Craig "Spike" Decker can still remember the first Spike and Mike Festival of Animation. It took place at Riverside City College in Riverside, Calif., in 1977.
"It was very strange because we hadn't done a full-on 100-percent animation festival with all shorts," he says. "We were fighting a really bad stigma. People thought it was like cartoons like Bugs Bunny. But we sold it out. We promoted the hell out of it."
That signaled the launch of a successful franchise. The latest installment of the Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation screens at 9:15 p.m. on Friday, at 7:20 p.m. on Saturday and at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. This year's program features shorts such as Jonas Georgakakis' Saga of Biorn and Javier Mrad's Techopolis, a tribute to Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
"For an audience interaction, Animation vs. Animator is great," he says. "That really engages the audience. At the Opera is a short clever film. Dumb Ways to Die has great music. Key Lime Pie is my favorite here. I love the narration and the art style and the flow of it. It's a beautiful film. Love and Theft out of Germany is quite an achievement for the graphics. There's some good stuff."
While the availability of once hard-to-find animated videos has made the festival's content a little less exclusive, Decker says there's still something great about the communal experience of watching a movie with a rowdy crowd.
"We were watching Lawrence of Arabia with a guy who owns a book store and he was saying he saw it on the huge screen when it first came out," he says. "It's impressive on a small television. So it's epic to see it on a giant screen with a sound system. It becomes an event. That's like our shows. We try to make them into events so they become a collective cultural experience. Maybe in some weird way that has more relevance now than it did. You go to coffee shops and people are isolated on their device. It's more and more isolated with those people and their electronics. I talked to so many people who met their wives at our shows or this or that. It's like a concert. You can watch Coachella on TV or Burning Man on the Internet but it ain't the same."