Midday Movies: Spike And Mike's 30th Anniversary Festival Of Animation Extravaganza
February 4, 2013 1:15 p.m.
Craig “Spike” Decker, Festival Founder and Director
Joan Gratz, Filmmaker, "Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase"
ALLISON ST. JOHN: You're listening to Midday Edition on KPBS. I am Allison St. John in for Maureen Cavanaugh. For many people the animation Festival in Norway is an annual pilgrimage. Spike and Mike realized there was an issue for amazing array just a technically impressive animated shorts back in the 1970s. They push the envelope with the sick and twisted programs of the 1990s, but for the 30th anniversary they returned to the somewhat less raunchy roots for the focus on the best and the classic animations that you can take your whole him family to see the celebration starts this Saturday at the Museum of contemporary Art La Jolla. So now we are fortunate to have the studio Greg, Spike, Decker who is the founder and director of the festival and I wish you could see him. This is a good reason to tune into evening edition tonight on KPBS where he will also be a guest and he is stressed for TV with his favorite, is that your favorite hat, Spike?
CRAIG DECKER: It is one of many.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: It has eyes, I will let you know that much. Congratulations on 30 years of fabulously entertaining festivals tells us what you got started the first place ofFocusing on animated shorts.
CRAIG DECKER: I will use my official radio voice here, there we go.Well, we started, many years ago oddly enough doing entrepreneurial type entertainment things and I was in a band and oddly enough I did bass vocals of the van.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: That is not at all from what we can here?
CRAIG DECKER: I have a squeaky voice and we would play behind abandoned 16mm on the screen classic Max Fleischer films Betty Boop, Superman and so it created sort of assigned entertainment event, in addition to the bandanna the band broke up and I started doing midnight rock films and everything but again always incorporating the Max Fleischer, and then it evolved putting on a whole show on creating essentially a 90 min. show of animated short films.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: They are all between two and 5 min., something like that? What are you looking for when you're picking them for the festival?
CRAIG DECKER: The number one criteria is always humor. Humor beyond technique. Absolutely humor.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: Got to make you giggle.
CRAIG DECKER: Good time and escape and a fun event.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: Is that true right from the beginning there are some truly well-known movies that you know, their producers actually first got their start at the animation Festival can you give us some examples?
CRAIG DECKER: Yes, it's a long history of great, iconic animators starting with us. We first premiered, we premiered actually at the contemporary Art Museum and La Jolla some great animators we did shows there with Tim Burton, with Vincent, we had Bill (inaudible) there, John Lasseter from Pixar, long history, also I'd like to point out that we didn't produce films with Andrew Stanton, who did finding Nemo and Peetie Doctor who did monsters. We produced their first films.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: Do these guys still stay in touch with you?
CRAIG DECKER: The majority of them yes we are good friends with John Lasseter in particular and we have rich more coming up in February and the museum as a special guest who did Wreck it Ralph, with Disney and he's going to be there signing autographs and he's a longtime friend with us
ALLISON ST. JOHN: The starts on Saturday but it goes for a couple of months in fact so there will be lots of opportunities to check out what's going on.What are some of the special guests you've got coming?
CRAIG DECKER: Thank you for asking, this weekend on Saturday and Sunday we have David Silverman who was just nominated for a short film for an Academy award. He directed the Simpsons, son of the early co-creators of The Simpsons. A great guy, and he will be there talking, doing Q&A, signing autographs if somebody has since and products they should bring it and keep it is a great guy. He's going to play is to go on stage it's a rumor I've heard.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: Not to be missed
CRAIG DECKER: And two shows on Sunday for that, and it is easier Saturday is starting to sell out so Sunday performances are betting, better to get into at five and seven this Sunday
ALLISON ST. JOHN: One person is Joe Gratz who is joining us by phone now, welcome, John. Thanks so much for joining us and you have a wonderful short clip that's going to be shown at the festival called Mona Lisa descending a staircase I want to ask why, what is it about Jones for that kind of lights your fire.
CRAIG DECKER: Hi, Joan.
JOAN GRATZ: Hi.
CRAIG DECKER: The techniques she uses to is so unusual and just the way the films distill a lot of history, showing Joan's films and it is stunning work in a very unique style that she uses.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: So Joan, I really enjoyed watching it. It's about 5 min. long. How would you describe it for our listeners.
