Oh, how the world has changed. Ten years ago, you went to Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation to see stuff you couldn't see anywhere else - sick stuff, twisted stuff. Today, you simply turn on the tube. Beavis and Butt-head, the South Park gang, those infernally cute Rugrats - all got their starts in S. & M.'s annual compilations of cutting-edge animation. As did Toy Story's John Lasseter. And Chicken Run
After a brief intro by Spike, who's shown blowing away some Teletubbies with a shotgun, things get started with Nick Gibbons' Radioactive Crotch Man, an amusing superhero spoof that's more than a little reminiscent of Robert Smigel's Ambiguously Gay Duo. Smigel's work - this time his Fun with Real Audio - also seems to have influenced Dave Lipson's Stinky Monkey, which turns a young girl's verbal abuse of a fellow primate into a shocking display of cartoon violence. Sex, violence and bodily fluids are the festival's Holy Trinity, which makes you wonder why For the Birds (a delightful lark from Pixar) and Ghost of Stephen Foster (a '30s Fleischer Brothers cartoon that just happens to have been made in 1999) are included in the festivities. Maybe because they're just so damn good.
Other selections have more than earned their sick-and-twisted stripes. Jeff Pee and Chris Graphenberg's Birth of Abomination, which features a pregnant crack ho who'll do absolutely anything for five dollars, takes us places that Ralph Bakshi never dreamed about. And then there's Roy Wood's Wheelchair Rebecca, which purports to give us the backstory for a differently abled children's doll. (Think rough sex. Think drug-fogged suicide attempt. Think alien anal probe.) But surely the Don't Go on a Weak Stomach Award belongs to Sloaches Fun House, which Spike has called "the most vile piece of clay animation ever molded." I won't bother to describe this ultimate gross-out, merely point out that, when films like this work, they reach a part of our psyches perhaps better left undisturbed. Which is why we're there, of course.