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GOINGS ON SANTA BARBARA : Reel Unique : Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation opens a two-week run Friday.

May 16, 1991|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Aman named Wallace and his dog, Gromit, face a predicament: They have crackers but no cheese to put on them. What to do? Take a vacation to a place that has cheese. They look at one another and their minds click simultaneously. The moon. It's made of cheese.

So the two of them (the dog is the real brain behind the operation) build a rocket in the basement of their home and set off for the moon.

That's the story line for the hilarious film "A Grand Day Out," produced by Nick Park of Great Britain. It is one of the highlights of Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation, which opens a two-week run at the Victoria Street Theater on Friday night.

Park's clay-animation production earned a 1990 Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short, only to be beaten out by the only other animated film he's ever produced, "Creature Comforts," which will also be shown at the festival. "Creature Comforts" is a wonderful compilation of interviews with zoo animals.

The rest of the festival lineup features short films on a variety of topics, using various animation techniques. The best of them include:

* "Simon," the story of a young boy who is just like the rest of his schoolmates except for one thing: He has no nose. The kids either laugh at him or ignore him completely, until one day Simon's courageous act changes their attitudes.

* "Fatty Issues," a look at a woman's struggle to diet and her attempt to justify her overeating. It won an award at the 1990 International Film Festival in Ottawa.

* "Rugrats," (or "Tommy Pickles and the Great White Thing"), a Nickelodeon creation that shows the danger and excitement of a baby boy's venture into the land of the toilet monster.

* "Balance," a somewhat grim yet funny and offbeat look at the ill effects of greed. This German production won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Animated Short, as well as a host of other awards.

What the selection of films has in common, said Mike Gribble, half of the Spike and Mike team, is uniqueness. "Something about the film has to stand out," he said. "I always like to say that Spike and I have the attention span of a fruit fly, so if it's not interesting to us. . . ."

A cautionary note: This program is not an easy call for parents wanting to bring their young children. A couple of videos, particularly the American production "Mother Goose," are not necessarily appropriate for all ages.

"Mother Goose" features overly literal and violent adaptations. In "Jack and the Beanstalk," the giant goes after the "blood of an Englishman" in a particularly graphic and disturbing way. And the mice of "Three Blind Mice" get their tails cut off by the farmer's wife in a way that might frighten a youngster.

For adults, though, the festival should be great fun. The theater is at 33 W. Victoria St. For more information call 965-1886.

Santa Barbara's getting more animated by the minute. UC Santa Barbara will be showing a partially animated film titled "Comic Book Confidential" at Campbell Hall tonight at 8. It's a documentary featuring interviews and historical footage of some of the pioneers and present-day leaders of the often-controversial medium, including Jack Kirby, creator of Captain America; William Gaines, the mastermind behind "Mad Magazine," and Bill (Zippy the Pinhead) Lee. General admission tickets are $5. For information call 893-3535.

Hope and charity: Tickets are on sale for "An Evening with Delores and Bob Hope," to be presented at the Arlington Theatre on June 22. This salute to military troops who served in the Persian Gulf will benefit Santa Ynez Valley Hospital. Tickets are $50, $100, $500 and $1,000. To reserve a seat, call the Arlington box office at 963-4408 or Ticketmaster at 583-8700. For more information, call the hospital at 688-6431, Ext. 201.

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