on kids who play too much Playstation. Parents please, get your kids outside before they become shitty animators.
The Two Minute Itch – The dog at the center of this animation is wonderfully animated, very flexible and frantic, with lots of emotion. This is another good work that fell in the slim middle ground between great and godawful. Unfortunately that makes it somewhat forgettable, but a pleasant surprise.
Fly Boy – Animation like this only inspire other unthinking would-be animators. Obviously thought up during a late night of drugs and too much television the literal character in this film is a fly placed in the role of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) as he shoots down “filthy cockroaches”. One more reason for me to ratchet up my hatred of Brian DePalma’s Scarface. One more reason for me to profess that the kids are all wrong.
My First Boner – School House Rock turns into School House Cock. Another ingenious piece of animation that took less time to think up than it did to roll another joint. The song animation is less impressive than the already less than impressive School House Rock animation and the song is such drivel that it makes you really wish the animators had been born deaf, blind, and dumb. Nostalgia is not good source of creativity.
Krazy Kock – Leave it to stalwart Bill Plympton to put some creativity back into the festival. This small clip from a larger forthcoming feature called Hair High is not only sick and twisted, but it is well paced, packed full of all sorts of jokes and it has a song by Hasil Adkins. I couldn’t ask for much more – other than to see Hair High in its entirety.
Quack Off – Another animal based middle of the road animation piece
ending on a lame duck punchline that makes me smile due to its startling nature, but then its over and so is my appreciation for the rather nice set up the film had going in its favor.
Hippie Juice – An Hummer driving Uncle Sam with road rage butchers hippies to fuel his environmentally challenged sports utility vehicle. It’s hard to tell just who is being made fun. The jokes are flat, the animation even flatter, and the only things really being insulted is me and my intelligence. I imagine this filmmakers think they are making something political and funny. But, they know nothing about politics or funny.
Cat Ciao – Computer created cat that looks more like a cross between a Chihuahua and a Gremlin meets his match in a large vulture like bird. No surprises here.
The Treasure of the Salted Tadpole – Another French film, not as interesting or as funny as the one about crabs, but again a sea based story. This time a pirate is in search of sunken treasure, but the booty is being guarded by a very large, nasty looking fish. Once you find out what’s in the treasure chest you understand why the fish is so determined to guard the treasure.
Muledick – Okay, this is the humor I just don’t get. Open with a title card that says, “Muledick”, cut to animation that is “weird”, listen to a conversation between two guys who are playing twenty questions, and wait for the guy guessing the answer to say the title of the film. This constitutes humor? One so-called dirty word, does not humor make! Unless you are two or three. I’ll never understand it. Don’t try to explain it. If you find this funny, go hang out with Rip Wack down at the mall, call each other silly names until slurpees spill out your nose.
Rez-erection – Very poorly done electronic animation about two mad scientists who create a Frankenstein like monster. Imagine Weird Science, Bride of Frankenstein, and a Rocky Horror in blender and you can probably distract yourself long enough to pay no mind to this horrible hybrid animation.
Here Comes Dr. Tran – This was a really funny, very simple piece that gets trampled to death by the creators’ refusal to let a joke go or to know when its time to wrap things up. The use of 3-D is hilarious, if only a one time gag. This would have been better had it been tighter, but alas I fear it will resurface in sequel form thus only beating the horse’s corpse longer.
Frog – Ending on a strong note, Frog feels like a classic piece of animation more in spirit with Warner Brothers or Disney, though slightly more sick and twisted, still its almost refreshing to return to something “classical”. Had they played this first it would have only made everything else less tolerable and in a way it somehow lessens the pain of films like Rip Wack, Baby Hunter, and Hippie Juice…And The Answer, and Muledick and…Okay really the Frog can’t make up for all the bad animation there was, but it is very, very good.
A Bitter Film – This early Don Hertzfeldt played, once again, but it’s not listed on the program and though I’ve seen it over ten times it still charms me and makes me laugh outloud. Hertzfeldt has his own Animation Show with Mike Judge. Perhaps they’ve started to realize that animators don’t need Spike and Mike. In fact, with the Internet today the whole Spike and Mike Animation Festival seems rather outdated. I do recall the days before the Internet, when this was one of the few ways you could see short animations like these, but those days seems so long gone and so halcyon that I am sure I am just being nostalgic. Perhaps, I am getting old and this humor just isn’t cutting it for me or perhaps the Internet has flooded the market and animators don’t need Spike and Mike anymore. Most of the films that played seemed to come from college students, each one with a title card at the end of the piece explaining how the animator could be contacted. Good luck to them, but in most cases I think anonymity would be better suited