Friday, March 3, 2017

Loose Ends

I've got a few bits of scattered news this week -

My Plympton Animation University course is coming to an end.  The students have done terrific work - it's been really fun to watch their films come together.  Next week we'll have some kind of class film festival, and I'm excited to see all of the (semi-)finished films.

I also just found out that the newest "Couch Gag" I created for "The Simpsons" is scheduled to premiere on (probably) the March 12 episode.  So please keep an eye out for that.  This will be my FIFTH couch gag, and I don't think any other guest animator has done more than 1 or 2.

There are actually two endings to this short piece, one suggested by Mr. Matt Groening himself, and the other one by me - it's a pretty cool spot, so check it out and let me know what you think. They told me one ending will be for TV and the other is for the internet - and I'm curious to see the kind of sound they added to it.

Finally, congratulations to Signe Baumane and Sturgis Warner, who reached their Kickstarter goal of $126,000 for their new animated feature "My Love Affair With Marriage".  Their campaign was very successful in the final week, and they even exceeded their goal, raising over $132,000 - I thought maybe they were crazy to set the mark so high, but they did it!  Hooray!!

Also, speaking about crowdfunding, my brilliant animator friend Alex Budovsky showed my the first 20 seconds of his new short film, "Breezin' Along with the Brooklyn Breeze", and it looks like it will be the best thing he's ever done.  He's got an IndieGogo campaign, please check it out and support it if you can.  It's going to be a fantastic film!  Please follow this link:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/breezin-along-with-the-brooklyn-breeze-music-animation#/

Thanks!

Bill Plympton

Images from "Breezin' Along With the Brooklyn Breeze":




Friday, February 24, 2017

"Revengeance" Festival Premiere in Portland

Being from Oregon, I thought it would be very cool to have the U.S. film festival premiere of "Revengeance", co-directed by Jim Lujan and myself, at the Portland International Film Festival.


I was very excited to be with my family and friends from the Portland area to show them what I'd been working on for the last three years. 

The great LAIKA Studios (whose feature "Kubo and the Two Strings" is up for an Oscar this year) helped to sponsor the show - they flew me to Portland and got me a room at the fanciest hotel in Portland - first class, all the way. 

Jim Lujan and his wife, Leann, decided to drive up from L.A. to experience Portland - unfortunately, that was the weekend of the worst storm in California in years - so they spent most of the drive dodging fallen trees, landslides and flooding rivers.  I gave up my hotel room and stayed with my sister so they'd have a place to recover from all that. 


Once in Portland, though, they experienced the warmth and charm of the city.  Our first screening was at the classic Laurelhurst Theater - we had a full house and the audience laughed throughout the film, even though they weren't necessarily all our usual core audience. 


"Revengeance" is really targeted at a younger crowd, maybe 16-30, and the Portland Festival is usually an older crowd, used to some very sophisticated films.  So it was very satisfying to learn that our film appeals to all viewers (though, still not suitable for children...)


It was fun to do the Q&A, because I was the straight man, talking about the history and creative process, and Jim was the comic relief.  You could call us the "Abbott and Costello" of animation. 


There was a second screening on Sunday, 2/19, at the Whitsell Auditorium, which is inside the Portland Art Museum. 

From here, the film goes on to other festivals around the country (it's already playing at festivals internationally) and then it opens commercially in France in early April.  So, if you know anyone who wants to help distribute a kick-ass film in the U.S., please contact me.

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"Revengeance" - U.S. festival premiere in Portland, OR!

Hey, animation fans - and I know you cartoon fans are out there - do I have good news for you!

My latest and greatest film is having its U.S. festival premiere this coming weekend at the prestigious Portland International Film Festival (Feb. 9-25). 

As you probably know, Portland, Oregon is where I was born and raised, where I began my career as a cartoonist and animator - so it's especially sweet that I get to premiere the new film there, and I will be there in person to present the film, and give a free sketch to anyone who attends -

Also, as a great added surprise bonus, co-director Jim Lujan will be driving up from L.A. to help me introduce "Revengeance".  Jim wrote the film and in fact is the main creative force behind this crazy political biker film.  He also designed the characters and backgrounds, did the music and created aboutu 80% of all of the voices.  I storyboarded and produced the film, co-directed and did all of the animation. 

