Animation Outlaws (2019) [Slamdance Film Festival 2020]

I’ve been an animation nut ever since I was a kid, and it was tough to find varieties of animation since in the nineties it was a steady diet of Disney and Disney only. I was never really aware of the vast possibilities of the medium well into my early adulthood. “Spike & Mike’s Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation” is an event I would have loved to attend early in to my teens, if only to verify that there’s so much more you can do with the medium beyond singing animals, and fairy tales. “Animation Outlaws” is a very niche documentary but an outstanding film that will also speak to all kinds of fans of film and animation.

“Animation Outlaws” is directed by Kat Alioshin, who chronicles the conception and success of “Spike & Mike’s Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation.” Started by two unlikely characters out of Riverside California, “Animation Outlaws” sits down with a slew of animation directors who got a leg up on their careers when Craig “Spike” Decker and Mike Gribble screened their early short works to theater audiences all over the US. Alioshin follows their early years and what it took to promote the 2 hour program with their street smarts using hand to hand flyer distribution to dressing up in cowboy outfit with mini cows.

For years, animation was reduced to being touted as strictly a kid’s genre, and the “Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation” broke all those stereotypes, featuring animation that took risks, raised the bar for the medium, and gave so many heavyweight animators their starts. Everyone from Mike Judge, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Peter Lord, and Will Vinton are interviewed, as they express how much the festival helped them express themselves and break in to the industry. The “Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation” opened a lot of doors with its willingness to accept everyone and anyone and give them a voice that otherwise would have remained silent.

Director Alioshin speaks to just about everyone who expresses immense gratitude, from female animators that were allowed to be as experimental as they wanted, to punk and goth fans that were hired to promote the festival and be allowed to socialize and build their own social network. There are so much wonderful peeks inside the cogs of the “Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation” from looks in to the way the audience interact with the films, the interaction between festival goers. Director Alioshin even explores the assorted memorabilia collected from folks like Matt Groening and Brad Bird, as well as the nigh endless means of promoting the festival by Craig “Spike” Decker and Mike Gribble (including imitating a mentally disabled man as a means of convincing passersby to accept flyers).

“Animation Outlaws” is an engaging, entertaining, fantastic documentary filled with wonderful looks in to the origins of some of the most groundbreaking animators and how they were all once indie artists looking for a voice. Animation fans need apply.

The Slamdance Film Festival runs every year from January 25th to January 31st.