Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Los Angeles Trip

 We still don't have distribution for CHEATIN', although we're talking to a few candidates.  Our plan is to try and get some award recognition to raise the film's desirability - it's already won over 10 international festival awards, but we need to get something big in the U.S.

The big ones (I call them the "trifecta") are the Annies (ASIFA-Hollywood awards), the Golden Globes, and of course, the Oscars.  They all take place in L.A. in February - and to qualify the film for these awards, I need to screen it in L.A. for a week.  So I went to L.A. to promote the appearances of CHEATIN' and "Footprints" (my new short) for their qualifying runs.

We hired a press agent, Theo Dumont (no relation to the great Margaret Dumont) to help spread the word.  So I was very busy throughout the week doing press and interviews.

                                        With Tom Sito and Jerry Beck at Dreamworks Studio

On Tuesday we had a packed house at Dreamworks for the ASIFA-Hollywood members to see the film. It got a great response!

                                                              On stage at Dreamworks

After making appearances at Dreamworks, Nickelodeon and Disney, to help spread the word, on Thursday night I went to receive an Indie Animation Icon award at the wonderful Hollyshorts Film Festival.  It was a fun event, I got to meet Anthony + Joe Russo, directors of the recent film "Captain America: The Winter Soldier".  And also Jon Heder of "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Blades of Glory" fame.   He's a big fan, or at least he claimed to be.                             

                                        Being interviewed at the Hollyshorts Film Festival

                        With Jon Heder, Nicolas Peterson and Jonathan Martin at Hollyshorts

                     With Theo Dumont and Anthony Russo, director of "Captain America 2"

Opening night at the Downtown Independent Theater was a bit anti-climactic, a very small but enthusiastic crowd turned out.  I did a Q&A and signed cards for all the attendees, and during the projection I wandered around downtown L.A., which is a wonderful mix of old Latino culture, abandoned storefronts and old vacant movie palaces, but also some wonderfully restored hotels and restaurants.  It's assuredly a neighborhood in transition.

                        With Rick Farmiloe + Signe Larsen at the Saturday night screening

                               With Ken Mora at the Sunday night screening of CHEATIN'

                             Signing sketch cards for moviegoers at the CHEATIN' screening

As the weekend progressed, the audiences started to build at the cinema.  I don't know if it was due to word of mouth or what.  But maybe the good reviews from L.A. Times, L.A. Weekly and the Huffington Post brought some more people in.

The film was going to run at the Downtown Independent until August 21, but now the cinema says it will extend the run.  That's good news - but I encourage all you fine folks living in the Los Angeles area to see it this week, and please tell your friends - everyone who sees the film loves it!

                      With Adrian Urquidez from Disney and my old buddy David Levy.

--Bill Plympton

Monday, August 11, 2014

Los Angeles premiere of CHEATIN', August 15

Hallelujah!  My feature CHEATIN' is finally getting its U.S. theatrical premiere!

Tell all your friends in the L.A. area that on August 15, CHEATIN' will be opening at the Downtown Independent Cinema in L.A., along with my brand new short "Footprints" - and on top of that, I'll be making appearances at the evening shows on opening weekend, August 15-17.

I'll be there to greet the attendees, do a Q&A, and give a sketch and autograph to every fan.  I'll have DVD's and original art for sale.  I may even park cars at the theater and sell popcorn.

This is my big premiere, what I've been working toward for years, so it has to be a success.  If we get great reviews and attendance, then other cinemas will be encouraged to book the film.

Some people don't believe there's an audience for non-kiddie, non-CGI films - well, I'm here to prove them wrong.  CHEATIN' is a huge success in France, it's already won over 10 international festival prizes, and to top it all off, I'm getting huge ovations after every screening.

So, if you want to help me prove that there's a market for hand-drawn animated films for people like us (adults), please help spread the word, and bring your friends to see CHEATIN' at the Downtown Independent Cinema, it will be there only 1 week, August 15-21.  And if you come up to me and tell me you helped spread the word, I'll give you a special sketch.

Here's the address of the theater:

Downtown Independent
251 S. Main St.
Los Angeles CA 90012

and you can buy tickets here:

Thanks for your support - go, indie animation!

--Bill P.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

San Diego Comic Con report

Sorry for the delayed report on San Diego Comic-Con.  On my return to New York, work was extremely backed up - my studio had no art or animation to color and composite, so I've been in overtime mode this whole week.  This is the first moment I've had to gather my thoughts on SDCC.