So, if you or anyone you know lives in the Oregon-Washington area, I encourage you to attend, or at least help spread the word, to support one of the craziest underground films around.

Screenings will take place on Saturday, February 18, 8:45 pm at the Laurelhurst Theater, 2735 E. Burnside Street, and on Sunday, February 19, 2:15 pm at the Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave. (inside the Portland Art Museum).  Tickets and more info are available here:

https://nwfilm.org/films/revengeance/

By the way, a number of reviewers are comparing the villain of this film, Senator Deathface, who was a TV star that turned into a corrupt politician, to a certain elected personality who is all over the news these days.  However, Jim wrote the script about three years ago, so perhaps it's just the luck of history that these two characters are so similar.  But please come out to the screenings and see for yourself!


We hope to get a big crowd there, so I hope you can all come, and bring your friends!  Help keep Portland weird! 

Bill P.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Annie Awards 2017

Wow! What a great event!  The Annies were so cool!  I got there early so I didn't miss anyone - although, as always, there were some people I missed.

I arrived at the Royce Hall with Khorvash, who was one of my artists and was looking forward to making some industry connections, because she wants to move to L.A. for job opportunities.

At the opening reception, we talked to Jerry Beck, animation historian and president of ASIFA-Hollywood.  He's also hosting animation specials on Turner Classic Movies.  We got to chat with Henry Selick of "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Coraline" fame.  We both got our start at MTV - he's working on a new feature film.  I also got to say hello to Ron Clements and John Musker of "Little Mermaid" and "Moana" fame - it seems they love stories about girls and water.

                                                                  Me with Jerry Beck

                                                                  with Henry Selick

I chatted with legendary animator Caroline Leaf - when I was just starting out in animation, she was riding high with "The Street" and "Two Sisters".  She was there to receive the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime career achievement.

                                                                  with Caroline Leaf

I met up with J.J. Sedelmaier, who was the producer of the Ford commercial I directed, "The Importance of Paying Attention: Teeth", which was nominated for the Annie Award for best broadcast commercial.

I also saw my old buddy, Ralph Eggleston from Pixar, the creator of the Oscar-winning short "For the Birds".  He's now working on Brad Bird's next feature.

                     with John Hays, J.J. Sedelmaier (2nd from left) and Ralph Eggleston (far right)

After a lot of drinks and hors d'oeuvres, we filed into Royce Hall for the presentation of the prizes.  One of the surprise presenters was Kobe Bryant, the great Lakers basketball star.  He took the stage with another star, Glen Keane, animator par excellence.  They were quite good together - they should have their own TV reality show.

The awards were fairly predictable - "Piper", the Pixar short, won and also "Zootopia", the billion-dollar box office champ won Best Feature, among other prizes.  We then all retired to the buffet dinner to chat and have more drinks.

I hung out with my buddies from "The Simpsons", Matt Groening and David Silverman.  I also got to chat with my old friend, Michael Dudok de Wit, maker of the Oscar-winning short "Father and Daughter" and the Oscar-nominated feature "The Red Turtle".  We both started out in the animation business in the mid-80's, and I'm so happy to see his great success using 2-D animation.

                                                         with David Silverman (far right)

                                                          with Michael Dudok de Wit

As the evening wound down, I was also able to talk to Jan Pinkava and Glen Keane about perhaps doing some work for Google, which would be so much fun.  Glen had a great success with "Duet" on Google.

                                                                   with Jan Pinkava

                                                                     with Glen Keane

I know this blog sounds like a lot of animation name-dropping, but all these people I mentioned are my heroes, and coming from New York, I'm very jealous of the great success these people are having.  So I'm hoping to learn the path to animation success from them.

                                                  with Rick Farmiloe and Christi Haydon

By the way, be sure to check out another New York animator, Signe Baumane, and her Kickstarter campaign.  She needs your help to make her next feature, please visit  KickstartMarriageFilm.com

Thanks!

Bill Plympton

Friday, February 3, 2017

Academy Award Nominations 2017

On another topic, they announced the nominations for the Best Animated Feature last week.  They are:
"Zootopia" - A terrific film that should win.

