Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Monstra Comic Con + NYCC

I've been going to the Monstra Animation Festival in Lisbon, Portugal for a number of years, and it's one of my favorite festivals.  There are many reasons for this - the people, the food, the beaches and the climate, plus I just love Portugal!  So when my contacts at Monstra invited me to their annual Comic Con, I had to say yes.

It was a very original set-up, compared to all the Comic-Cons here in the U.S. that take place in large convention centers or similar warehouse-like structures.  This event took place in an abandoned boatyard next to the ocean (where boatyards tend to be, I suppose).  The huge lot was covered with Astro Turf with about 20 super-large tents strategically placed around the area, and each tent was devoted to a different aspect of comics, or cosplay or feature films, etc.

I presented a screening of some of my new films, then did two autograph sessions.  Unfortunately I'm not that well known in Portugal - so I didn't get a big crowd like I might in France or Germany.  Yet I still had a ball, and to top it off, we had a large banquet with the vice-mayor of Lisbon, a very nice feast in a mountain-top palace.

And speaking of Comic-Cons, my appearance at the New York Comic Con is coming up, October 3-6, and this year I'll be found at the Javits Center in Artists Alley, Table D-13, so please come by and say hello.  You can check out my artwork from "Your Face", "Guard Dog", "The Simpsons" and more, plus books and DVDs and if you like, I'll be doing sketches and caricatures, and everyone who comes by can get a free sketch by me.

Satisfied customers from previous New York Comic-Cons!
And if that's not enough incentive to get you to Artists Alley, I'm offering for the first time anywhere my just-completed booklet of Bill Plympton's Twisted Sketches.  So you absolutely have to check that out!  I hope to see you there - and check out this week's (appropriate for Comic Con?) gag cartoon below.

--Bill P.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Martha's Vineyard, Abominable & New York Comic-Con

Wow, now that summer's almost over, there seems to be a lot going on!

First off, I just returned from Martha's Vineyard, where Richard Paradise puts on a swinging film festival every year - and once again, he spotlighted the best in indie animation.  The weather was nice leading up to the festival, and we had no trouble making our connection between our Amtrak to Providence and the ferry from New Bedford - but right smack in the middle of the trip, we had to contend with Hurricane Dorian.

Waiting for the ferry in New Bedford with Signe Baumane, Sturgis Warner and Sandrine
Fortunately, our fans were there and we had a great crowd for the Animation Showcase.  Also, we were able to line up a nice group of the filmmakers to attend.  Kathleen Chamberlin, the art director of the short "Two Balloons", was able to come all the way from Oregon, and Tom Gasek arrived from Rochester to screen his short "Train".  Then we had a young local animator, Thorpe Karabees, who made a wonderful film titled "Gladiolus".

Then, of course, Signe Baumane and Sturgis Warner presented "Mother's Song", an excerpt from Signe's in-progress feature, "My Love Affair With Marriage".  And I screened my recent music video for Tim Grimm, "Gonna Be Great".

At the MV Film Center with Sandrine, Tom Gasek, Kathleen Chamberlin, Signe Baumane and Sturgis Warner.

On stage for a Q&A at the Animation Showcase at Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival

It's a wonderful festival in a beautiful setting with great films - I highly recommend the Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival.

Last night, I caught a preview screening of the upcoming Dreamworks feature "Abominable".  (They told us the best way to pronounce it is "A bomb in a bowl".)  The story takes place in China, because Dreamworks partnered with China for funding.  It's a wonderful film, even though it wasn't my cup of tea - I took my wife and son and they laughed throughout.  Plus the visuals (CGI) are magnificent - I encourage you all to see it, you'll have a ball.  (Or a bomb in a ball.)  I give it a "B".

