A scene from 'Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation 2001'
A scene from the short 'Rejected'
"SPIKE & MIKE'S 2001
Classic Festival of Animation"

**1/2 stars 90 minutes | Unrated
Various play dates
April, May, June, July, 2001
Featuring "Father and Daughter" (Oscar Winner), "Europe and Italy," "Rejected," "Metropopular," "For the Birds" and 11 more shorts

Title: (optional)
'Spike & Mike's' 2001 animation fest boasts a few memorable winners among more forgettable fare

By Rob Blackwelder

The annual "Spike and Mike's" collection of short animated films is always worth the price of admission, even when several of the selections aren't exactly noteworthy, which is the case this year.

Among the 16 films in this year's "Classic" festival ("Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted" plays later in the year) there aren't any real losers, but a handful are far more conceptual than they are engaging.

The standouts in the festival this year include an Oscar nominee called "Rejected," a hilariously warped series of buggy-eyed stick figure 'toons designed as promos for The Learning Channel. They're largely nonsensical and frequently quite gross ("My anus is bleeding!"), leading one to the unmistakable conclusion that animator Don Hertzfeldt never really intended to get the TLC gig. Watching these subversive 30-second spots makes one glad there are people out there who like to snub their nose at the establishment. How this thing got an Academy Award nod is beyond me.

On the other hand it's easy to see why the lyrical and touching "Father and Daughter," won this year's Oscar for the Animated Short. A beautiful, monochromatic watercolor creation, it begins with the figures of a man and child riding bicycles to a lake. The father kisses his daughter goodbye, and rows across the lake -- but he never comes back. The eight-minute film watches the daughter grow up, biking back to the lakeside again and again over years and years, eventually with a family of her own, and later as an old woman.

Computer animation is represented in three of the other more memorable vignettes, including "Hello, Dolly," a comically eerie, table-turning jab at the budding science of cloning. Another is the Pixar short "For the Birds," in which birds of a feather get their comeuppance for mocking an outsider who lands on their power wire.

The most unique of the festival, full of wild imagery and personality, is the visually innovative "Metropopular," in which cities across a map of the USA come to life as talking heads and argue about who should win an "America's Favorite City" contest, which is suspiciously sponsored by Las Vegas. The cities themselves form faces, voices and personalities that fit their public images -- for example San Antonio wears a skyscraper-covered cowboy hat.

But my personal favorite short this year was the simplest of the bunch. "Europe and Italy" is "dedicated to those who believe Italians behave the same as all other Europeans" and features nothing but little Italian and EU flags used to illustrate how Italians drive like maniacs, order overly complex coffees, annoy non-smokers and complicate bureaucracy. Politically incorrect? You bet. And rolling-in-the-aisles funny.

I could go on describing short after short, but what's the point in that? Nobody reads reviews of "Spike and Mike" festivals to decide if they want to go see them. If you're reading this, you're already planning to see it and I don't want to spoil anything.

One important note: The festival is unrated and the lobby flyers say "for all ages" on the front -- don't believe it. Only three of these shorts would entertain most tykes, and there's at least one that's most definitely inappropriate for children.

PS: Bring a pen and paper. Many of this year's features are from online sources and the URLs are part of the credits, so you can go watch them again online.


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