Modern-day Mel Blanc to embrace the sick and twisted at Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation in La Jolla

By Ashley Mackin

What do the Red M&M, the Cheerios Honey Bee, Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama, Elmer Fudd, and Ren and Stimpy have in common?

They are some of the many characters voiced by Billy West, who will make a guest appearance during the 20th annual Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, Aug. 24-Nov. 23, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla.

Not to be confused with the new-age Festival of Animation, which is appropriate for all ages, the Sick and Twisted fest is an 18- and-older show because it’s, well, sick and twisted.

Joking that the festival couldn’t push the envelope because “we’re not even in the envelope,” co- founder Craig “Spike” Decker said he likes to take credit for starting the genre of animation shorts with adult humor. Twenty years ago, he said, “We started seeing the value in this and how the application of animation was not just for children and just wasn’t Disney and that sort of thing.”

It’s that value that drew the admiration of animation voice masters like West, who will be attending the festival, signing autographs and answering questions on Sept. 13-14.

“I think it’s wonderful because when big Hollywood comes along and co-opts everything that is grassroots that we hold sacred, it gets watered down and turns into crap,” the “Futurama” front man said. “These guys tried to steer clear of that and they are always trying to bring in these new great ideas and concepts and cartoons. We saw a lot of the future by watching (films at) these festivals.”

Some examples were “Beavis and Butthead” by Mike Judge; works by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone; Tim Burton’s first film, “Vincent”; and early works by Bill Plympton, which premiered at past Sick and Twisted festivals.

West considers those days to be “a good time” in animation. “When ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Beavis and Butthead,’ and ‘Ren and Stimpy’ came out, they were three separate, great ideas and they had nothing to do with the success of the other. They were these beautiful little gems.”

Decker said viewers who appreciated those cartoons would appreciate the ones at this year’s festival, too. “We want people to see it’s just fun and humor despite the gross-out,” he said, adding he’s hopeful that as adults, the youth who watched cartoons like “Ren and Stimpy,” “Doug,” and films like “Space Jam,” will attend the festival for a little nostalgia. This year’s festival holds a little nostalgia for Decker, as well, because it will screen both classic and new films, including some of the ones that appeared at the first Sick and Twisted Festival.

Decker said they would screen “two of the sickest shorts ever made” in “Chirpy” and “Quiet Please,” as well as a music video by Jack Black and Tenacious D with a rather profane name. Spike & Mike production manager Josef Liebhardt said he was looking forward to a film from Australia called, “Dumb Ways to Die.”

“It describes as many dumb ways to die as you can think of,” he said, complete with a jingle to which audience members will be encouraged to sing along.

Films such as this bring back the fun of childhood, but with adult content, which Decker said he is counting on.

If you go

■ What: The Spike & Mike Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation

■ When: Aug. 24-Nov. 23

■ Guest appearances: ‘Ren and Stimpy’ creator John K. on Aug. 24; Billy West, voice talent for ‘Futurama,’

Sept. 13-14

■ Where: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 700 Prospect St.

■ Note: Admission is restricted to ages 18 and older; IDs will be checked at the door

■ Tickets: