Monday, September 15, 2014

The Boxtrolls

Laika Studios and I go way back - as you may know, they started out as Will Vinton Studios, and Will got forced out by Phil Knight in a hostile takeover.  Phil's talented son Travis is now the head of the studio and they've made some fantastic films - like "Coraline" and "Paranorman". 


Their new film, "The Boxtrolls", is adapted from a children's book called "Here Be Monsters" by Alan Snow.  I was invited to a special screening of the film, with the directors, Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, and also Travis Knight in attendance. 

First of all, I loved the look and the animation - a lot of the character designs were done by the legendary Mike Smith.  And the stop-motion animation, led by Travis, was a knockout.


My only complaint was the story.  I really didn't feel the love for the Boxtrolls, underground midget creatures who scavenged for their creature comforts.  Unlike Disney's "Snow White", which brought a lot of personality and humor to the dwarfs, with "The Boxtrolls" I felt no real empathy or passion for these subterranean characters.


It's too bad, because the villains were really quite marvelous and enjoyable.  I especially liked the henchmen for the evil Boxtroll catcher, who were always justifying their evil deeds with questions like "We're really doing good here, aren't we?" or "We're really beneficial to society, aren't we?"  I've never seen ambiguous bad guys like these before - and it was very refreshing and humorous.

I don't know how much they spent on the film, but I do know they're spending a ton on publicity, because Laika needs this film to be a hit.  Although "Coraline" and "Paranorman" were critical successes, those films never made huge profits. 


The Variety review by Peter DeBruge was very critical, and I hope people find the cool stuff in the film - because I would love for it to be a success.  We need stop-motion animation, and another animation studio to give Pixar, Dreamworks and Blue Sky some competition. 

I give "The Boxtrolls" a B-.

Bill Plympton

Friday, September 12, 2014

Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival

One of the undiscovered gems on the film festival circuit is the Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival.  As I write this blog posting (September 8), I'm returning from the festival with a nice, sunny glow and sand in my shorts.

                                                      Bill + Lucas in Martha's Vineyard

I've been going to this festival for about 8 years and I've always enjoyed it.  But this year was the best!

Each year, the festival's charismatic executive director, Richard Paradise, invites me to put together a program of my favorite animated films of the year.  This year was the first time I appeared in his brand-new Martha's Vineyard Film Center, a glorious venue for foreign and independent films.

Even though it wasn't a sell-out audience, there was a very enthusiastic crowd - they yelled, clapped, moaned and whistled at all of the films.

                                                                  "The Monkey Rag"

I showed two of my own shorts - the music video "The Deep End", with music by Joe Cartoon, and my new short, "Footprints".  Also included was the wonderful music video "The Monkey Rag" by Joanna Davidovich, and one of my favorites, "Dam Keeper" by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi.  Also, "Car Park", a film about a barking dog in a car, which was the funniest film of the night.

                                                                       "Dam Keeper"

                                                                         "Car Park"

The audience favorite was "My Kingdom", by Debra Solomon, a film about living in a big city when you need your space.  Very wacky! 

                                                                  "My Kingdom"

If you want to go to a festival with beautiful surroundings, great parties, terrific films and a fun atmosphere, definitely check out the Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival, in lovely Vineyard Haven.  And tell them Bill Plympton sent you!

I give the MVIFF an "A"

--Bill Plympton

                                                     Having a great time at the MVIFF!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Rocks in my Pockets" premiere

If you've followed my conversations with Signe Baumane throughout the 3-year production of our feature films (my film "Cheatin'" and her film "Rocks in my Pockets"), then you know the history that's behind our friendly competition.  If not, check out our debates on my Vimeo page - http://vimeo.com/plymptoons - as we chat about our films and find out how we each have our own methods and ideas about making cartoons.


I entered "Cheatin'" in all the festivals I could, while Signe held out for one big festival, Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.  She returned from Europe with rave reviews and two festival prizes, plus her review in Variety was a lot better than mine. 

Signe made a film about a very dark subject, suicide, while mine is more of a romantic comedy.  Her film is chock-a-block with dialogue, while I told my story with visuals alone.

In any case, her feature "Rocks in my Pockets" opened September 3 at the IFC Center, with a rave review from the New York Times and packed houses.  And even though I have some issues with the movie, it's a real tour de force of animation about deep, dark family secrets and I wish her all the luck in the world.


I hope she makes a million, because she deserves it.  She worked her butt off making this film, with almost no budget, and I'd love nothing better than for her to become an animation superstar.

I give the film a "B" - it's playing in New York until September 18, and for screenings in other cities, please visit:

http://www.rocksinmypocketsmovie.com/Screenings.html

Bill P.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back in the USA..

It's been a long time for me. I'm thankful plympton is such a prolific blogger.. and I'm going to be better about posting now that I'm back in the USA, married, and living in New York.  I wanted to share an episode from my PBS series "Blank on Blank", that was recently ok'd to be released to film festivals.  "Philip Seymour Hoffman on Happiness" will have it's festival premiere at Woodstock Film Festival this October.  Both me and David Gerlach (executive producer) will be there.  Last week, Vimeo gave it a staff pick, click on the image and let me know what you think!
https://vimeo.com/102550866 
The third season of Blank on Blank begins next week!

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.

                                   With comedian Emo Phillips at the Downtown Independent

                                                   With comedian Tom Green and friend

                              Drinking with Dave Foley from "Kids in the Hall" and "Newsradio"

--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
213-617-1033
downtownindependent.com

and you can buy tickets here:
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/804578

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 yourfaceglobaljam.com 

                                                    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  http://comic-con.org/


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