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!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Subliminal Ads

Do I have an over-imaginative mind?  Or do I have too much sex on the brain?

Or is advertising resorting to blatant sexual imagery to sell their products?

Just the other day, I passed this poster for the film "The Other Woman" on a nearby street corner.

Now, I don't know what you see in this image, but to me it looks like Cameron Diaz has a round hole cut in her dress so you can see her shaved pussy -

Now, I'm sure that the publicity team at 20th Century Fox looked at this image many times before deciding to use it in their major ad campaign.  And someone must have pointed out the sexual innuendo to them.  So my only conclusion is that they used this image as a sexual come-on to get the butts into the theater seats.

What do you think - am I crazy, or am I seeing things that aren't there?  Please write to me and let me know.


Bill Plympton

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Footprints storyboard Part 4

Here's Part 4 of the rough storyboards for my upcoming animated short "Footprints" 



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Degenerate Art at Neue Galerie

I've been a frequent visitor to the wonderful Neue Galerie (gallery for German and Austrian art) and have always enjoyed their shows and made many discoveries.  But as much as I've loved their shows, there's never been any kind of excitement in any of their exhibition.

However, their new show is taking over New York like a blitzkrieg.  It's called "Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937". 

There are two parts to this show - the first is the art that Hitler and the Nazis felt was degenerate, like Kandinsky, Otto Dix, George Grasz, Paul Klee and others.  The second part is Hitler's favorite art - and it's very enlightening to see the two styles side by side.  There were some wonderful revelations I had based on the work of artists like Ernest Bulbach, Emile Noble and Felix Nussbaum.

But the most curious thing to me was that a couple of the works by Nazi-accepted artists were quite nice.  It was very commercial, of course.  It could have been done by Norman Rockwell or NC Wyeth.  I liked it because it told a story, and technically the draftsmanship was excellent.  Very populist.

In fact, I found some of the "accepted" art more engaging than the banned art.  But for me, the coolest thing was the exposing of the Nazi regime's whole idea that artwork deemed not acceptable to the Fuehrer should be slandered and destroyed, and the artists responsible should either be forced to emigrate, or be killed.

And since I'm now working on a film about Hitler - and many people tell me that it's box-office poison to do that, I'm delighted to see how the name "Hitler" brings in mobs of people.  I believe that audiences love to see evil and sinister personalities, and that's why I believe my "Hitler" documentary will be a success.

Every time I do a show, people ask me what my next project will be.  I tell them about the Hitler film and the audience becomes fascinated, and they persist in asking questions about the upcoming film. 

So, if you live in the NYC area, definitely check out the Degenerate Art exhibition.  I give it an A-, but only because the show is too small.

Bill P.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Stuttgart Animation Festival

After the Paris premiere of "Cheatin'" ("Les Amants Electriques"), I went to the famed Stuttgart Trickfilm Festival, where I saw a lot of old friends, and also saw some great films - but the main reason I was there was to present the German premiere of "Cheatin'".

It was a rousing success - two jam-packed audiences, and prolonged applause (which I always love).  I had to suppress the applause or I wouldn't have had time to sign autographs and introduce the next show -

Also, while I was there I met with my good friend, Andreas Hykade, who did some live-action acting for my next mockumentary feature.  But for now, it's a secret - I'll make an announcement soon.  By the way, Andreas is a great actor.

Andreas Hykade with Bill (photo from Annecy, 2009)

I give the Stuttgart festival an A-.  The minus is because "Cheatin'" didn't win the big prize.  That went to "Garden of Word", a Japanimation film.  I talked to one of the judges and asked why "Cheatin'" didn't win - he said that it had too much sex and violence.  Yeah!! If I'm going to lose a prize, that's a great reason why.

--Bill P.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Footprints storyboard Part 3

Here's part 3 of the rough storyboards from my upcoming short "Footprints" - 

I hope these make sense to everybody!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Paris Premiere

Thanks to E.D. Distribution, my films have been very popular in France.  I'm kind of like the Jerry Lewis of animation there.  And since I needed CHEATIN' (or as they call it over there, "Les Amants Electriques") to be a big international success in order to get a better U.S. release, I decided to make an appearance in Paris for the premiere.

As I entered E.D.'s office, I was handed a large stack of magazines with rave reviews and generous articles about my film.  I think it was the best press I've every enjoyed for any of my films.  The next night, as I went to the premiere, I expected lines around the block, searchlights, riots and the gendarmes trying to control things - and it seems I always have that fantasy.

Yes, there were a few autograph seekers and hints of a big premiere event, but the theater just barely was packed.  The good news was the terrific applause at the end of the film and the wonderful unsolicited comments from the audience.

Also, strangely, films open in France on Wednesdays, so maybe over the weekend they had the searchlights, lines around the block, the riots and the gendarmes.  The feature is opening in many cinemas around the country, so I hope to reap a rich harvest of press and box office.

I'll keep you updated.

--Bill P.

                                              Hanging out with Serge Bromberg in Paris.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Kodak's Eastman House gala

For most of my film career, since 1985, the cost of making a short of feature was extremely expensive.  Up to 40% up my budgets would go toward film-related costs - rostrum camera, film stock, processing, negative cutting, etc.  Plus, shipping big, heavy film reels was ultra-expensive. 

Since the digital revolution, I now spend only a small fraction of my budget on making digital prints.  I can now spend that extra money on other things, on making a better movie. 

However, becaues of this major shift in film production, the Kodak company is just a shell of its former self, and almost went into bankruptcy. 

Three years ago, I was asked to come up to Rochester, home of Eastman Kodak, and present my feature "Idiots and Angels" at the prestigious George Eastman House.  They were really great to me, they gave me a tour of the museum and the famous archives.

So, last year, when I decided to clear away all of my old 35mm and 16mm prints, I called the archives at the Eastman House and decided to store my prints in their highly-professional film vaults for safekeeping. 

This week, they had a fund raiser in NYC to get the firm on a more stable financial footing, and I was asked to be a presenter.  I didn't know what to expect - would it be a room full of geeky film archivists and rich financial tycoons? 

On the contrary - I discovered a number of my old friends.  Leonard Maltin was there to get a Lifetime prize, as was Alexander Payne ("Nebraska") who we hung out with last year at Telluride.   I sat next to Steven Soderbergh - he was very preoccupied with something, maybe his new film.  He dashed out after his speech before I could talk to him.

Then, I spotted my old friend, Paul Giamatti - 10 years ago, he did the voice for one of my favorite shorts, "The Fan and the Flower", and since then he has shot to fame and stardom (no doubt from his appearance in one of my films...)  He was very friendly, and we talked about old times and how he originally wanted to be an animator in Seattle, but got into the acting profession instead and never looked back.

I was very happy to help out the George Eastman House.  They're a great organization, and I wish them the greatest success.  If you're ever in Rochester, please visit the museum.  I give the museum an A+.

--Bill P.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Footprints storyboard Part 2

Here's part 2 of the rough storyboards from my upcoming short "Footprints" -