"Kubo and the Two Strings" - a beautifully-made film, directed by Travis Knight, that should have a strong showing.
"Moana" - a visual delight, but the story was too traditional for my tastes.

"My Life as a Zucchini" - with very untraditional stop-motion animation, but a heartfelt story.

"The Red Turtle" - by Michael Dudok DeWit, another visual masterpiece that proves that 2-D animation can compete with CGI for gorgeous style.

I was disappointed that some films didn't make the cut, like "The Little Prince", directed by Mark Osborne, "Phantom Boy", directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, and my favorite "Sausage Party", directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, and co-written and co-produced by Seth Rogen.  But I had no illusions that this would be nominated, still, it's a breakthrough film.

As for the short animated films, I'd put my money on "Pear Cider and Cigarettes", written and directed by Robert Valley.  It's a masterpiece! 
I'll be back next week with a report on my trip to L.A. and the Annie Awards!

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

L.A. trip - Annie Awards

What's Up?  Yesterday I flew out to Hollywood for a week - the main purpose for the trip is to attend the Annie Awards (animation's version of the Oscars) where my short commercial for Ford, produced by J.J. Sedelmaier, is in competition.  The commercial is called "The Importance of Paying Attention: Teeth" and warns about the dangers of distracted driving. 

I love the Annies, because I get to chat with all the hoi polloi in the cartoon business - I often get to meet people this way who I've long admired, and also get real insight into the animation industry - since I'm a real outsider in the business.

Also, now that "Revengeance" is doing the festival circuit, it's an opportunity to maybe do some deals that could benefit the release of this film. 

I don't expect to win a prize at the Annies - my Ford commercial is micro-budget compared to the competition.  The others look like they have million-dollar budgets.  But that's OK, it's fun to just be in the limelight momentarily.

Also, while I'm in L.A. I've scheduled some MasterClass presentations at Disney, USC and Dreamworks.  I guess they're mystified over how I'm able to survive as an independent animator, outside of L.A.

I want to show them some of my new projects - "No Snow For Christmas" (sung by Maureen McElheron), "Cop Dog" (it's almost finished) and of course, the piéce de resistance, a clip from "Revengeance".   

I'll post some pictures from the trip next week, and later this week I'll weigh in on the Oscar nominations for animated features and shorts.  Talk to you then!

--Bill Plympton

Friday, January 27, 2017

Signe Baumane's "My Love Affair With Marriage"

As some of you may already know, the great animator Signe Baumane started off her meteoric rise in the New York animation world by working at my studio.  So no doubt, I'm a bit prejudiced towards her films.

But I just saw her Kickstarter pitch for her new film and was knocked out!  Her follow-up to her amazing film "Rocks in My Pockets" will be called "My Love Affair With Marriage". 

The animation clip is terrific and her description of the film seems like it's the perfect concept for an animated film.  And I think the time is right for a film about relationships told from a strong female perspective.

Signe has been married twice, and she's always been completely honest (to me, anyway) in her analysis of men and sexual relations - so I have no doubt this film will be quite outrageous.  And Signe did a lot of research about what chemical and biological changes take place in the human body when we fall in and out of love. 

She plans on hiring a number of celebrities for the voices, so in order to pay for them, she's decided to turn to Kickstarter - which is a great idea, since Hollywood doesn't have the balls to support an honest, sexually frank animated film made by a woman -

So I'm encouraging all my fans and friends to help support Signe in her quest to animate this exposé into the murky world of male-female passions -

I, for one, will donate and I hope you do too, because you'll be supporting an independent film that will be a piece of art, with a story that definitely needs to be seen by the world.

You can find her Kickstarter campaign at the link below, or search Kickstarter for "My Love Affair With Marriage".

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1055277857/my-love-affair-with-marriage

Thanks for your support,

Bill Plympton


Monday, January 23, 2017

January 2017 update

This is to update you all on my current projects -

The Plympton Animation School is moving along well - we have some very talented students in the live class, and they have some great ideas for short films.  A lot of people are taking the same course over the internet, and I'm very excited about seeing their finished projects in a few weeks.  I hope we can put them all together on a DVD. 

