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PALM LATITUDES

CLIQUES : Tooned In

January 23, 1994|Judy Raphael

Dave and Debbie Spafford's neighbors have gotten used to the noise and the laughter and even the occasional limo. They know that every Friday night, a corner of their quiet neighborhood becomes the center of the world--well, the animation world.

For the past five years, the Spaffords' Friday night house party (or "animation roadhouse" in Debbie's words), has drawn animators from all over the city, with W.O.M. spreading as far as Europe and Australia. Recent guests have included "Nightmare Before Christmas" director Henry Selick, Ralph ("Fritz the Cat," "Cool World") Bakshi and John Kricfalusi, creator of "Ren & Stimpy."

A sign in the back yard reading "Pago Pago" offers a clue to the party's origins. "It used to hang outside this bar across from the Disney studios, in Burbank, where the old-time animators met and drank," says Dave Spafford, a Disney vet himself before forming Spaff Animation with Debbie in 1989. Among their credits: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and Woody Woodpecker's Oscar presentation for Best Animated Short Film of 1990.

The idea for the parties came out of the Spaffords' experience in England, when they were working on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." (Dave drew the piano duel between Donald Duck and Daffy Duck.) There, animators socialized at a local pub after work, connecting with the film--and each other.

Back home though, animation get-togethers didn't seem to work. "We tried sitting over margaritas at this Mexican restaurant, but it wasn't the same," Dave says. So the Spaffords decided to do it at home--with its Alice-meets-Haight-Ashbury decor, a cartoon fantasy of weird fiberglass horses, spinning mirror disco balls, four pinball machines, a pool table and a '30s-era jukebox.

"This is no football bar," says Dave. "After a few beers, we put out grease pencils and draw on the table, so our whole bar ends up being one big cartoon! We're all freaks. Who else wants to do cartoons?"

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