An exciting event coming up that I want to make everyone aware of is the New York Comic-Con, October 3-6 at the Javits Center here in Manhattan.  We took last year off from the convention circuit, but this year I'm coming back and trying something different - instead of a booth on the main show floor, I'll be appearing in Artists Alley with all my other artist friends.  You can find me every day at Table D-13 in Artists Alley, wherever that ends up being this year.  I'll have some very incredible merch for sale, like original art from "Your Face", "Guard Dog", "The Simpsons", plus a few DVDs and books, or you can get me to draw a caricature of you if you want!

Now, this week, instead of posting a new cartoon gag, I'm going to include a documentary presentation of me drawing an early scene for my upcoming feature, "Slide".  It's about 10 minutes, I hope that's not too long - and I hope you like it.

If you don't see it streaming below, then please visit:

Making of Slide from Bill Plympton on Vimeo.

Thanks for watching -

--Bill P.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

While I was in Annecy this June, one of the films high on my watch-list was "Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles", a French and Spanish production.  However, because of my busy schedule, I sadly wasn't able to catch this animated feature film there. However, now that it's been released in New York, I went with Signe Baumane to go watch the film last night.

First off, the graphics are very nice, if a little understated.  There's a very simple and monochromatic color palette, and limited detail that actually looks very beautiful.  But the main problem for me was the story.  Essentially, it's about Luis Buñuel's trip to the poorest village in Spain to make a documentary.  The problem was that there was no big conflict, or any urgency to push the plot forward.  It was very matter-of-fact, day-to-day sort of storytelling.  And at the end, we find out the producer was in fact an anarchist, and was killed by Franco's soldiers - now, there's a story for you.  Why didn't they put THAT in?

The other problem is that the film is supposedly about one of the greatest surrealist filmmakers, and the big poster promoting the film is a wonderful image influenced by a Dali painting.  So, I expected lots of cool surrealism and wild imagery - sorry, no luck.  There was only one other scene with brief surrealism - what a dud.

Yet, it's still a fine film to watch, because the animation is done well and the tale about Buñuel's early years is a true story.  I give it a C+

I've also included a cartoon for this week below.  Thanks for tuning in!

--Bill P.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Richard Williams, 1933-2019

While I was away on vacation in Portland last week, I got the news that acclaimed animator Richard Williams passed away - while he was most famous for being the animation director on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?", he was also known for animating title sequences for 1960's title sequences for films like "Casino Royale", "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", and two of the "Pink Panther" films starring Peter Sellers.  Then, of course, there was "The Thief and the Cobbler", a monumental piece of animation that he worked on for over twenty years, which got shelved in 1992 over fears of competition from the similarly-themed Disney film, "Aladdin".

I bumped into Richard for the first time at the 2015 Telluride Festival, where he was showing his new short film, "Prologue", essentially it was an excerpt from a planned feature version of "Lysistrata", the famous play by Aristophanes in which Greek women end a war by refusing to have sex with their warrior husbands.

We got to hang out in that wonderful mountaintop festival, and I felt like I was on top of the world.  Unfortunately, I didn't like "Prologue" so much - it was very stiff and looked rotoscoped, which was too bad because Richard was famous for his exaggeration and stylization.  Still, the film won a lot of awards, even an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short.  So now that will have to stand on its own as his final film, and the rest of that feature will, like "The Thief and the Cobbler", never be completed.

with Richard Williams in Telluride, Sept. 2015
We encountered each other again at the Annecy Animation Festival in 2018.  He was a great artist and a great friend.  I'm so sorry such a witty, talented and energetic guy is gone.

with Richard Williams in Annecy, June 2018
--Bill P.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Reviews of "The Lion King" and "Once Upon a Hollywood"

I don't consider myself a film reviewer, not by any stretch, because first of all, I'm not a particularly good wordsmith.  Second, I just don't have the time right now to see all the films I want to see.

However, I believe that my fans are interested in reading what my thoughts are on certain current films - so here they are.

I just saw "The Lion King" and I was very impressed.  I felt that the animated version, which was released in 1994, had a strong story and good animation - but nothing to get really excited about.  However, the new version, directed by Jon Favreau, is something to shout about.  He also did a great job with "The Jungle Book", which was one of my favorite films of 2016.

