When Craig "Spike" Decker—half of the animation superhero duo that created the Spike & Mike’s Festival of Animation (SMFA)—says him and his partner, Mike Gribble, are the best curators of animated art in the world, he’s not exaggerating.
We are, after all, talking about the festival that introduced Wallace & Gromit to the U.S., John Lasseter’s Tin Toy (the precursor to Toy Story) to the world, and screened Tim Burton’s first animated film ever, Vincent—and they’re bringing the best of contemporary animation to Long Beach’s Art Theatre beginning June 9.
SMFA is the stuff of legend for any arts or culture or film nerd. Back in 1977, Spike and Mike were situated in a vastly artless Riverside, twiddling their thumbs while parked in their three-story Victorian-style home—“a truly Animal House-style house, straight outta the movie,” in the words of Spike—starving for cultural stimulation.
“We were always creating events and parties—so part of the festival came from that,” Spike said. “But it was truly from a desire stemming from the fact that the community didn’t have much going on culturally. There was a lotta boredom and it was something that we created in order to bring art and animation to us instead of having to seek it out all the time. It was a response to bring a jolt to what is sometimes a mundane society.”
Soon, the pair's endevour was growing too fast for their Belushi-evoking abode and had to be relocated to Riverside City College to provide space for their growing fan base. Thereafter, SMFA was dependent upon the university and school circuit—from Berkley to UC Irvine, University of Washington to USC—because they had spaces already prepped with equipment to get the festival up-and-running quickly.
After over a decade of hitting school after school, SMFA finally upgraded to movie theaters in between 1989 and 1990. It was during the 90s that SMFA solidified itself as the premiere festival for the animated arts when it morphed into two festivals: its classic version and the popular Sick and Twisted circuit, where Mike Judge’s first versions of Beavis and Butthead were born and the place where Matt Stone and Trey Parker brought The Spirit of Christmas, two shorts that acted as precursors to their famed South Park series.
The 90s also marked a dark part on the festival’s history with the passing of Mike in 1994 due to cancer. Spike, however, continues to truck on, globetrotting to find the best animation that creative minds have to offer.
“We’ve become masters at curating the best animation and coolest animation in the history of the world,” Spike said. “Look at this year’s lineup: it’s pure quality. Its humor is first-rate. It’s diverse. It’s international. Why wouldn’t you go?”
Spike & Mike’s Festival of Animation runs from June 9 through the 13 at the Art Theatre, located at 2025 E 4th Street. For more information, click here.