Friday, January 23, 2015

Los Angeles appearance, January 30

Hey, Plympton fans, guess what?  I'll be making a rare appearance in L.A. next week, on Friday, January 30 at 8 pm, making a presentation of all of my new projects, sponsored by Trepany House at the Steve Allen Theater, located at 4773 Hollywood Blvd.

I'm going to show brand-new clips from my upcoming animated feature with Jim Lujan, called "Revengeance" - it looks very cool.  Then I'll show some of my newest shorts - like "Footprints" and my piece for "ABC's of Death" called "Head Games".

I'll also be showing excerpts from my other work-in-progress feature, "Hitler's Folly".  These clips will blow your mind.

And if that's not enough, I'll present the world premiere of my new short, "The Gastronomic Shark".

There will also be other cool surprises.  So, if you live in the L.A. area or know someone who does, get on down to the Steve Allen Theater and come say hello.  Hope to see you there.

For tickets and info, please visit:  

http://www.trepanyhouse.org/

or visit the Facebook page (copy + paste this link):

https://m.facebook.com/events/1539903152923681?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A2%2C%22ref_dashboard_filter%22%3A%22upcoming%22%7D&aref=2&arefdashboardfilter=upcoming

Thanks,

Bill P.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Homer Groening event

Back when I was at Portland State College and had dreams of making films, I attended the nascent Portland Film Festival, and one of the films in the festival was called "Study in Wet" my Homer Groening.  He happened to be there and was very friendly.  I told him I loved his film and especially his dry, ironic sense of humor.

He invited me up to his house to see some of his other work, and I took him up on his offer.  He and his wife, Margaret, were perfect hosts, feeding me while I watched some of his other "industrials" on his 16mm projector.

Well, that was back in 1967.  And now that his son, Matt Groening, is a big superstar, Anne Richardson and Lisa Groening decided to put together a long-needed retrospective of the forgotten genius (and inspiration for namesake Homer Simpson) at the famed Hollywood Theater, as part of their "Mid-Century Oregon Genius Program".  It was a packed house, full of Portland's animation celebrities: Joanna Priestley, Paul Harrod, Joan Gratz, Will Vinton, Marilyn Zornado and Craig Bartlett. 


I was honored to be asked to do the opening introduction, then the panel, consisting of film critic Tom Shrader, Ted Mahar, Lisa Bartlett (née Groening) and Matt himself, took over and talked about the life and art of Homer. 

The films they showed were made for big Oregon clients like Jantzen, White Stag and Pendleton, so they never really made it to cinemas or TV.  But they're so funny and entertaining, they should have been.  Matt noted that Homer told him that a film has to be either short or funny to be a success, and that demonstrates shades of my own Plympton dogma: short, cheap + funny.


I loved his sense of humor, very deadpan, which is also the kind of humor I try to emulate.  There's an ad agency in Portland called Wieden & Kennedy, and they've done ads for Nike and ESPN that are also very dry and ironic.  Hmm!  I wonder if they were also influenced by Mr. Groening.

I hope Lisa and Matt can put these gems on DVD.  Some are a bit dated, evoking the "Mad Men" era, with sexy bathing beauties everywhere, but they're so clever and witty, his work deserves to be discovered by more people. 

I believe you can find a few of them on YouTube, I'm enclosing a scan of the program so you'll know what to look for.  So check him out, Homer Groening.


Thanks,

Bill P.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Oscar Nominations, Part 3

Damn! It happened again!  I had a great short film on the Oscars short-list, and it wasn't nominated!  What's my problem?  I feel like the Susan Lucci of animation!

A lot of people told me I had a great shot at a nomination this year, and of course, I never took their predictions seriously - people always want to make you feel good.  But a number of Academy members told me that "Footprints" got the biggest laughs at the L.A. screening, so I thought that should count for something. 

Of course, the Academy rarely nominates funny films.  They tend to want to reward the films that are the most creative, emotional and pithy.  So "gag" films don't usually make it.  But I felt that "Footprints" was one of my most meaningful films - besides being funny, it has a message, albeit an elusive one. 

 In the past, I've had other shortlisted films that I believed deserved to be nominated.  "The Fan and the Flower", written by Dan O'Shannon, was a gorgeous film that came close to a nom but didn't get one.  Also, I think "The Cow That Wanted To Be a Hamburger" should have gotten a nod, but it also failed to get one.


And my short called "Santa, the Fascist Years" was labeled by many people as a surefire Oscar winner.  But because I failed to see the potential in the film, I released it online first, and that is a no-no for the Academy. 