But with his version of "The Lion King", I really connected with the story in a much deeper and passionate way.  The fact that all of these jungle animals talked and acted like humans made the "Circle of Life" story that much more powerful.  It's a beautiful, glorious movie.

I give "The Lion King" an "A".

The other film I recently saw was Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Hollywood".  It's a fable that hearkens back to the movie around the time of the Charles Manson murders.  Mr. Tarantino, to me, is a stone hero - he and the Coen brothers are my biggest influences.  However, because of Quentin's big success, I believe he feels he has license to include every thought in his head.  There are so many places in this film where my mind started to wander, and I asked, "Why is this sequence in the film?"  It's 2 hours and 15 minutes long, and would have been a dynamite 1 hour and 40 minutes if they trimmed it down.  That's the down side.

My favorite parts were Brad Pitt's fight with Bruce Lee - hilarious, and Brad Pitt entering the Spahn ranch and the nest of vicious hippies - creepy.  And, of course, the big battle at the end, with Brad and Leonardo DiCaprio fending off the Manson killers.  It's totally scary and outrageous, as only Tarantino can do it.  It's like "The Road Runner" only with real actors.

Brad and Leo make a great team - they reminded me of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction", just riffing on life and their careers as they cruise around 1960's L.A. in their car.

Another big plus is the beautifully lush cinematography by Robert Richardson.  The scene in Frank & Musso's is so lush and delicious, I wanted to eat it.

I saw the film at a screening for Academy members, and before they showed it we were read a text message from Quentin himself, asking us to not reveal the ending - so I will respectfully honor that request.

After I saw "Titanic", I left the theater on a "film high" and I wanted to tell everyone, "GO SEE THIS FILM!"  Well, that's how I felt after watching this film, like Brad Pitt after he just smoked an acid cigarette.  I give this one an "A+"!

--Bill P.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Simpsons, New Yorker and Weird Al News

First of all, you should probably know that for the last six months, I've been working on a big "secret project" for "The Simpsons".  They asked me to keep it secret - if not, the FOX lawyers would come down hard on me - and now that FOX-TV got bought by Disney, the even tougher Disney lawyers would come down on me even harder.  So even though many people have been asking me what I've been working on, I could only say that it was a secret Simpsons project.

Well, now, apparently there was a big panel of Simpsons creators at the San Diego Comic-Con last week and they revealed that they're going to release Season 19 of the show in a DVD box set, and that the brand new (and perhaps last) package design and art would be created by Bill Plympton!  Lots of applause!  But it won't be available until December 3, so you can start saving up your pennies and nickels.

It was a very fun project and I had almost complete control of the images and ideas.  And also, it will be very different, because instead of the typical Simpsons show artwork on the packaging and DVD menus, it's now a much more unique and outrageous style - so please check it out.  I had a lot of fun making it.

On a totally different topic - I have been good friends with Liza Donnelly and Mike Maslin for about 40 years.  They're both great New Yorker cartoonists and married - to each other, to be clear.  Anyway, Liza ended up going to my IFC "Trump Bites" show and she came up with the idea of having a barbecue in upstate New York, where they live, and inviting all the nearby local cartoonists to come over.  Unfortunately, it was on one of the hottest days of the year, like 107 degrees, so we had to eat inside their very cool 1800's colonial house.

Here's a list of some of the people there: Peter Steiner, who just did the most copied cartoon ever in the New Yorker (the one with the two dogs on the computer and one says, "You know, on the computer no one knows we're dogs.") and Danny Shanahan, who is one of my favorites and apparently was a ranked tennis player at one time.  Who knew?  Also, Elwood Smith, one of my earliest friends in New York - his illustrations were famous in the U.S. plus he's a great guitar player and played lead guitar in the all-cartoonist band Ben-Day and the Zip-a-Tones (starring Lou Brooks, Mark Stamaty, Elwood and myself)  We were like a shooting star - we did two or three big gigs and then exploded in a blaze of glory.  And John Cuneo, who lives in Woodstock, he's done a number of New Yorker covers.  He also designed the poster and promotions for the Woodstock Film Festival last year.  In fact, I heard they're putting together a book of Woodstock Film Fest art for this year, and it will include both of our posters.