I'm also now finishing my next Simpsons couch gag, which is called "The Artiste".  I think it's one of the funniest I've done, it's very crazy. 

We're waiting to hear from a couple of prominent film festivals right now that are close to announcing their schedules, I can't really say which ones - but we're hoping that one or two of them will select "Revengeance", and then we can announce the U.S. festival premiere.  Please stay tuned!  

Once my office manager has finished doing some year-end accounting for 2016, he's going to concentrate on getting some of the Kickstarter rewards from the "Revengeance" campaign sent out.  I know, we said we'd get things sent out in December 2016, but after the art sale and setting up the animation classes, we're running a little late. We're trying to catch up.

And then, Jim Lujan and I are working together on a script for a new feature film, called "Slide".  It's about a mythical country-western singer who travels the land, saving good people from bad people - and it takes place in a beautiful forest that hearkens back to my childhood.  I think it's going to be a very funny and crazy film, as usual.  I'll show you some of the concept art here -

I hope you'll like it! 

Bill P.


John Singer Sargent Women..

Sargent had a way of conveying the beauty and power of the female.. Starting with one of my favorite paintings of all time, Portrait of Madame X..








Friday, January 6, 2017

New Films for 2017

Every year, about this time, I hurriedly try to catch up with all of the great films that were released during the year - this year, it's because I was so busy trying to finish "Revengeance" and some new shorts.

So now I get up at 5:30 am every day, to watch a film in the morning, then late at night, before bed, I watch a feature.  Since I've been doing this for the last two months, I've had a few revelations. 

All the media people are talking about just three films that seem to be the leading contenders for the Oscars this year.  They are:

"La La Land" - a throwback to the Astaire/Rogers musicals of the 1930's, except that as clever as the film may be, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone can't sing and can't dance (at least, not as well as Astaire and Rogers...)

"Moonlight" - a film about a young boy growing up in the ghetto and dealing with his homosexuality.  A very nice film, but nothing very ground-breaking.

and "Manchester By the Sea", with Casey Affleck, directed by Kenneth Lonergan, which in my mind, is completely overrated.  It's a one-note ode to tragedy.  If you like films where everyone is depressed, then this film is for you - I couldn't wait for it to end.

But, on the other hand, I discovered some real gems that got lost in the big money/big publicity race for the Oscars -

"Hunt for the Wilderpeople" - a modest comedy from New Zealand - directed by Taika Waititi and starring Sam Neill.  A very small adventure film, full of deadpan and wacky comedy.

"The Jungle Book", directed by Jon Favreau, is a marvelous re-telling of the classic Rudyard Kipling story, using the full power of CG.

Along the same lines is "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", directed by David Yates, based on a story from J.K. Rowling.  Although it's set in a quite different environment from "Jungle Book", it still celebrates the magical, fantasy potential of computer animation, but with a great helping of humor.  Eddie Redmayne is perfect in this.

"American Pastoral", from a book by Philip Roth, is directed by, and stars, Ewan McGregor - a very sad and illuminating tale about the rebellious 1960's - it wasn't in theaters very long, but it's a real gem.

"Miss Sloane", starring Jessica Chastain, is a razor-sharp analysis of big business and the glass ceiling that awaits ambitious women -

"Elle", directed by Paul Verhoeven, starring Isabelle Huppert, is such a wild mix of emotions: horror, violence, drama, comedy, I never knew what to expect next.  A pure delight.

"Love & Friendship", directed by Whit Stillman, starring Kate Beckinsale, is a marvelously droll comedy of manners among the rich in 18th century England. 

"Christine", directed by Craig Shilowich and starring Rebecca Hall, is a humorous re-telling of the story of the infamous Tampa Bay news reporter who shot herself on air in mid-broadcast.  An excellent look at the early days of TV news, with super acting and direction.

And lastly, a real classic Hollywood-type film, "Allied", directed by Bob Zemeckis, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard.  First of all, I love World War II films, they've got the perfect setting for conflict.  Add some romance and some spies with a heart-wrenching ending, and I'm hooked.

Now, I hate it when people bring up films that no one else has seen, and claim that they're the best films ever.  And since it's hard to see some of these films, of course, it's difficult to argue back.  And it may seem like I've selected mostly obscure, limited-release movies.  But with access to the internet now, a lot of these films are watchable - so please check out my list of films, I think you'll like them as much as I did.