My son Lucas, dressed as Spider-Man for his first SDCC.  

                                             Lucas, a few hours later - he'd had enough!

                                  With David Slade, director of the upcoming "Powers" show.

                                    With Drew Friedman, illustrator of "Heroes of the Comics"

Financially, it was a good convention - the economy seems to have bounced back.  Although our DVD sales were down, we made up for it in art sales.  Also, for the first time, I offered caricatures for $10 a pop.  Boy, was that a mistake!  We had long lines, even fights over who was next in line.

Now, I love doing caricatures - it's a fun exercise for me.  But when I get asked to draw children, and they won't hold still, or someone asks me to do a group caricature, it's hard to produce a nice drawing.  The next day, we upped the price to $20 a drawing, and we still had a mob scene.  Lesson learned.  At the New York Comic-Con, maybe I'll charge $40 - that way I can really concentrate on the art.

                                           These great fans bought a lot of my animation art!

                                                  and then Power Girl even posed for me!

                                Sam Viviano from "MAD" Magazine dropped by my booth...

                                          and so did "Simpsons" director David Silverman!

                                 Things got a little slow on Friday, so I learned to play the ukulele...

Our panel was a huge success, mostly because Jim Lujan joined me on stage - he's a natural comedian.  We showed "Deep End" (big hit), "Footprints" (big hit) and then clips from "Revengeance" (very big hit).  Although the film is a long way from completion, Jim was able to put together a nice opening sequence from "Revengeance".

We also introduced Ken Mora's remake project, "Your Face Global Jam" - where anyone can recreate a part of my Oscar-nominated short, set to a new soundtrack.  It's going to be very cool!  You can find out more at 

                                                    Tom Sito also dropped by the booth....

Ron Diamond had a panel based on his "Animation Show of Shows", a selection of animated shorts that played in the mammoth Hall H.  He asked me to introduce "Drunker Than a Skunk" to a crowd of about 6,500 people.  That has to be the largest crowd ever to see that film!  The crowd there was mostly waiting for the "Game of Thrones" panel later on that day, but I'm still happy so many people got to see my film!

And then, right after that screening, I rushed over to the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival screening of the same film, before a massive audience of 30 people - what a difference!

                                              with the Maestro himself, Sergio Aragones.
                                  and here's Rich Moore, writer/director of "Wreck-It Ralph"!

                                                 Holy Hellboy, it's Guillermo del Toro!

The only really negative part of the show was when Sandrine and I raced out of the convention center on Sunday to catch our plane, and three San Diego cops grabbed Sandrine as she was crossing the street, and they wouldn't let her follow behind me - they forcibly took away her bags of presents.  She screamed and I returned to help her - fortunately she was able to free herself from their clutches.

This brings up a very important issue with the San Diego Comic-Con.  The huge convention center is right next to numerous train tracks and highways that separate it from the rest of downtown.  So, it's like there's a giant moat around the building, and it's tough to get across.  They have to realize that 100,000 people go into this building every day during the Con, and the only access is two tiny crosswalks.  The whole design is a disaster.  Sometimes you have to wait 20 minutes or more for a giant freight train to pass just to cross over to get to the Convention Center.

Why someone in San Diego city planning doesn't build a convenient pedestrian bridge, or a tunnel to help traffic flow, I can't understand.  But the cops treat the convention attendees like cattle, and it's extremely frustrating and difficult.  There was talk of moving the Comic-Con to L.A. or Las Vegas a couple of years ago - I personally prefer San Diego as a nice city, but if these traffic problems continue, I'd vote to move it someplace else.  Anybody else have thoughts on that?

                                                         I got to meet Marky Ramone...

                                 and Judah Friedlander, star of "30 Rock" and "Sharknado 2"!

                                They even let me go to the WIRED Cafe and check out all the
                          cool techno stuff there.  They took my photo for Entertainment Weekly!

I had a great time, met a lot of fans and drew a lot of caricatures!  And I'll be back to do it all again next year!

--Bill Plympton

Monday, August 4, 2014

Is talent learned, or in DNA?

This past Christmas at our family dinner, we were discussing my 13-year-old niece's beautiful Christmas card design, which was sold to a local bank for use as their holiday card.  The discussion turned to whether talent was genetic or learned.