JOAN GRATZ: Basically it is 7 min. but I'm glad it did not seem like seven.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: He went zipping by, 7 min.
JOAN GRATZ: It took me about 10 years to do it.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: It is about faces that blend into each other.
JOAN GRATZ: Basically a restricted to the history of 20th century painting. It seems like a large project. So, I ended up narrowing it down to the human face. And I try to represent most of the schools and movements in painting. But, pretty much had to limit it to so that like Picasso, who you know went through a lot of styles, but he would represent all of the Cubist's, rather than trying to include everyone. It would be a very very long film.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: It's amazing how you managed to have a Picasso face melt into a Chagall face melt into a van Gogh face.How did you actually managed to put it together, how did you create this?
JOAN GRATZ: This of course was all pre-computer. And so now it's really easy to get those kind of smooth rather uninteresting Metamorphoses on the computer. But, in this case I'm working directly in front of the camera and I'm working on an easel, and I'm working with plasticine clay. And I'm really using it more like oil painting. And so every time I change the painting I am moving closer toward the next painting, but I also in metamorphosis try to indicate something about the painters style and feel of the time and so it tries to do a lot. I think that the one thing that it doesn't have that most of might and spikes to, their films do have is it's not really a humor-based film.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: And yet I could not yet find my jaw-dropping and smiling just to see the clever way you manipulated the images. That's very interesting to hear how you did it. You also use sound, didn't you and we actually have little bit of sound it sounds like channel searching so you have to listen carefully but let's play a clip.
[Music and Random audio playing]
ALLISON ST. JOHN: Okay, so, Joan that is just a little taste, what did you feel that the audio is adding to the message of the film?
JOAN GRATZ: I hope that it would really create a sense of the time and then the appropriate emotion. So, I worked on a sound with three really talented people which I will now give them credit. So, Michelle White, and Jamie Haggerty and Lance Lynn Barker. And I, and we would sit in a cylinder man, blessings, and it was one of the best collaborative experiences I've ever had.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: How important is audio for animation do you think, Spike?
CRAIG DECKER: It is a natural part. We see it so much with Pixar and John Lasseter and the voice actors and the quality of voice actors he's ready to enhance toy story, cars, etc.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: John, how important is it for you to be showcased at one of the Spike and Mike's festivals?
JOAN GRATZ: It's always really fun and especially nice for the 30th anniversary Festival. Because Mike and Spike like they brought us down to La Jolla once and up to the Hoover. So I have very fond memories of those festivals. I go to a lot of international festivals. But, it's really great, you know, to have such a fine collection of films, you know, from all over, but to have them shown locally.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: And to know you are a part of it. So, Spike, when you started with the first one did you think you would be having on tour and having Oscar-nominated animator said.?
CRAIG DECKER: No, we started at Riverside city College and it was just gradual legless a crazy character and he was part of the motivation to have the nerve to go out I remember first time we went to San Francisco we came in we ended up getting huge sellout shows in front of the Chronicle and etc. even in her critics called in breaking it from somebody on the outside so that is one example of something that we didn't achieve that was quite a hurdle.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: User-defined toward the sick and twisted direction there for a while didn't you is that some of the genre that is the most dynamic animation these days?
CRAIG DECKER: No, what we are doing here and thank you for pointing that out, this is the Oscar-winning show Oscar nominees, international collection, phenomenal technique in films and countries represented. This is the highbrow show in the second this it is the lowbrow show a few will. But it is, sick and twisted we sort of had all these films that could not fit into the regular show, what we now call the original Festival of animation so Mike and I came up with the brand sick and twisted and essentially created a genre showing that animation could be something that was not just for children, but was cool and fun.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: This particular show starting this week is something you can take your kids to, no worries, all of them?
CRAIG DECKER: Some of them are maybe a little bit more sophisticated, or fryer you really young children, but it is a wonderful collection.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: Anyone who has ever been to them has always wanted to go again so I'd like to thank our guests Joan Gratz, thank you so much for joining us, Joan, And also Craig Spike Decker it's great to have you here.
CRAIG DECKER: Thanks for having me.
ALLISON ST. JOHN: The celebration starts Saturday at the Museum of contemporary Art La Jolla.