Happy New Year,

Bill P.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Plympton Animation University - last call!

As many of you may know, during January and February I'm holding a class for anyone who wants to learn the fine art of traditional animation. The classes will be held in my animation studio in the Chelsea area of Manhattan, and for those who can't make it, we'll be holding an online version of the course at a discounted rate.

We still have a few slots open for the in-person classes at the studio, so if you're at all interested in becoming part of the 2017 student body, please sign up as soon as you can. 

I look forward to meeting my students at the first class on Monday, January 9, 6 pm.  If you need more details about the class, please see the earlier blog post, or e-mail us at: 
studio@plymptoons.com

Keep drawing -

Bill Plympton

Friday, December 30, 2016

The End of the Year

Well, it's almost time to change the calendar, so it's a good time to look back at 2016, which was a very momentous year for me.

First, I released my mockumentary called "Hitler's Folly", and as expected, I got a lot of opposition.  But also the film got a lot of fans, and in fact, it screened in both Tel Aviv, Israel and Krakow, Poland to full houses and laughing audience.  And if people in those cities can laugh about Hitler, it makes me wonder if people in other places can learn to do so, too.

If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch "Hitler's Folly" for FREE at my web-site here:
http://www.plymptoons.com/

Then we finished and released "Revengeance", a film written, designed and (mostly) voiced by the genius Jim Lujan.  It's become very popular on the European festival circuit, and has been released theatrically in France, now we just have to arrange a festival premiere in the U.S.  We're already getting requests from some cinemas, but we'd like to make an impact at some festivals first.

Also, my studio made a music video for the great musician, Maureen McElheron, famous for composing and singing in "Your Face", "The Tune" and "I Married a Strange Person".  It's called "No Snow for Christmas", a wonderful song that comments on global warming.  (Sorry, I think the correct term is "climate change" now, same thing though...)

And we're now putting the finishing touches on my latest, and I think best, sequel to "Guard Dog", which is called "Cop Dog".  This will be released in early 2017.

Also, I had some time to create a safety commercial for Ford Motors, preaching about the dangers of distracted driving.  It's called "The Importance of Paying Attention: Teeth" and it shows an extreme example of someone picking their teeth while driving - and now it's been nominated for an Annie Award!  Plus it's got over 2 1/2 million views on YouTube!


You can watch it for yourself here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iL0I1P1VLMI

Finally, I'm now working on a new "couch gag" for "The Simpsons", called "The Artiste" - watch for it on some Sunday night next year!

On top of all that, Jim Lujan and I have begun pre-production on a new animated feature film, but I can't say too much about that yet.  You never know who's reading these things...but as you can see, it's been a wonderfully productive year for me - in fact, a banner year!

If all that isn't enough, I decided to re-open my celebrated Plympton School of Animation in January, and we still have a few slots left for the in-person lectures.  So if anyone out there has ambitions to learn animation from a two-time Oscar-nominated "King of Independent Animation", please sign up.   The first class will be on January 9, and the class is limited to just 15 students.

Happy New Year!  I hope to see you in my class or at a film festival in 2017!

--Bill Plympton

Friday, December 23, 2016

Top Ten Christmas Movies


1. "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946, Frank Capra) - with Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, you've all seen it. The perfect Christmas movie, and dare I say it, the perfect film.


2. "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945, Peter Godfrey) - with Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet.  Not only great Christmas atmosphere, but a sexy, steamy, adultery love story.


3. "The Polar Express" (2004, Robert Zemeckis) - with Tom Hanks. From the famous Chris Van Allsburg book, a very witty visual fantasy of a boy's trip to the North Pole.  The stiff motion-capture animation looks very awkward now, but great storytelling.


4. "A Christmas Carol" (1951, Brian Desmond-Hurst) - with Alistair Sim, Michael Hordern.  This film was played every year on my local Oregon TV channel, and it scared the bejeesus out of me. Plus, it was a British production, so it felt very true to the Charles Dickens story.


5. "Bad Santa" (2003, Terry Zwigoff) - with Billy Bob Thornton.  As you know, I love twisted comedy, and "Bad Santa" really takes the satire of Christmas to hilarious places.


