Spike and Mike Festival of Animation returns for 30th anniversary spectacular

By Ashley Mackin

The Spike and Mike Festival of Animation is back for the 30th year, running Feb. 9 to March 30, at its home in Sherwood Auditorium at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 700 Prospect St.

Not to be confused with the “Sick and Twisted” event, the Festival of Animation will include 11 days of film screenings from animators nationwide — all suitable for ages 10 and older. (For dates, times and tickets, see the “If you go” box.)

Its creator, Craig “Spike” Decker, said the Festival of Animation “tends to be more Oscar-winning and more artistic … more of a highbrow show, if you will. There is a heavy emphasis on humor, art and entertainment, just fun films with a lot of award-winning film styles and techniques.”

Spike and Mike FestivalThe films screening at the festival have earned accolades worldwide, including Academy Award nominations and wins, Comic-Con International awards, as well as awards from international film festivals.

The Academy Award winners being shown include “Bunny” by Chris Wedge (who also made “Ice Age”) with music by Tom Waits; “Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase” by Joan Gratz; “For the Birds” by Ralph Eggleston of Pixar Animation Studios; and “Creature Comforts” by Nick Park of “Wallace and Gromit” fame.

There are also festival surprises that will be kept secret until the day of their screening. Decker said one of which, (an Oscar winner) is the best film in the festival.

Being an anniversary year, Decker said there will be a variety of animation styles featured to reflect the evolution of animation — including traditional hand-drawn cell animation, clay model 3-D animation, puppet animation and computer-generated animation.

Some of the films Decker said he’s most excited to screen include “Paths of Hate” from Poland, and “Loom” from Germany, because they feature “extraordinary technique in animation like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

Also garnering some excitement is “Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase,” which Decker called “an absolute stunning, beautiful, masterpiece of work.” It features clay on glass.

Pointing out their “impeccable track record” for bringing in good films, Decker said it was at past Festivals of Animation that viewers first saw the works of Andrew Stanton, the director of “Finding Nemo;” John Lasseter, director of the “Toy Story” franchise and early pioneer of computer-generated animation; and early works by Tim Burton.

This year, two celebrity directors will make an appearance, complete with question-and-answer session and autograph opportunities. Those attending the festival on Feb. 9 and 10 will have the chance to meet David Silverman, director and producer of “The Simpsons” and “The Simpsons Movie.”

Silverman, who admits being fine with the Simpsons fanaticism he’s often met with, said he was happy and honored to be coming. “I hope to bring (to the festival) enthusiasm for the Simpsons, some laughs, answer burning questions, evade burning questions and perhaps offer further insight as to how we make the show.”

Another animation innovator, Rich Moore, director of the Oscar-nominated “Wreck-It Ralph,” will attend on March 1 and 2.