And then, if that weren't enough, we had the pleasure of being joined by the great R.O. Blechman, who I shamelessly borrowed from for about 5 years when I was younger.  He had some great stories about working in animation and for the New Yorker in the 1950's and 60's - fascinating!  This is what I love about New York, all these great talented artists hanging out and talking shop gossip.

Mike Maslin, Peter Steiner, John Cuneo, R.O. Blechman, Liza Donnelly, Danny Shanahan, me and Elwood Smith at BBQ.
While I was up in Rhinebeck, I heard that another friend of mine, "Weird Al" Yankovic was in town, and performed a concert out in Queens, at the Forest Hills Stadium, with the Queens Symphony Orchestra.  This was called the "Strings Attached" tour, and obviously playing with an orchestra is different - but I think he's back to playing his parody songs again, the last tour he did was only his original songs.

Well, as you might imagine, a lot of the people who work for me are also fans of Al - so Kerri, an ex-employee of mine went to the concert and took some photos for me of Al performing in front of the animation I did for his "Don't Download This Song" music video.  I'm sorry that I couldn't be there, but my thanks to Kerri for sending along these photos!  Be sure to catch Weird Al on tour if you get the chance!

Weird Al Yankovic performing "Don't Download This Song" in Forest Hills, Queens
Now, here's this week's gag cartoon.  Enjoy!

--Bill P.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Shout! Factory deal

I've been in the animation business for almost 40 years - and I've had mixed success during those years.  I've won a bunch of awards and received worldwide attention, yet I've never been able to get one of my feature films to break out - in other words, it's hard for my films to get great distribution.

"The Tune" got a theatrical release in 1992 and it's only been recently, through DVD sales, that I've been able to break even with it.  In 1998 my film "I Married a Strange Person" was picked up and distributed by Lions Gate, and I actually got a large advance check - but the film never made a profit.
Later on, my film "Cheatin'" had a limited theatrical release and sold well on Netflix, but that film still never broke even.

All the rest of my features have struggled to get released or make a lot of money (however, my shorts usually break even or do better.)    So that's three feature films out of seven that were halfway successful.  My big problem is that I'm a New York independent animator, and I just don't have many connections with distributors, lawyers, agents, executives with the "juice", power-brokers, or influential Hollywood moguls.  It's just me against the industry.

But I'm not really complaining, because I love the whole process of making films - and I'd continue just for the pure pleasure of it.

Now, though, I think I have a chance to break out of this indie animation ghetto I'm in.  Thanks to my agent, Catherine Branscome, I've just signed a deal with Shout Factory to handle my entire library - seven animated features and over 50 shorts.  It's their vision to sell my stuff all over North America, and get it on as many platforms as possible, which will be good for them and good for me.

For too long, I've dwelled in the bosom of obscurity in the U.S. (although I must admit that in Europe, I'm a lot more famous...).  This is very important for my films and for my career.  I believe that the body of work that I've completed in the last 40 years has some amazing humor, stories and drawings, and hopefully, thanks to Shout Factory, more people can now have access to this great catalogue.

As as all of you are aware, right now there is an explosion of platforms to view animation: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Go, etc. and they are all demanding product.  I remember in the days of video stores, the best ones usually had different shelves for different genres of films, and there would often be an animation section, and sometimes there would even be a Bill Plympton section, which I was always happy to see.