6. "A Christmas Story" (1983, Bob Clark) - with Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon.  Adapted from a Jean Shepherd story, this sweet little film is totally hilarious and twisted.


7. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966, Chuck Jones) - with the voices of Boris Karloff and a story by Dr. Seuss.  This is a perfect little gem of an animated story, I can watch it endlessly.


8. "Elf" (2003, Jon Favreau) - with Will Ferrell, James Caan (miscast), Bob Newhart, Zooey Deschanel.  This is the film that convinced me that Will Ferrell is a comic genius.


9. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993, Henry Selick).  Although Tim Burton had a lot to do with the design and story of this film, it's really a Henry Selick film, a lot of people forget that. Very dark for a holiday film, and that's why I like it.


10. "White Christmas" (1954, Michael Curtiz) - with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen.  The old Hollywood classic. I was in the tropical Columbia Hotel, floating around in the swimming pool, and they played the famous Bing Crosby song - a totally surreal moment in my life.  My son now thinks that if it snows outside, then it must be Christmas. 

So that's my list.  If you have any additions, I'd love to hear about them.

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Trolls"


One of the animated features that qualified for the Best Animated Feature Oscar this year is "Trolls", directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn.  Unfortunately, most of the reviews that I read really panned the film.

And I understand why, because the film is very sugary and sentimental, with lots of bright colors, and the design of the trolls is very cutesy and clunky, with large hands and feet.

Yet, the film had very good humor and witty dialogue, and I liked the music.

Strangely, the film reminded me a lot of "Yellow Submarine", the 1968 Beatles film.  In fact, I felt like I was in a drug-induced flashback. It's like a magic carpet ride back to the 1960's - in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if large groups of hipsters decide to drop a lot of acid and then go to see "Trolls".

In fact, if you go see the film in a NYC theater, you may see me sitting in the audience with my eyes a mile wide - just leave me alone and let me trip out on the amazing visual surrealism and music.

I give "Trolls" a B+

Bill P.

Friday, December 9, 2016

"Avoid Eye Contact" program in Etiuda & Anima Festival

My former employee (now colleague and friend) Signe Baumane recently appeared at the Etiuda & Anima Festival in Krakow, Poland, where she presented three compilation programs of short films from New York animators.  Signe and I were both part of a group of animators that came together a few years ago to produce a DVD called "Avoid Eye Contact", and parts of these programs were based on that collaboration, while one program consisted of new work from NYC-based animators.

Signe wrote something for that festival's catalogue about what it's like to make independent animation in New York City, and I'd like to reprint it here.  These notes are also posted on her blog, which is located at:

http://www.signebaumane.com/blog/

Oh, and while you're there, please check out her animation art for sale, and her holiday offer to draw or paint any animal of your choice!

http://www.signebaumane.com/shop/

Avoid Eye Contact - Best of New York Animation in Krakow


Here are my New York Animation notes for Etiuda&Anima Festival catalogue:


It's probably not an understatement to say that New York City has one of the most vibrant and thriving animation communities in the world.  The reasons for this are multiple:


1. There used to be an amazing amount of animation jobs in the city (Nickelodeon, MTV, Little Airplane, Animation Collective, etc.) Perhaps not so much now, but animators stay here because –


2. We have a very excellent chapter of ASIFA-East that organizes screenings and meet-ups every month, and an annual festival of work from its members. When people see each other on monthly basis, it creates the sense of a community, involvement and support.


3. New York independent animators don’t compete with each other for funding (generally, the funding for arts or animation in the U.S. is scarce, so there is nothing to fight over) but instead we compete with each other over who will make a better film, we challenge each other and we support each other with advice, tips and animation tools.


4. There are at least five colleges in NYC that teach animation – so there are plenty of interns/apprentices for independent animators to employ which is a good reason to open an independent animation studio in New York. Also students have a lot of youthful enthusiasm for animation as a sophisticated form of self-expression. Enthusiasm is infectious.