My younger sister, who is a professional artist, believes that the Plympton family has an artistic gene that gives us a natural talent for making art.  I hear things like that a lot, that some people were born to be great artists.

However, I believe that's a bunch of bull propagated by jealous people who wish they could be artists, or want to believe that they could have been, if only they'd had the right parents.

As for myself, sure, I was good at creating art in school - but that was because it made me happy.  There was something very magical for me at a young age in putting the pencil to paper.  It entertained me.  Also, I really enjoyed the newspaper comics and TV cartoons, so naturally that's what I drew.  Plus, since I lived in the rainy climate of Oregon, I spent a lot of time indoors, drawing.

So, if there was any reason for my "natural ability to draw", it was all connected to those things - not any kind of artistic "gene".  But beyond that, I had ambition - I wanted to be a success and to live in New York City.

I had a number of artist friends in school who were, in fact, as good as or better at being artists than I - yet they never became successful artists.  One of them is a check-out clerk at a drugstore.  I believe they lacked the ambition or will to keep up the rigorous routine needed to become a great artist.   Not just to draw all day, but to study and push oneself and totally be immersed in art.

It takes a whole lot of dedication to be a great artist.  Picasso, when he was drinking and womanizing, painted all day - and not because he needed the money, but because it's what he loved to do, it was his passion. 

I sometimes create 200 drawings a day, and after a full day like that, I feel so satisfied and exultant.  It's like I was having sex all day long.  And that's what drives me to create art - not some creative gene hidden somewhere in my DNA.

So, all you fledgling artists, don't blame your parents - get out there and draw!!!

--Bill Plympton

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chuck Jones exhibit at MOMI

As most of you know, I'm a product of being raised on Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons. For me, the Warner Bros. shorts were my touchstone for humor - my holy trinity consists of Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones.

Tex and Bob had the biggest influence, because of their wild, anarchic humor and exaggeration - whereas Chuck tended to be more sentimental and relied too much on cuteness.  Yet, he made a handful of shorts that were masterpieces - his Road Runner cartoons are some of my favorites.  "One Froggy Evening" is a classic, and "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" is perfect.

I'm talking about Chuck because there's a wonderful exhibition and film program at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY.  The other night I went to the gala opening, there was lots of great animation talent there, the wine was flowing and then we all gathered around for one of the most boring presentations imaginable.  All these politicians and bureaucrats got up and bored us to death with their self-serving speeches.  If I'd known it was going to be a political conference, I would have stayed at home.

They ended the presentation with a rare, but bland, Chuck Jones infomercial about public health.  I'm sure they could have come up with something more entertaining.  The only saving grace for the evening was the awesome exhibition of early artwork, drawings, model sheets, sketches, and of course clips from his films.

The other question I'm left with is - will the public think that Chuck Jones invented the phrase "What's Up, Doc?", because the title of the exhibition is "What's Up, Doc: The Animation Art of Chuck Jones".  I hope not, because that phrase come from a Tex Avery Bugs Bunny short.

If you get a chance to see this wonderful event, do it!  It's a great look at one of the true geniuses of the Golden Age of Animation.  I give it an "A".

--Bill Plympton

Monday, July 14, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014

Hey, comic and animation fans -

Great news, I'm going back to the San Diego Comic-Con, and I've got all sorts of great activities set up.  It all goes down July 23-27 (Wednesday's the Preview night, then Thurs-Sunday are full days).  For more information, please visit

Number 1, I'll have my usual booth, #1537, but what's really wonderful about this year is that we've named the whole row "Animation Alley", because we've created a little neighborhood there.  In other words, if you have any love of animation, you MUST check out Animation Alley!

We've got Animation Magazine, ASIFA-Hollywood, Ken Mora and Jim Lujan at the BellaFe Films table, and of course, the great Spike & Mike's Sick and Twisted Animation booth - and I must say that this corner of the convention center gets crazier and crazier every year.  We have beauty contests, push-up contests, ball fights and general mayhem.

                             Here's where you can find Animation Alley - just look for row 1500
                                (this photo taken last year from the mezzanine on the west side)

Number 2, I'll host my Bill Plympton panel on Thursday, July 24, noon to 1 pm in Room 23ABC.  This is where I'll screen some new clips from "CHEATIN'" (it just won the Prix du Jury at the prestigious Annecy Animation Festival), plus a brand-new clip from "REVENGEANCE", my new co-production with the great Jim Lujan.  Plus we'll be making a major announcement about "CHEATIN'" being released in theaters, so you won't want to miss it!  And if that's not enough, I'll have a sneak peek of my brand new short film, "Footprints"!

Number 3, I'll be showing my animated short "Drunker Than a Skunk" as part of the Comic-Con Independent Film Festival on Friday, July 25 at 11:35 am in Hall 2 at the Marriott Marquis and Marina, which is 1 building north of the main convention center.  It's a hilarious story about a small cowboy town that torments the local drunk, and it's all animated in ballpoint pen drawings.

So please come to my Comic-Con panel and get a free sketch - or stop by the booth any time and say "Hello".  This year we're going to be offering a ton of original animation drawings at cut-rate prices, because I'm trying to make some space in my studio. 

See you at the Con!

--Bill Plympton

(and my thanks to Jim Lujan for the great flyer!)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Iron Sky

As most of you know, my blog is primarily concerned with animation and all of its aspects.  However, once in a while I comment on live-action films, and this is one of those times.  However, the film I'm writing about tonight does have a ton of digital animation (CGI). 

I don't remember how I first heard about this movie, but it somehow turned up in my Netflix mailer - I've been involved in mkaing a parody film about Hitler, so maybe that's why I ordered it.

In any case, it's a very bizarre live-action film about the Nazis, who, after their defeat in 1945, escape to the far side of the moon to regroup and plan a new attack on the Earth for world domination. 

Directed by Timo Vuorensola of Finland, the story takes place in 2018, just as the Nazis are finally ready to invade the Earth, and Sarah Palin is in the White House, surrounded by stuffed bears and moose.

The film has everything - great story, humor, terrific special effects, satire and Nazis!  What more could anyone want?

In the special features, the director and producers talked about their crowd-funding.  I don't know what the budget for this film was, but it looked like it was $50 million or more. 

I never saw it advertised during its release (Perhaps I was out of town...) but I believe they're depending on the digital release to make back their money.  So, I encourage you to check out this film.  It's very different and imaginative.  I give it an "A".

--Bill Plympton

Monday, June 30, 2014

Annecy, Part 2

Other than my concerns over the promotion of "CHEATIN'" ("Les Amants Electriques"), there were lots of other activities going on in Annecy.  The opening night film was "The Tale of Princess Kaguya" from the great Isao Takahatao (one of the founders of Studio Ghibli).  The word was, this film was a masterpiece and could win the animation Oscar.  Well, just like Miyazaki, I think Takahatao is past his prime.  The film was lovely to look at, but the story was much too slow and long (I fell asleep a few times).  Also, I believe they ran out of money near the end, because the artwork at the end of the film was so bad, it was high-school level.

We attended the Disney/Pixar BBQ on the lawn of the Imperial Palace - this was a delightful affair where I got to chat with some Disney folks and my good friends Celia Bullwinkel and Amid Amidi, publisher of Cartoon Brew.

And then there was the delightful Dreamworks picnic, organized for many years by Shelly Page, where I got to reconnect with the great animator Jan Pinkava ("Geri's Game" and "Ratatouille"). 

But the real main focus this year (other than "CHEATIN'") was the 9th year of the Annecy Plus Festival.  This was started by Pat Smith and me back when we were frustrated that our films weren't getting selected by the judges.  The first year we held it at a bar - we put together a program of other rejected films, and the response was terrific.  So, we continued doing it as a tradition.  Eventually Pat moved to Singapore to teach, so the wonderful Nancy Phelps stepped in to help out, and of course Nik Phelps always puts together the musical part of the program.

The last few years, we've been having some trouble finding suitable venues - either the place would be too small, or the neighbors complain about the noise, it's always something.  But this year, we think we found a solution.  We teamed up with the "Annecy OFF" people, who kindly supplied us with a large docked boat named "Le Cygne" that served as a gathering and drinking place.

The projector was aimed at a large screen on the boat in front of us.  The fans set up chairs and blankets on the dock and were able to enjoy the show and feel the cool lakeside breezes as they watched four programs of shorts and listened to the wonderful Nik Phelps Band.

The place was packed - people drank and enjoyed the films - I think we had over a thousand people.  It seems that we've found a new home for Annecy Plus.   So, next year, if your film is rejected by the judges at Annecy, please send it along to Nancy or me and perhaps you'll be the next star of Annecy Plus. 