So now I'd love to see a Bill Plympton section on some platform like Netflix or Amazon - and I hope that Shout Factory can be the facilitator for that.  I've got some links here where you can read more about my deal with Shout Factory:

Now, here's my cartoon for the week:

--Bill P.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Toy Story 4

I think that by now, all of my Scribble Junkies readers know that I'm not a particularly brilliant movie critic - my criticism is worth about 2 cents, or perhaps more appropriately, 1 cent - but here it is...

I liked "Toy Story 4".  I went to see it with my 6-year-old son, Lucas.  He initially didn't want to see it, but I dragged him with me anyway. And he loved the film, as usual.  Here are my thoughts on Pixar's new film:

The dialogue was excellent.  In fact, I'm writing dialogue now for my new feature, "Slide" and I'm so jealous of the wit and the emotion that they put into this script.  Of course, they had 5 or 6 highly-paid professional screenwriters working on this.

The visuals, as usual, were fantastic!  I loved the four little evil "Chucky"-like puppets.  They were hilarious!  And Little Bo Peep was hot!  I mean, I was in love!  How could Woody not fall head-over-boots in love with her?  She should be a model!

But my big complaint is how it got so sappy at the end.  You can't pile all these emotional moments, one on top of the other - after a while, I get "sad ending overload".  I'd prefer more jokes and satire over one more orphan girl finding her perfect doll.

Like I said, my criticism is worth about 1 cent, though -

I give "Toy Story 4" a B+.

Here's my cartoon for the week.  Have a great Fourth of July and I plan on watching the great Washington, DC Military Parade!

--Bill P.

Monday, July 1, 2019

IFC Center screening of "Trump Bites"

Last week we had a big show at the IFC Center movie theater here in NYC.  Billy Shebar (producer of the "Trump Bites" shorts) and I appeared at a screening of all six "Trump Bites" shorts and had a talk with a wonderful audience.

Since each "Trump Bites" short is only a minute long, we padded the show with my classic animated shorts "Guard Dog" and "Your Face", which incidently inspired "The Unraveling", one of the "Trump Bites" shorts.  We also talked about the origins (oranges?) of the series and how we put it all together.

The big audience was wonderful - they laughed and applauded at everything, and the screening was followed by a very energetic Q&A session - then everyone lingered around afterward to talk more extensively about the "Trump Crisis".

One interesting side-note was that Billy and I both feared that we'd get some political demonstrators interrupting our show.  As you may be aware, a certain big-time blogger wrote a very critical article about our Trump shorts, claiming I was homophobic for depicting Trump being smitten by Putin, and then we were barraged by hate mail and comments from Russian bots.  Not only that, but last week was also Pride Week in NY - a perfect opportunity for some kind of public protest or demonstration.

Fortunately, the audience was full of fans - no pie in my face or loud audience slogans, which I think goes to prove that all the negative backlash was from bots, and it was mostly all made up.  (Fake News!)

You'll be happy to know that I just finished a big project for a certain well-known Fox-TV show, which I'll talk about next time, and I'm free to go back to my favorite project, my new feature "Slide", an old country-western musical filled with lumberjacks, prostitutes, hired killers and a mythical cowboy.

Here's some art from the film - see ya next time.

Bill P.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Annecy 2019

I've just returned from one of my favorite film festivals, the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, located high in the French Alps.  This is the granddaddy of animation festivals.  I've been going every year - since I first attended in 1985 with my first film "Boomtown".  (By my accounting I've probably attended Annecy more than any other filmmaker...)

The week started out as a rainy mess, so I was able to catch a few films - as you probably already know, I'm a huge fan of Masaaki Yuasa (his films "Mind Game" and "Kickheart" are brilliant).  He had his new film, "Ride Your Wave" at Annecy in competition, and it's a great departure from his other films...only in the wrong direction.  I don't know why he abandoned his radical gonzo style of animation, but this film looks just like a million other animé films I've seen.

Perhaps he's married and needs the money.  Or perhaps his producers forced him to copy the other Japanese animators.  But it was all there: the big eyes, wispy hair, no nose, all the clichéd telltale signs of animé!  And the story also was a sugary sweet romance between two young surfers. Please, Masaaki, get back to your brilliant kick-ass animation!