5. New York City is a source of endless inspiration for stories.  Also, because everybody in NYC is constantly busy and short on time, we New Yorkers value time more than anything. As a result, good sense of timing for NY animators becomes visceral. Timing is part of our minds, our bodies, and our essences.  That's why some of the best animated films from NY may not have perfect design or the most amazing concepts, but they have timing that will make you laugh or cringe, and you walk away thinking you just watched a perfect film.


6. We in New York have the beacon of independent animation – Bill Plympton.  This beacon shows you the way to be an indie animator (create short films that connect with audiences and make a lot of them, consistently) but it also warns you not to come too close to the cliff, where the beacon stands on. It can ruin your life - to be an indie animator and consistently produce films you must give up on aspects of normal human life, like having friends, family and hobbies.


I don't know any independent NYC animator who hasn't looked at Bill and, at least once in their life, said, "That looks easy, I can do it." And then lunged into making indie short films. But then they had to stop after a few years because they got married and/or had children and had to find a better way to pay the rent.  No one else can do what Bill does (he is unique) but thanks to his example and our aspirations to be like him we have a lot of independent animated films made in New York. 


For these reasons, the community of NYC animators is so tightly knit and supportive that one day (in 2004) a bunch of us got together and published a DVD of our work, called "Avoid Eye Contact".  It was so successful (2,000 DVDs sold in one year) that we released "Avoid Eye Contact" Volume 2 in 2005. 


Since then, DVD's have fallen out of fashion, and we animators/artists have proven yet again that we are more interested in making films than selling them.  But the energy of cooperation and innovation is still there, because that is what New York City is about.


For Program 1, I selected 14 films that are my favorites from the two "Avoid Eye Contact" volumes.  The films are perhaps on the older side ("One of Those Days" is from 1988) but since animation doesn't age like other films, they are still classic.


Programs 2 and 3 were put together exclusively for Etiuda&Anima and they consist of films never screened at Etuida&Anima. There are several things that are striking about the work for in those programs – first, a lot of these shorts take place in strange spaces, for example - "Terrible Alpha 9" (Jake Armstrong), "Pangs" (Wendy Cong Zhao), "Egg" (Jack Wedge), "Mirage" (Youngwoong Jang) and "Wandering Eye" (Edwin Chavez).  It probably can be explained by New York City being a strange place with its own rules that are not immediately accessible to a newcomer and the city can seem like an alien planet at first. Note, "Wandering Eye" was hand drawn on index cards while the animator was commuting to school on subway.


To counter that, there are a couple of films that explain this strange place called New York – "Concrete Jumble" (Gary Leib) and "The Lost Tribes" (Andy and Carolyn London) - they give the audience a little bit of local history and context.  Then there are films that are strongly, unapologetically female and even raunchy, like "Teat Beat of Sex" (Signe Baumane), "Boobatary" (Leah Shore), "Cee Cee's Bedtime Stories" (Joy Buran and Noelle Melody) and "Everybody's Pregnant" (Debra Solomon).  Their unabashed revealing of the most private elements of a female life (body functions, having sex, being infertile, getting high or drunk) may come from the experiences of being part of the masses moving through the streets and mass transit of New York which erases your feeling that your privacy is sacred.  You are just one of the 8 million humans living here, and everyone has the exact same problems as you do, so get over it and share your shame and private thoughts with everyone else. It's only a stereotype that big cities alienate their residents from each other. New York does just the opposite - it connects people and teaches us to love other humans (you really can't live in New York if you don't love humans).


And, of course, as in any place around the world, in New York, too, there are inevitably films made about universal themes like food ("Gastronomic Shark", the Polish premiere of Bill Plympton's short film) and aspirations for love ("Hedgehug" by Dan Pinto, "Video 69"). Love is everywhere, even in New York.


The notorious neurosis of New Yorkers is depicted in "Something Left, Something Taken" – and since the filmmakers in the film also make fun of themselves, it shows a very typical New York humor – the self-deprecating kind.


In the end, without the compassion and understanding of other human beings the life in New York would not be possible, and that's what animated doc "A Life with Asperger's" is teaching us.


If you can't come to New York, then New York must come to you!  These 3 programs are showing some of the best New York animated shorts created in the last 20 years. This is your chance to experience all the inner workings of the minds of New York and New Yorkers. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and we hope you'll leave the screening inspired to make a film of your own.