Home Films ‘Permission to be weird’: La Jolla native’s Spike and Mike festival film to screen at Comic-Con

‘Permission to be weird’: La Jolla native’s Spike and Mike festival film to screen at Comic-Con

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Despite its quirks and eccentricities, the Spike and Mike Animation Festival has shown shorts in every style of animation, spawned some household names in entertainment, and even been nominated for an Oscar.

Now, La Jolla native Kat Alioshin has produced and directed a documentary about the duo known as Spike and Mike and the evolution of their festival. The film, titled “Animation Outlaws,” is available on Amazon Prime and premieres at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con festival on Thursday, July 21.

The Festival of Animation was founded by La Jolla resident Craig “Spike” Decker and Mike Gribble (d. 1994) and was held for many years at the Sherwood Auditorium of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla before its renovation.

Decker and Gribble founded Mellow Manor Productions in Riverside in the 1970s to promote rock bands and screenings of horror films and cinema classics. In 1977, after spending the summer handing out flyers for the Fantastic Animation Festival, they decided to present animated film packages themselves, and Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation was born.

Alioshin was introduced to Spike and Mike in the mid-1980s when their festival was in its infancy. “I was a DJ at UC San Diego and Spike and Mike came to promote the festival,” said Alioshin, who was considering a career in animation.

“I became their ticket seller and handed out flyers,” Alioshin said. “I was able to watch the entire program for free, which was two hours of animated shorts with an intermission during which they acted out little sketches, asked the public’s opinion and gave the directors the opportunity to sign posters It gave me a whole new perspective on how fun animation can be and how all these shorts of all different styles existed.

In the United States, at the beginning of the festival, animation was considered something for children. But Alioshin said Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation helped change that, especially with the introduction of Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation in 1990.

“It gave people permission to be weird,” she said, and opened the door for artists like Seth Green to launch Cartoon Network’s “Robot Chicken.”

The 2022 Sick and Twisted Animation Festival premieres Saturday, May 28 at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside. Doors open at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit bit.ly/3lBVxE7.

Alioshin credits Spike and Mike with their 30+ year career in animation and decided to switch gears and make a documentary.

“I knew a lot of people had approached Spike to do a Spike and Mike documentary, but they weren’t the right people; they didn’t know enough about them,” she said. “In 2017 I was driving and I realized…I was in a movie, I knew them and I had been in contact with so many people coming out of [the festival] and would be the ideal person to make this film.

Director Kat Alioshin shows posters for her film ‘Animation Outlaws’.

(Courtesy of Kat Alioshin)

Much like the festival itself, the documentary features different types of animation: Seuss-inspired, anime, pencil sketch, claymation, computer-generated and more. There are also interviews with people on the ground – including ‘Finding Nemo’ director Andrew Stanton, who said the festival was “crucial to my career” – and footage from past festivals.

Others whose early films have been screened by Spike and Mike include Mike Judge of “Beavis and Butthead”, Brad Bird of “The Incredibles”, Nick Park of “Wallace & Gromit”, performer Weird Al Yankovic and the director Tim Burton.

“Spike and Mike encouraged, paid for and exposed these little films to a large audience,” Alioshin said. “They encouraged these young animation producers to show their films. There was no internet, so people had to go to this festival to see these short films.

Park’s short ‘Creature Comforts’ screened at Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation and won an Oscar in 1990. “It hadn’t had any theatrical releases here and it was a way to bring thousands people to see the film,” Alioshin said. Park thanked Spike and Mike during his Oscars acceptance speech.

Alioshin’s documentary takes its name from Decker’s book “Outlaw Animation.” Although it was completed in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic limited potential screenings. Alioshin said she was “delighted” that the film was screened at Comic-Con in San Diego – “for the audience it was intended for.”

She added that she looks forward to audience participation.

“Spike and Mike would be doing a show at Comic-Con called ‘The Gauntlet,'” she said. “They were showing a short film and if the audience reacted badly to the film, [they] would shut down the film, remove it from the lineup, and never show it again. If they acted encouragingly, [they] would keep it. There’s this great sense of audience participation.

Spike approves.

“I really personally appreciate that Kat reciprocated how she felt Spike and Mike helped her,” Decker said. “It’s a wonderful documentary. And I hope people will watch it. ◆