So, after all this, why don't I just give up and stop worrying about the famed golden statuette?  Because it's a life-changing event.  Another nomination would add tremendous value to my work, whether I win or not.  Besides, the Oscars are the best damn party in the world. 

So, how do I deal with this massive rejection?  Do I go to bed and hide for weeks?  No!

Do I give up animation all together?  Hell, no!

Right now I'm putting all of my energy and creativity into my new animated short, "The Loneliest Stoplight", and it's going to be the one to win the coveted Oscar statue.  Even if it doesn't, I still have to believe it will!

--Bill Plympton

Monday, January 12, 2015

Nightcrawler

Another interesting film I saw, which was not an animated film, was "Nightcrawler", starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, written and directed by Dan Gilroy.


A searing indictment of freelance news reporters, this is Jake Gyllenhaal at his best.  I love these cynical "film noir" movies where everyone is evil.  Plus, this film has a much deeper meaning, saying that our whole society loves violence - "if it bleeds, it leads", and local news often plays on that love of gore and suffering. 

I give the film, and Jake Gyllenhaal, an "A".

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Roger Ebert - "Life Itself"

Since I'm an Academy member, I get sent a lot of documentary films that are in competition for the Oscar.  I just received the wonderful documentary "Life Itself", a chronicle of the life and tragic death of Roger Ebert, directed by the famed Steve James.


The first time I met Roger was in 1989, I believe, when I was at the Telluride Film Festival with my film "How to Kiss".  A few friends and I were chatting with him on Main St. (I was listening, mostly).  I was very nervous, naturally, because a good word from him could have ignited my career.  So,  I encouraged him to see my new short.  He then realized he was late for a screening and asked what time it was.  Forgetting I had a drink in my hand, I raised my hand and rotated it to read my watch, naturally unloading my full drink all over my clothes.  After having a good laugh at my expense, everyone soon scattered to their screenings.

The next time I met up with him was at the Salt Lake City airport, at the end of the Sundance Film Festival.  I had screened "Mutant Aliens" there, and of course since it was an adult animated feature, it got no coverage and no buys.  I saw Roger sitting alone, reading in the gate area.  Gathering all my courage (and hoping he'd forgotten the spilled drink episode) I walked over to him and asked him if he could look at my new animated feature film, and I handed him the DVD.  You would have thought the film had Ebola all over it, because he refused to touch it, saying he had too many films to watch.

Later, this refusal really pissed me off - here was a guy who supposedly championed the independent filmmaker and also supported animation.  He was a huge supporter of Richard Linklater's animated film "Waking Life", which I thought, apart from the breakthrough computer techniques, really sucked.  And again, when my friend Nina Paley created "Sita Sings the Blues", he became best friends with her, promising to do all he could to get the film distributed - which was practically impossible since Nina failed to get the rights to some of the wonderful music she used.

So, maybe you can see why I have some bitter feelings about Mr. Ebert.  At the time I was the only truly independent animator making a career out of my feature films, and he couldn't at least acknowledge my work.  It's very frustrating.  And now, he's gone and it's too late.

Perhaps eventually I'll find a critic who can champion my career.  By the way, I give the documentary "Life Itself" a B+.  

--Bill Plympton

Friday, January 2, 2015

"Footprints" at Slamdance

Just a heads-up for everyone, my new animated short, "Footprints" (currently short-listed for the Oscars) has been selected to be shown in the great Slamdance Film Festival in Park City this January.

That's very exciting, because for two weeks every year, Slamdance and Sundance are the center of the indie film scene - all the press, distributors, buyers, agents, and theater owners go there, looking for interesting films.

It's my humble opinion that I may have had more films shown in Slamdance/Sundance than any other filmmaker.  (Though I haven't done the research to prove it...)  The reason is, I make at least one short film every year, and a new feature about every 3 years.  So chances are they'll get into one of the festivals or the other.

I'm guessing now, but I think I've had about 7 or 8 films that screened at Sundance, and maybe about the same number in Slamdance.  The funny thing is, I keep making these indie films while other filmmakers seem to either graduate to Hollywood to make big-budget films, or they go into real estate.   But me, I keep plugging away at my animation. 

So, if you're in the area, definitely check out "Footprints" at Slamdance, which will be screening in front of the feature "Bloodsucking Bastards" on Friday, January 23 at 8 pm in the Ballroom, and on Monday, January 26 at 1:40 pm in the Ballroom.

For more information, please go to:

http://showcase.slamdance.com/Passes-and-Tickets

--Bill

Monday, December 29, 2014

Oscars Round-Up, Part 2

I'm now in the process of screening all of the animated films in the hunt for Oscar contention, even though I'm not allowed to vote this year.  A quick round-up:


"Giovanni's Island" - I believe I've reviewed this wonderful film before, and I love it.


"A Boy and the World" - an abstract look at a young boy trying to grow up, it's excellent.


"Henry & Me" - a very weird story of a boy with cancer who meets up with all of the legendary NY Yankees baseball players to be able to win against his illness.  Terrible storytelling and amateurish art.


"The Hero of Color City" - a colorful feature for kids, produced by Max Howard and directed by Frank Gladstone.  Not my cup of tea.


"Rocks in my Pockets" by Signe Baumane.  A very bold and courageous look at suicide, great design and color but too much dialogue for my taste.  But she's been winning prizes all over the world for this film, so what do I know?


"Legend of Oz: Dorothy's Return" - standard CG animation, with bad color and storytelling.


"The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" by the legendary Isao Takahata. Everyone was very excited about seeing this ancient folk tale, especially since it's his last film - but I fell asleep during the film.  And the drawing near the end is atrocious.  It looks like they ran out of money so they hired high-school kids to finish the animation. 


"Big Hero 6", by Chris Williams and Don Hall - it's beautifully animated and designed.  I loved the main character, Baymax, his design is so original.  Also I loved the backgrounds, very futuristic yet also retro.  My only problem was that it was so derivative.  It looks like they took "The Iron Giant" and mashed it together with "The Incredibles" (both are Brad Bird films...).  However, I did enjoy myself, so I give it a "B". 


But my favorite of the low-budget films is "Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart".  It has everything - great art, design, color, story and music.  It's very similar to a Tim Burton film, in that it doesn't just cater to kids but appeals to adults also.  The story is dark and it doesn't have a happy ending, but it's still a very enjoyable film.  I hope it gets distribution here in the U.S., because I believe it would do very well.  

For the nominations, I predict a mix of big studio films and some indies:
1. "The Lego Movie", directed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord
2. "How to Train Your Dragon 2", directed by Dean DeBlois
3. "The Boxtrolls", from Laika Studios, directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
4. "The Book of Life", directed by Jorge Gutierrez
5. "Song of the Sea", directed by Tomm Moore

For animated shorts nominations, I predict:
1. "Feast"
2. "The Dam Keeper"
3. "Duet"
4. "The Numberlys"
5. "Me and My Moulton"

Just so you know, I still have two films in the running, the animated feature "Cheatin'" and the animated short "Footprints".   The reason I'm not expecting a nomination is simply because all of the films that I believe will get nominations are 10 to 100 times more expensive than mine.  Still, I suppose I can allow myself to dream for a minute.

--Bill Plympton

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ekaterinburg

I'm fascinated by Russian history - what the Russian people have had to endure throughout their existence is truly tragic.  When I got an invitation to go to Ekaterinburg for their Kinoprobe Film Festival, I jumped at the chance.  Ekaterinburg  is famous as the place where Czar Nicholas II and his entire family were assassinated by the Communists in 1918. 

As I arrived in the city, I soon realized that this place was much farther north than I expected - every day it was 20 degrees below zero.  I couldn't walk more than a block without my face turning into an ice cube.  I severely underdressed.

The festival itself was wonderful - it's mostly aimed at students who want to discover animation, documentaries and live-action films.  Even though my films had never shown in Ekaterinburg before, I was very well-known there.  I soon found out why, when I tried to sell my DVD's - everyone already had all of my films, via the internet or black market.

My master class was packed with a lot of fans, and when I told them about my next project, "Hitler's Folly", they became obsessed.  They all wanted to know more about my Hitler faux documentary.  In fact, there was another Russian faux documentary there, about the Russian's early moon landing and exploration in the 1930's.  It was quite good.

I had forgotten to bring my special screening copy of "Idiots and Angels" for a grand Ekaterinburg premiere - and they said not to worry, they'd rip it off the internet.

I was able to visit the shrine of the location of the assassination of the Czar and his family, the original home where they were killed in the basement was torn down in the 1950's, and a large Orthodox cathedral was built in its place, the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints.


Inside, it's your usual Orthodox cathedral, with lots of candles, incense and holy icons.

I had to go to the basement to find a crudely put together scrapbook display about the deaths of Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra and their 5 children - Tatiana, Olga, Mario, Anastasia and Alexis.


I asked around about the darker side of their rule, especially Rasputin - and no one seemed to want to talk about him.  Too bad.

I give the Kinoprobe Festival a B-, mostly because it's so damn cold!

--Bill P.

Monday, December 8, 2014

MMI Screening on December 12 / Annie Awards

Hey everyone, great news!  My new animated feature "Cheatin'" just got nominated for THREE Annie Awards, in the categories of Best Animated Feature, Best Directing in an Animated Feature, and Best Music in an Animated Feature.

If you don't know about the Annies, they're run by ASIFA-Hollywood, and they're sort of like animation's equivalent to the Oscars, and they are taken very seriously by all the big studios.  So, for "Cheatin'" to get three nominations, it's a big deal and it means that my film should be taken seriously as a contender.

(In other words, my $400,000 movie is kicking butt against some very expensive films with $200,000,000 budgets.)



So, in order to celebrate this wonderful event, the Museum of the Moving Image is having a party in my honor - also, to celebrate my screening of "Cheatin'" at their wonderful theater, and also a gallery exhibition there.

The event will be on Friday, December 12, at 7 pm - presented in collaboration with ASIFA-East.  After a special "sneak preview" of "Cheatin'" (we'll have more news shortly about this winter's release dates) there will be a reception, during which you can take in the exhibition "Plymptoons: Short Films and Drawings by Bill Plympton".  Oh, and everyone who comes will also get a free signed sketch from me - I'll be there drawing until my hand falls off. 


So, if you live in NYC or the nearby tri-state area, bring your friends and come celebrate the success of "Cheatin'" and have a drink with me.  The Museum of the Moving Image is located at 36-01 35th Ave. in Astoria, Queens.

For more information, please visit this link:

http://www.movingimage.us/visit/calendar/2014/12/12/detail/cheatin

Or follow this link to purchase tickets:

https://1282.blackbaudhosting.com/1282/tickets?tab=2&txobjid=d1ee46dd-e583-4c20-a5ba-4130040fe431

See you all there!

Oh, and the Annie Awards ceremony will be held on Saturday, January 31 in Los Angeles at UCLA's Royce Hall.  Wish me luck!

--Bill Plympton

Friday, December 5, 2014

Gijon International Film Festival

Last year, I was pleasantly surprised when my film CHEATIN' won the Best Animated Feature prize at the wonderful Gijon Film Festival in Spain.  Not only did it include a money prize, but also an invitation to visit the festival the following year.  So, I was happy to come back in 2014 and hold a Master Class and some more screenings of my films.


Gijon is situated in the beautiful Northern coast of Spain, where there's a lot of beautiful nature and gorgeous beaches.  However, they kept me so busy with my retrospective, interviews and lunches that I was unable to even walk around the beautiful historic city.

Also, the weather sucked - it was raining almost the entire time I was there.  The sun was only out on the first day I was there and I was able to go swimming in the beautiful, crystal-clear warm water of the Bay of Biscay.


Still, there were a couple of amazing highlights.  I was able to share the spotlight with one of my favorite filmmakers, Terry Gilliam.  We were able to hang out together and enjoy the fantastic food and cider of the region.


He's such a raconteur - telling me all about his film projects, the successes and the failures, and especially his battles against Hollywood studios, which I heartily empathized with.  He says he still wants to complete Don Quixote and plans to return to Spain with a new cast.

The other great guest I met was Richard Lester - when I was in college, I discovered this great man's work.  Of course, he's famous for directing the great Beatles films "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!", but then I discovered some of his more non-commercial films, like "Petulia" (which I loved), "How I Won the War" starring John Lennon, "The Mouse on the Moon", and "The Bed Sitting Room".  Of course, he made some blockbusters too, like "The Three Musketeers", "Robin and Marian" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". 


But to my mind, two of his films really stand out - "It's Trad, Dad" (released in the U.S. as "Ring-a-Ding Rhythm!") which is all about the Dixieland revival in London in the early 1960's.  I loved Kenny Ball and the Jazzmen, Acker Bilk and others, but what's amazing about the film is the experimental editing and cinematography that wasn't seen again until 20 years later, when MTV started.  So Richard Lester really started it all.

The other film of his that changed my life was "Petulia" in 1968.  This film starring George C. Scott, Julie Christie and the brilliant Shirley Knight blew me away when I first saw it.  It had everything - humor, great San Francisco rock music, drama and fantastic acting, and yet in many ways it was an experimental film.  Watch it on Netflix, you'll thank me for it.

But I digress - I approached Mr. Lester and told him he's my God, and fortunately I didn't scare him away.  He's such a gentleman, he told me some great stories about his directing years.  He said he retired because he couldn't get used to the new technology - and he looks great, slim, trim and as youthful as ever. 


What a joy to hang out with my two favorite directors!  I give the Gijon Film Festival an A+.

