Spike and Mike’s 26th Anniversary Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation

Spike and Mike’s 26th Anniversary Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation

So is this series dying, or what?

I went to the annual Sick & Twisted Festival two or three times in the distant past, then after a gap of many years I went in 2013 and 2015, then went to this one in 2019.

The ones in 2013 and 2015 were at the same venue as this one, but while they were packed (pretty much every seat taken, in fact you had to get there considerably in advance to get your ticket before they sold out), this year the place was about 15% full. Even though I’ve only been to fewer than 20% of these shows, I recognized half or close to half of the cartoons (I mean they were literally the same, not that they were of the same series), so I wouldn’t be surprised if every one of them was a repeat from at least one previous year. I looked for the copyright at the end of most or all of them, and the most recent year I saw was 2011 or 2012.

So my impression is that they’re getting little or no new material anymore and are simply recycling the same cartoons year after year. I don’t know if it’s a matter of their not offering enough money, or animators just having other outlets for their work that they prefer or what. Maybe they’re not even trying anymore, but letting this festival limp along while putting no effort to speak of into it until the crowds drop off even further. Evidently one of the two guys (“Mike”) died 20 years or more ago anyway; maybe it’s really just not an active project anymore.

Which is a shame, because the idea remains promising: to give animators, including new and unknown animators, a chance to show their most controversial work.

I thought the ones I saw in 2013 and 2015 were clearly inferior to the ones I saw earlier in the festival’s run (which is largely why I skipped several years). I found this one to be modestly more entertaining than either of those, though still nothing all that good. There was no Don Hertzfeldt for one thing, but beyond that I didn’t laugh out loud a single time at any of these cartoons.

As far as ones I didn’t recall seeing in previous years, I appreciated the one interesting bit of social commentary that went beyond just gross out jokes. It occurs at the end of a cartoon about a Viking trying to put himself in position to die a warrior’s death so that he’ll go to Valhalla. It looks like he succeeds, but then, unbeknownst to him, a group of Christians decide to do him a “favor” by giving him a Christian burial and ritual, which turns out to muck up his plan.

The superhero having to save various people and do other superhero stuff when what he really needs and wants to do is urgently get to a bathroom was mildly amusing. There was a claymation or stop-action zombie one that was well done and strangely engaging.

Cuddlesticks is one I’d seen before, but it’s certainly one of the grossest I’ve seen in these festivals. The two No Neck Joe cartoons were ones I’d already seen. That’s a really dumb series, but has a charm to it in spite of or perhaps because of that.

All-in-all, a few smiles here and there, but really just nothing special.

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