Monday, April 21, 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

I just returned from the wonderful Florida Film Festival, where I showed "Cheatin'", and one afternoon when I had a few spare hours, I decided to catch up on my film screenings.  "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" was playing at the local multiplex, and I felt compelled to see it.

Of course, like most people of my generation, I loved the "Rocky & Bullwinkle Show", which the Mr. Peabody cartoons were a part of.  So I was curious to see how Dreamworks was able to expand that show into an animated feature. 

As I walked into the cinema, I saw I was the only one in the theater.  That alone kind of reflects the failure of this film to connect with the audience.  This meant I could talk on my phone or smoke a joint, and no one would complain - but of course, I'd never do that.

The film was directed by Rob Minkoff, and I thought that it was pretty successful  - it's got great visuals (computer animation, of course).  The only problem for me was that the film seemed more concerned with including as many historical figures and events as it could fit into 90 minutes, and less concerned with story and relationships.   I would have preferred fewer famous characters and more personality development.

I give this film a "B".

--Bill Plympton

Johnny Cash Lost Interview Animated..

Another episode of Blank on Blank for PBS. Johnny Cash is one of my all time favorites, so it was fun to animate to his voice.. He is very humble and sincere.. and says things like "I just hope I die with my boots on, because I've been in hospitals." Enjoy this most recent episode:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MoCCA Arts Festival

Sometime last year, the wonderful Society of Illustrators purchased the floundering MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art).  This is a good thing, because MoCCA always had problems keeping afloat financially, and the Society of Illustrators has deeper pockets and the expertise needed to run a museum (they've been doing it for over 100 years). 

So, this year they were the backers of the MoCCA Arts Fest (April 5-6), and they really did a fantastic job.  First of all, it was superbly organized.  They had a ton of motivated and eager interns, who were always asking me how I was doing, and if I needed anything. 

                                            Hanging out with an incognito John Leguizamo
                                                        at the MoCCA Arts Festival

Secondly, they had a real star-studded cast of great artists doing signings, like Art Spiegelman, Joost Swarte (look him up on the net) and the great Robert Williams.  Mr. Williams is one of my favorite painters - besides publishing the great magazine "Juxtapose", he single-handedly brought back representational painting. 

One of the things I hate about most modern art is the fact that it's usually so obscure and intellectual that my brain has a hard time getting involved.   However, Mr. Williams' paintings tell stories with humor.  They're like the pulp comics from the 1950's, the graphics just suck you into their plots and characters - I love them!

                                        Chris Stein, co-founder of the band Blondie, visiting
                                                     Bill's table at MoCCA Arts Festival

And finally, one of the coolest things about the MoCCA Art Fest was hanging from the ceiling of the historic Lexington Ave. Armory - a giant Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon of Charlie Brown.  And he was looking right down on my table as I drew sketches for the fans!  It was like Charles Schulz ("Sparky") was judging every drawing I was creating - talk about pressure!

I want to thank everyone at the Society of Illustrators, especially Annelle Miller, for doing such a fantastic job - I give the MoCCA Arts Festival an A+!

And if you're around next year, you should definitely attend, and bring all of your friends.  I'll see you there!

--Bill Plympton

Monday, April 14, 2014

Atlanta Film Festival

The last time I was at the Atlanta Film Festival was a dozen years ago, when my good friend Ann Hubble was the artistic director.  CHEATIN' got into this year's festival and I thought it would be fun to return to that wonderful Southern city in the Peach State. 

They kindly set up an entire day devoted to animation.  The first event was my Master Class, attended by a lot of members from ASIFA's Atlanta chapter and artists from the Atlanta-based Cartoon Network.

Then, the next event was the screening of the animated shorts program.  Among my favorites were:

"The Scarecrow" by Moonbot Studios' Limbert Fabian and Brandon Oldenburg, a wonderful visit to the farm, sponsored by Chipotle

"Crime" by Alix Lambert and Sam Chou, a funny, profane story of a guy trying to retrieve his stolen car

and "Monkey Rag", a delightful music video by Joanna Davidovich to the song by Asylum Street Spankers. 

And the third and crowning event of the day was the screening of CHEATIN' - we had a great audience with a partial standing ovation.  There's that famous Southern hospitality for you.

The day was capped off by a visit to the famous Cleremont Hotel Strip Club.  Now, this was not some fancy-schmancy platinum gentleman's club like you find in Manhattan.  No, this was a real lowdown, sleazy place where everyone knows the strippers on a first-name basis.  One was called Blondie and her specialty was crushing beer cans with her ample breasts.  Sorry, I have no pictures of that display, because no photography was allowed. 

On my film festival scale, I give the Atlanta Film Festival an A-.

--Bill Plympton

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hendrix stills..

So the PBS Blank on Blank episode featuring Jimi Hendrix was pulled due to some legal stuff, the producer David Gerlach says it will be back up, but until then I thought I would share some stills from the piece before it's been completely forgotten.  Enjoy.
 Hendrix went through so many changes over the years, illustrated here.
 We used a lot of vintage gig posters in the backgrounds, matter of fact the entire palette of purples and blacks was inspired by one of these posters.
 Jimi had a great laugh, a crazy laugh.

 A lot of the imagery was based on his dialogue discussing his ability to be everything from songwriter, to guitarist to vocalist.. jimi of all trades.
 He also discussed bringing people of different types together with music.
 colorful guitar solos.. all the chords were just made up because I have no idea how to play the guitar.. I did however stay true to his left handed playing.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Something's been bugging the hell out of me these last few months.  People who know me look at me as a quiet, happy-go-lucky, non-alpha male kind of guy - so for me to go on a rant is a rare experience.  But I just can't be silent any more. 

