Movie Sleuth writers, Dana Culling and Michelle Kisner were invited to attend this year's festival at The Magic Bag in Ferndale, Michigan.
When Craig “Spike” Decker and Mike Gribble branched off from their original Festival of Animation to create the Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation in 1990, it was with the intention of providing a vehicle for the depraved and disgusting side of adult animated short films. The delightfully subversive, the hilariously sordid, and the downright obscene have always had a place in the festival – in fact, as the evolution of television animation (and, later, web animation) would bring with its renaissance an appreciation for darker subject matter and more outlandish character designs in scenarios prone to grotesque violence or explicit sexual content, the kind of shorts featured by Spike and Mike have become almost commonplace.
John Kricfalusi’s Ren and Stimpy, Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt Head, and even Kenn Navarro’s Happy Tree Friends all basically found their audiences through Spike and Mike; the director’s roster from so many of the early films showcased by one or the other of the pair’s animation festivals features, among others, such talents as J.G. Quintel (Regular Show), John R. Dilworth (Courage the Cowardly Dog), Eric Fogel (Celebrity Deathmatch) and even Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter, both directors of popular Pixar films.
For the 2015 edition, Spike Decker brings back some old favorites – Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and Powerpuff Girls creator Craig McCracken’s “No Neck Joe” character makes two appearances, and there are a few offerings from Breehn Burns’s Lone Sausage production company – and introduces some fantastic new favorites.
Highlights of this year’s Sick and Twisted Festival include:
-The strangely almost Hubleyesque E1even Roses, a 2008 film by Canadian filmmaker Pedram Goshtasbpour which uses both CGI and traditional two-dimensional animation to tell the beautifully twisted tale of a painful love triangle in harshly contrasted black-and-white with splashes of red.
-An unusual music video in which Batman fronts an animated death metal band covering the Metalocalypse band Dethklok's "Face Fisted" in similar style to the Brendon Small / Tommy Blacha series.
-Mike Geiger’s hysterically off-putting Cuddle Sticks, during which a pair of young siblings are “treated” to some special lollipops made for them by their questionably hygienic mother.
-Lone Sausage’s Beyond Grandpa, a series of bizarre vignettes showcasing the darker side of your genial geriatric patriarch.
-The marvelously depraved 24 Days of Elves, starring “Weenis the Elf” and his debauched trickster pals as they wreak nasty havoc all over the holiday season.
-A Max Fleischer-style inkwell nightmare set to the tune of “Ghost of Stephen Foster” by swingers Squirrel Nut Zippers.
-Ercan Bozdogan’s bowel-busting Captain Awesome, which proves there is sometimes very human weakness to even the most awesome of superheroes.
-The Australian Metro Trains’ cheerful PSA, Dumb Ways to Die, an original rail-safety spot which has, since 2012, spawned memes and parodies of epic proportion.
-A pair of Alan Becker shorts in which the battle is pitted between Animator versus Animation – and the winner is not as obvious as it may first appear.
And, believe it or not, there’s more – some irreverent and just plain silly, some of it horrifying, and some of it simply too baffling to begin summarizing. All of it, in one way or another, pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable in animated comedy – even now, when such boundaries have already been stretched to near-nonexistence.
Since its inception, the Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation has been a trove of viscerally shocking and psychologically deranged content – and it has made a name for itself welcoming the absurd and the ludicrous among its ranks. Many of the shorts featured here may not count for ‘high art’, but their revolutionary spirit and sheer hilarity make this festival a unique must-see for those strong enough of stomach for it.
Forget about morals and messages – this festival is about letting go of such airs in favor of the juvenile within us all that just wants to laugh at fart jokes and dumb, dirty cartoons. It carries this distinction with, if not pride, a flamboyantly obvious delight.
The festival plays again (today) December 30th and Saturday, January 2nd.