I was also really looking forward to the new Lorenzo Mattotti film "The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily".  I had to stand outside in the rain in a very long line to get in.  All the seats were sold out, but I managed to sneak in, just barely.  This film is the most beautiful film I've ever witnessed!  Every shot was a masterpiece and I wanted to linger on each beautiful background.  I was gobsmacked!!! I can't think of a film that was so similarly gorgeous - "Bambi"...No, "Fantasia"...No, "The Red Turtle"...No!  Plus, the story was excellent, with great characters, great designs, only the young female lead was badly designed and drawn, as if Mattotti had nothing to do with her.  As you all now, Mr. Mattotti is famous for his wonderful illustrations, posters and books, so it seems natural that his film would be a masterpiece.

Once the rain stopped, I was able to hit all the parties and play in Lake Annecy.  Even though the film I submitted this year was rejected, I was still able to show four of my films in various non-competitive programs.  The festival showed my classic 2001 short "Eat" in a special program about gastronomy, for example.

Plus, the Spike and Mike documentary "Animation Outlaws", directed by Kat Alioshin, screened to very large crowds, and even though my animation is featured prominently in the film, somehow they forgot to interview me.  But it's a great look at the crazy roadshow called "Sick & Twisted" that toured across the USA for many years.  The doc features such animated greats as John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Mike Judge, Don Hertzfeldt, Nick Park, Will Vinton and so on.  Unfortunately Mike passed away in the 1990's and the festival doesn't have the energy and weirdness factor that it once had, and it plays in much fewer cities, sad to say.

One of the highlights of the festival, for me, was the Academy party.  A very posh affair, where Bonnie Arnold introduced me to director Dean DeBlois of "How to Train Your Dragon" fame - now he's one of my great heroes.  I was awestruck to meet him, and he was a very friendly guy.  I hope to got back to Annecy next year, and every year after that - if I can get one of my damn films in!

with Dean DeBlois
Back in the USA, last night I attended the East Coast premiere of a music video I directed and designed, called "Wicked World" by the young genius, Matt Jaffe (no relation to Al Jaffee) at the National Sawdust Theater in Brooklyn.  First Matt played a bunch of his other songs - I did some caricatures, showed a clip from my new work-in-progress film, "Slide", then we showed the new music video.  Judging by the reaction from the audience, it was a big hit.  The theater managers seemed to like my work, so I may return to Williamsburg and do my whole show there. I'll certainly let you know when that happens.

The next event I've got coming up is a special screening of all SIX of my infamous "Trump Bites" episodes, at the IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue, NYC next Monday, June 24 at 6:30 pm.  I'll introduce those shorts, plus some of my classics like "Guard Dog" and "Your Face", and we'll do some live demos about how to draw Donald Trump, and then a Q&A with me and "Trump Bites" co-creator Billy Shebar.  Join us to have a good animated time as we make fun of the President!  For tickets and more info:

Here are some more pictures from beautiful Annecy - talk to you next week -


with animator Michael Dudok de Wit (2nd from right)

with Sandrine, Pat Smith and Peter Lord 

with Pat Smith and Sandrine
my son Lucas was selling his own drawings at my table!

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Story Behind Gun Shop..

"Gun Shop" is my first foray into stop motion/object animation, and will be in competition at this weeks Annecy. Here's the story of how a hand drawn animator switched gears and experimented with stop motion, and in the process got educated about guns and our culture.