Here is the program of films we showed this year:

                           The Annecy + program (back page on the left, front page on the right)

                      The Annecy + line-up of films - thanks to everyone who submitted their work!

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Trip to Annecy

My all-time favorite film festival, Annecy, is my opportunity to show "CHEATIN'" ("Les Amants Electriques") to the animation world.

The film screened on the afternoon of the first day - which is not a very prestigious slot, since people are usually still arriving - but to our surprise, there was a packed house of cheering fans.  Sandrine (my wife/colorist/translator) and my producer, DesirĂ©e Stavracos, joined me on stage to bask in the pre-screening applause.

After the screening, we were joined in the press room by Peter Debruge (of Variety fame) to do a Q&A session.  I felt the timing was terrible, since it's my custom to sign autographs and draw sketches on cards for the fans, and hopefully sell some art immediately after a show.  And since this was the big screening in the Haras (the large screening area) I missed out on a lot of revenue to help finance my next film.

However, at the next 3 screenings I was able to meet my fans and sell some items - the biggest seller was the original art from "Hot Dog".

Originally, I felt "CHEATIN'" had a good shot at some kind of prize at Annecy - since it had already won 9 international festival prizes and garnered a lot of praise from fans and critics.  That was, until I saw my competition.

The first animated feature in competition that I saw was "The Fake" from South Korea.  This is the film that beat us for a prize in the Sitges Festival - so I was very curious to see this film.  It's a wonderful story about these crooked evangelists who are exposed by the town drunk.  And what's great about the story is that the whistle-blower is one of the most vile humans possible - he's a cheat, a thief, a child abuser, you name it - yet somehow you root for the bum.  The style is rotoscope (but good rotoscope), and my only problem was that the artist's couldn't nail the mouths - they looked so lame.

Another feature in competition was "Giovanni's Island", a heart-wrenching Japanese story about a family trying to survive the Russian occupation of a northern Japanese island.  It's a story full of beauty, romance, drama, and great characters - unfortunately, it's perhaps a little too melodramatic and the noses were terribly drawn.  Still, a sure-fire prize winner.

The last feature I saw was "A Boy and the World" ("O Menino e o Mundo"), from Brazil.  In a sense, it's a very experimental film, done in beautiful pastels and colored pencil, using lots of synthetic shapes and movement, yet it had a very powerful story.

So I figured, "I'm already screwed, three films are better than mine, and I still have three more to watch.  I give up!"

At the awards ceremony, there was a sense of relief, because I knew I wouldn't win, so there was no anxiety, I could relax.  That was, until the announcement of the Prix du Jury award, and I heard the word "lusty" - wait, that word didn't connect with any of the films I saw.  I thought maybe I should listen to this judge's speech, and then he said something about "drawn by one person".  Hmmm, how many animated features are drawn by one person?

I looked at Sandrine and DesirĂ©e - could this be true?  Did we actually win a prize?  Then the judge said, "And the winner is...CHEATIN'!!"

YEEEOUUU!  We won!  We rushed up to the stage, I tried to talk French, which was a total disaster.  The only statement I remember making was "J'adore Annecy!"  We walked backstage to get our photos taken, and I congratulated the winners from "A Boy and His World" and "Giovanni's Island".

This is so cool, because now we'll get a lot more festival invitations and also, hopefully, major distribution all over the world.  I talked to my my French distributors, E.D. Distribution, and they said the film is playing in over 90 cinemas in France now - it's a big success in France.  Why not the U.S.?  Who knows?

To be continued in Part 2...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Footprints storyboard Part 5

Here's Part 5, the final part of my rough storyboards for my new short, "Footprints".  In a week or so I'll start posting the finish storyboards, so you can all see how my idea evolved.  And watch for the film this fall in festivals!  --Bill Plympton


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Icons of Animation exhibit

I've just come from the set-up for the "Icons of Animation" show at the Society of Illustrators.  They were hanging up all of the art, and WOW, it is fantastic!  All of the drawings are phenomenal - this has got to be the hottest art exhibition of the year in NYC.

I'm so proud to have my art included in this show.  For anybody who likes good drawing, it's a must-see exhibition.  It will blow your mind.

I'll be there with Peter DeSeve for the opening reception on Friday, June 6.  I hope to see you all there!