--Bill Plympton

Monday, December 1, 2014

Napa Valley Film Festival

Last year, while I was at the Slamdance Festival in Park City, Utah, I met the head programmer of the Napa Valley Film Festival.  I mentioned to him that I'd always wanted to visit the famed Napa Valley, plus I have relatives in Sacramento that I could also visit.  So he invited me to come this year and hold a Master Class at his festival.

On November 13, I visited beautiful historic Napa Valley for their 4th annual film festival.  I was amazed - for such a young festival, it's already become a powerhouse event, with tons of celebrities like Mike Myers, Kevin Costner, and Michelle Monaghan, among others.  Almost all the shows were sold out, even those with 1000-seat venues. Plus, they had parties galore.


Part of the attraction is the beautiful location and of course, there's also the wine.  It seemed that whereever I was, someone was offering me a delicious glass of wine, and not the cheap kind of wine I usually drink.  No, this was the GOOD stuff.  From 10 am straight through to 3 am - this was definitely not the place for any AA members to be.

The highlight for me was my last day, when I took a side trip and visited the Lasseter winery - I'd read about it many times - and of course I know John Lasseter of Disney/PIXAR fame from the old Spike & Mike days.  So my cousins from Sacramento drove me to the Lasseter Winery in Glen Ellen (of course I made a reservation first).  It's a beautiful location and because I was a friend of John, we got a first-class tour and a complete tasting of their primo wines, along with local cheeses and nuts.


I was hoping to say hello to John & Nancy, being old friends and such - however they told me they had lost their dog and were out searching for him.  I wasn't totally disappointed, after all John runs two of the biggest entertainment entities in the world, and I'm sure he needs some time to be with his family -

But definitely check out the Napa Valley Film Festival, especially if you like drinking wine and eating great food. You'll love it there.

--Bill Plympton

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wayne Coyne Animated Interview..

This weeks episode of PBS's Blank on Blank features an interview of the Flaming Lip's Wayne Coyne. In addition, the short includes Wayne's own drawings, which I used as backgrounds.  Here's a great write up from Rolling Stone. Hope everyone is having a great start to the holiday season!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Oscars Short List

I don't know if you heard, but the Academy Awards animated shorts "short list" was just announced, and my film "Footprints" made it on the list!

Three weeks ago, I attended the screening of all of the eligible animated shorts (56 films), which took place over 2 days, to vote on the films.  The quality this year was quite good.

Some of my favorites were "The Mask of Red Death" by Raul Garcia, "Rocky & Bullwinkle" (a trailer for the feature), "The Ledge-End of Phil from Accounting", and the Pixar short "Lava" - which I really liked (call me sentimental) but the NY audiences laughed at.

They showed my film "Footprints" right after the great Glen Keane's film "Duet" - so I thought my chances were dead in the water. 

To my surprise, last Wednesday night I got the word via e-mail that "Footprints" made it to the short list!  Whoopee!

The interesting situation this year is that I happen to have two Oscar-eligible films, "Footprints" in the animated shorts section, and "Cheatin'" in the animated features category.  And if the award Gods smile on me, I'll have a very rare opportunity to have both films nominated.  I don't think any director - not John Lasseter, Walt Disney or Hayao Miyazaki - has had two films in different categories in the same year.  That would be historic!

So, here's a run-down of the Animated Shorts "short list", and my opinions of the films:

"The Bigger Picture" by Daisy Jacobs.  Very inventive, but too crude for the Academy.

"Coda" by Alan Holly.  Beautiful, but too depressing.

"The Dam Keeper" by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi.  I think this film has a shot for a nomination.

"Duet" by Glen Keane.  A lock for a nomination.

 "Feast" by Patrick Osborne (Disney).  Also a lock for a nomination.

"Footprints" by Bill Plympton.  Who knows?

"Me and My Moulton" by Torill Kove.  Nice story and beautiful colors.  It's a toss-up.

"The Numberlys" by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg.  It's beautiful and smart, it should be nominated.

 "A Single Life" by Joris Oprins.  Frankly, I don't remember this one.

"Symphony No. 42" by Réka Bucsi.  Very funny and clever.  Short, funny takes that are linked together.  I liked it, but it may be too obscure.

Tune in for the big announcement on January 15.  Meanwhile, I'll be praying to the animation gods...

--Bill P.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Milt's dancing Llama...

Here's a Llama to cheer you up on this Friday..  also a reminder to loosen up while animating.. Milt was amazing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Beast Transformation..

Pencil texture.. sincere pencil texture.  I miss this. Good luck Glenn for an oscar nom.. my academy colleagues reported that "Duet" played well during the shorts screenings!