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The Jewel’s own Sick and Twisted animation festival returns

Animation afficionados are celebrating the return of Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation after a three-year absence. Opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla on Friday, Oct. 20, this year’s production features a guest appearance by Weird Al Yankovic along with more than 20 new animated shorts.

“We’ve had so many calls, ‘When are you guys coming back? When’s the next show?’ ” said Craig “Spike” Decker, one of the event’s founders. “We didn’t play the museum ... just because we’ve been on the road and so busy.”

Old fans are guaranteed a bounty of entertaining, cutting-edge films from emerging artists as well as industry favorites. For novice audience members, be forewarned: The festival is an uncensored, irreverent tip of the hat to adult animation that pushes the envelope, yet sets the standard.

The show is the only one of its kind in the world, Decker said.

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A quarter-century in the making, Spike and Mike’s festival has become the number one venue for animated films. They have premiered mainstream successes such as “Wallace & Gromit,” “Power Puff Girls,” “Beavis and Butthead” and “South Park.”

They have also been instrumental in showcasing new talent and launching the careers of Hollywood’s movers and shakers: Andrew Stanton, Tim Burton, Pete Doctor, Chris Wedge, Mike Johnson and John Lasseter. For those who don’t recognize the names, this is the talent behind films such as “Monsters Inc.,” “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “Ice Age” and “Corpse Bride.”

Decker and Mike Gribble met in Riverside. While promoting a local band, they often opened concerts with 16-millimeter animated shorts, usually featuring Betty Boop or Superman. They recognized the popularity of the animated shorts, and in 1977 began organizing shows that dealt exclusively with animated films.

The original festival, or classic as Decker calls it, featured content appropriate for all ages. After receiving a number of films that were more suitable for an adults-only audience, the Sick and Twisted Festival evolved in 1990.

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Gribble passed away in 1994, but Decker continued to produce and tour the film collections. He has established himself as a variable of one and said that is partially why these film festivals have become the benchmark of animated shorts.

“I’ve just developed a knack and an ability to find good films and premier it and know what works,” Decker said.

He highlighted a handful of animators, stars of the future, to watch in this year’s festival.

“Paul Roberston (“Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006") is one,” he said. “With high-energy pacing, it just keeps people enthralled.”

“Dr. Tran’s Quiet Log Time” creators Breehn Burns and Jason Johnson are another talented pair Decker is sure will make a name for themselves.

“They have a huge cult following,” Decker said. “They’re just gifted. They just know what works and how to deliver humor,”

Decker said an animator named J.G. Quintel, who submitted the film “2 in the AM-PM,” will capture viewers’ attention with his humor, timing and sense of story concept.

“We find a lot of new talent,” Decker said. “It’s not unusual for the first look deal to occur via the festival, giving established producers a chance to find up-and-coming animators.”

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Weird Al Yankovic will be appearing the first two nights of the festival to mark the screening of two animated videos from his new album, “Straight Outta Lynwood.”

“About a year ago, I hooked him up with various animators to render various songs from the album,” Decker said.

Yankovic will sign autographs and participate in a question and answer session with fans.

Decker and Mike have maintained a presence in San Diego, despite the three-year absence since their last screening in La Jolla. They are regulars at the San Diego Comic-Con, releasing a new Sick and Twisted show there every summer. New high-definition digital projection equipment at the museum has made the organization and set-up of this year’s event much easier, Decker said.

The festival features an array of genres, including traditional cell-drawn, clay, computer-generated and puppet animation. Of note is a French film, “Crab Revolution,” by Arthur De Pins.

“It’s extremely well executed and a very ingenious film, and I’m hoping the Sick and Twisted crowd will be tolerant for five minutes and watch a more cultural film,” Decker said. “This year there’s a lot of nicely rendered films and high-end production films. They’re not all crass, low-budget films.”

Produced by Mellow Manor Productions Inc., Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation tours across the United States and throughout the world. They have shown their collection of films in France, Australia, Canada and at prestigious film festivals such as Sundance and Cannes. In 2000, rock band Korn featured several animations from the festival as part of their touring stage show. Decker and Mike have produced DVD collections, and a book entitled “Outlaw Animation” by Jerry Beck chronicles the history of the Decker and Mike phenomenon.

The Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation will be shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art at 700 Prospect St. on Oct. 20, 21, 28 and Nov. 3, 11, 18, 25. Shows are for audiences 18 and older only. Call (858) 459-8707.

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