Lance Vargas (LV) recently
had the opportunity to speak with Craig Decker (Spike) who, with
his late partner Mike Gribble, established the Spike and Mike
LV: Tell me a little
bit about the history of the festival and your own involvement
Spike: When I was in elementary school in Riverside, (my
friends and I) started doing little carnivals in my friend Gerald
Katz' backyard. We'd go out and promote them. It was the first
thing I did in an entertainment-based entrepreneurial-type of
thing. In a garage across the street some years later, there was
a band forming called Sterno and the Flames. They played '50s
type rock 'n' roll music and I ended up joining the band and promoting
that. So then it evolved to doing midnight rock shows and rock
'n' roll films at midnight. Then we did repertory cinema like
"King of Hearts," "Slaughterhouse 5," pieces like that. Then we
started showing shorts from the '30s like Betty Boop, Popeye and
Superman-the Max Fleischer pieces. Then it sort of evolved into
a concept of putting together a whole package of animated shorts
and created a sort of a festival out of it. Out of that we premiered
some student films from the now-great animated directors like
John Lasseter, the director of "Toy Story," Pete Doctor and Andrew
Stanton the guys involved in writing and directing Monster's Inc.
We showed Rugrats and the first Wallace and Grommet pieces and
Bill Plympton's films-a whole wealth of animation.
LV: Animation has
a widespread appeal from small children to rambunctious adults,
what do you think is the appeal of cartoons as an artform?
Spike: It's like a fantasy. It's an escape. There is something
in the brain or the mind that attaches to animation. When this
attachment is applied to adult themes (as in Spike's "Sick and
Twisted" animation festival), it puts a whole new dimension on
it. It makes it funny and interesting to people. It's the ultimate
escape that you see in all artforms and great pieces of animation
like "Fantasia" as well.
LV: Why was San Diego
chosen as the Spike and Mike base of operations.
Spike: We started in Riverside but later on moved to La
Jolla because it's beautiful, obviously. There is a lot of youth
in San Diego, a lot of campuses, a lot of youth culture with the
surfing and all that. We just ended up in La Jolla. Then the Museum
(of Contemporary art) was a natural choice. There is a really
nice theater there and we could project a 35 millimeter film.
So, all the right ingredients were there.
LV: You mentioned
Betty Boop earlier. I know you guys included a Boop cartoon in
your last festival. How often do you guys include those old Fleischer
cartoons in your shows?
Spike: We haven't done it in quite a while. I did it last
year just as sort of a test to see if the younger generation would
identify with Betty Boop because I think it's an image that is
ongoing. It's timeless. I see products out there with the image
of betty Boop and it's just very cool. I think also it's some
of the best animation I have ever seen. Some of the crowds liked
it some of them didn't. It skewed more towards females than males.
But that's okay.
LV: This was the first
year that the Academy Awards gave an Oscar in the category of
full-length animated feature. What are your thoughts on this development?
Spike: I think it's great. It's long overdue. We're good
friends with the people at Pixar and John Lasseter in particular.
He has revolutionized a lot of things in animation. He is, in
my opinion, the premier director of animation in the world today.
(The Oscar) is great for animation in general and as an art form.
I'm glad it's being recognized because the effort that goes into
it is just as much if not more than a feature film. Its good to
see animation get that kind of respect in general.
LV: I also saw that
"For the Birds" (a Spike and Mike favorite from last year) won
this year's Oscar for short animated film. I never saw it when
it wasn't somehow attached to the Spike and Mike festival. How
much do you feel you contributed to providing the with the proper
exposure it needed to win the award?
Spike: To certain voters who were familiar with our festival,
yes. But "For the Birds" was fortunate because Pixar put it on
ahead of "Monster's Inc." So, they got a lot of exposure out of
that. But as for other animated shorts, Mike and I have become
synonymous with animation in that context. People who are also
just launching their careers are getting their initial exposure
from us. What you said is a good point though. That's why the
Oscar to the feature film's in animation is good. Any exposure
is good. We need more exposure.
LV: Last but not least,
what do you see as the future of the festival? Where is it going?
Spike: We're getting more and more well-known, on the borderline
of being famous. I'd like to get some more business opportunities
to try and expand to other areas and make more money if we could.
I'd like to get into more ancillary areas that we don't tap into
like cable or pay-per-view or video games. Also, there is a lot
of future in animation in DVDs. It lends itself well to that.
We would also like to try and get the show in more cities and