In July 2018, my mother had just passed away, and my father fell into deep dementia. The family was in turmoil, we had a house to sell, a father to care for, and no money.  Through all of this I became very close to my brothers and sisters.  As we were packing up my parents belongings, re-visting photos, reading love letters, all things children of loved ones do.  We came across my fathers Guns. My dad and his father were avid deer hunters, and had a variety of shot guns and rifles. I’m fairly familiar with guns; as an American it’s part of our culture.  I reached for my camera, positioned the guns on the table, and photographed each one.
One of my Dad's 12 gauge shotguns.. which started the entire thing.
Those were the first photos I composited as a test, in the style of one of my favorite filmmakers, Paul Bush. Paul Bush pioneered a technique that few have ever duplicated. The history of this particular type of object animation, a technique that involves using a different object for every frame, can be traced back to Jan Svankmajer, who used winged insects similar to Paul Bush’s masterpiece “While Darwin Sleeps.” You would be hard pressed to find ten more films in this technique. Some notables are Fabio Friedli, Alain Biet, Adnaan Jiwa, Gerco de Ruijter, Páraic Mc Gloughlin, and Ynon Lan. I’m sure there are more, but not too many more.
"While Darwin Sleeps" object animation by the legendary experimental animator Paul Bush.

I showed this animation test to my producer at the time, David Gaynes, who mentioned that it would work well synced to percussion (he was a drummer).  Most of my career has been visually interpreting music and interviews, and to my knowledge this object animation technique has never quite been synced properly to music.  Between jobs I researched some of my favorite films that utilized Jazz.. namely George Griffin’s “Koko” and the experimental synced work “Begone Dull Care” by Norman Mclaren and Evelyn Lambart. Also the experimental films by Len Lye.

Then... the project stalled as I got deeper into a few other drawn animation projects like my 2018 film “Pour 585.” This happens, and is often the death of new ideas.

One day, several months later, the phone rang. It was the impregnable titan of animation, Ron Diamond. He never calls me.  Ron had just watched “Pour 585”, and had a very simple critique for me.. “Pat it’s time to move on.. you’ve been making the same films for 20 years.”  Tough love. That conversation shook me, I trust Ron, and I had to admit that “Pour 585” as well as my previous film "Pittari" was failing to resonate.  So that evening my wife suggested I explore the Gun idea in more depth.

I traveled to several gun shops and museums, typically taking photos on the sly with my phone. I gathered roughly 250 photos.. but I needed well over 3000!  So over the course of a few weeks I posted messages on Facebook, twitter, and message boards, asking people to submit photos of their personal firearms, the response was overwhelming.  I also asked gun manufacturers for high resolution photos, which several surprisingly provided. Five months later I had well over 3000 photos to work with, my best source was from a private collection in Long Island, New York, which contained approximately 200 different firearms, many heavy.  Frightening? yes. And expressing this cultural phenomenon is what the context of the film morphed into.
Here I am unloading an 8mm Glock, if I'm going to photograph them, I may as well shoot them!.
Through my travels and communications, I learned a lot about firearms, and those who have them. The most shocking thing about the research I did for “Gun Shop” is how incredibly cooperative gun owners were with my project, knowing full well my anti-gun politics. It surprised me, and shook my view of the gun-toting populace. There’s more to it than most think.  This issue is incredibly polarizing simply because it’s so ingrained into American culture.

Toy gun Oil Painting by Tony Curanaj.

The method of visually illustrating this cultural connection was a challenge. I remember an oil painting done by my old NYC studio mate, Tony Curanaj. He painted an iconic toy gun. It was beautiful and brought me back to my youth of squirt guns, cap guns, and plastic machine guns that launched Styrofoam bullets.  So I settled on that obvious juxtaposition.  Ironically, the toy guns were more difficult to find and photograph than real guns, an interesting commentary in itself. The film came together over the following months, much to the detriment of my commercial projects.. but that’s always been the case with me. So. Thank you Ron Diamond, thanks Jason Wiseman, my wife Kaori Ishida, George Griffin, Paul Bush and the talented musicians Jen Mitlas and Steve Rice. .. and the un-named populace that helped me immensely to gather the thousands of photos needed to produce “Gun Shop.”

My follow up film “Candy Shop” is almost wrapped, and is slated for premiere this coming November. I fear this technique will stay with me for a while.