There's a huge prejudice in Hollywood, and also indie film circles, against animated films. The film executives, agents, crews, distributors all seem to be against animation.

Take, for example, my recent experience in Park City this January.  Out of all of the 100's of feature films playing in town, only one film, "Cheatin'", was animated.  There were about 400-500 features and only one was animation? There are lots of great indie animated features, why can't they accept a few more?

It's my theory that everyone in the film business grew up accustomed to the traditional Hollywood routine: a producer finds a script, he attaches a director and some movie stars to it.  The director and producers find the editors, cameramen, musicians, etc. etc. 

And that's the tried and true fashion to make it in Hollywood.  Then along came Pixar, who did everything different.  They let the artists run the show, and movie stars aren't so important any more.  The animators are the ones who create the characters.  Who ever heard of such a thing?  That's not the way it's been done for the last 100 years. 

And this fear of animation is very curious to me, because if you look at the top 10 grossing films from last year, you'll find that 3 of the top 10 were animated: "Frozen", "Despicable Me 2" and "Monsters University".  Plus a 4th film, "Gravity", was about 90% animated.

And it's not just last year - check out the box office numbers for the previous 4 or 5 years, you'll find the same domination of animation.  But when I court distributors about my own animated feature films, it's the same old thing.  They don't understand animation, or even care for it because that wasn't in their training. 

The ask me about who the audience for my film will be, and how are they going to market an indie animated feature.  It's just outside of their comfort zone.  This drives me crazy - because I know the audience loves animation and fantasy.  They want to see something different and fresh, yet the old Hollywood culture wants to do a safe drama starring Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep.

Hey, come on guys, get with it, expand your horizons, try something different - animation!!!

Bill P.

Animation 101: Tissa David Lecture with John Canemaker..

Wonderful lecture with the late master Tissa David. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Norman Rockwell's "Rookie"..

Maybe it's because I grew up in Boston, but this painting has always been a favorite Rockwell of mine. The painting shows pitcher Frank Sullivan, right fielder Jackie Jensen, catcher Sammy White, second baseman Billy Goodman and the legendary Ted Williams... and it is rumored that it may fetch up to 30 million dollars at auction this week. Solid.
Last year Rockwell's "saying grace" was sold for over $45 million. Here it is below. These are just such amazing works of art and character based storytelling. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Paris, Cheatin', and Gustave Doré..

After the Anima festival in Belgium, I took a train to Paris to help promote my new animated feature "CHEATIN'" (over there, it's called "Les Amants Electrique", or "The Electric Lovers")  It opens in France on April 23, so I was there in the City of Lights to do press.  And press I did!

I started the interviews at 9 am, and went straight through to 6 or 7 pm.  Some nights I would hope screenings of my earlier features "Hair High" or "Les Mutantes de L'Espace", or I would hold Master Classes at various institutions like Gobelins or Atelier de Sevres, which is based in the old historic Gaumont Film Studios.

E.D. Distribution, who have been handling my films in France for over a decade, put together a great campaign to promote the film.  I met with all of the big press organizations, and they all seemed to like the film.  So we have high hopes for the French success of "Les Amants Electriques" - I've got my fingers crossed.

Sunday was my only free day in France, so I decided to check out the Gustave Doré exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay.  I got there early so I could avoid the crowds - no such luck.  Everyone else had the same idea.  I'd never been much of a fan of this genius illustrator before, because all I saw were his religious prints, and I found them very formal and boring.

Then, I found an old book of his, "The Amazing Adventures of Baron Munchausen", and I discovered his humorous illustrations - very lively and fantastic!  (By the way, I discovered that this was where the great caricature artist David Levine got his inspiration.)

The exhibition was terrific, because it showed his early work (he was, naturally, a child prodigy), his humorous caricatures, religious prints, huge paintings, his art of London and Spain, his brilliant sculptures and finally his sumptuous Irish and Scottish landscapes.  The guy could do anything and he did it brilliantly!

One of the most interesting sections of the show was where they showed how his fantasy prints and paintings had an influence on Hollywood films.  So many great directors found their inspirations in his creations - Stanley Kubrick, D.W. Griffith, Terry Gilliam, David Lean and many others.

Another very interesting fact that I was not aware of before was that the critics could never accept his art as serious - they preferred the more avant-garde painters, like Renoir, Manet, etc.  His work was too illustrative to be taken seriously, which of course is absurd, because he was tremendously popular with the public, and was a master draftsman.

Also, he was so damn prolific - he created 100,000 works of art by the time he was 30 - Whew!

So, I feel a real kinship to his work and career, and I encourage you to check out this great artist.

--Bill Plympton

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Classic Tuesday.. Edgar Degas

I've always thought it was a shame that Degas is known primarily for his dancers.. There's just so many other great contexts. His portraits have always been a great source of inspiration, my favorite being his profile portrait of beggar 1857. Enjoy.

Monday, March 31, 2014

"Plumb" by Caleb Wood..
I've been a fan of Caleb's animation since his film "Stay Home, a film we put in the Scribble Junkies festival years back. "Plumb" is an interesting approach, a film made entirely on a wall of a gallery. It's a nice technique that I wish we saw more of.. far removed from this digital crap that we see all the time. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Suggested Donation Podcast..

Painters Tony Curanaj and Edward Minoff talk art on this new podcast "Suggested Donation". Something to put on in the background while you work.  I particularly enjoyed episode 2, with Graydon Parrish. Both Tony and Ted worked back in the days at MTV with me on Beavis, as well as a score of other projects. Ted headed up the Amp NYC Animation Studio, that produced some great work in the late 90's before heading into painting full time.
Tony and I shared our Tribeca studio for a decade prior to my move to Singapore.  These two artists paintings are so refined and astounding that it forces you to consider every word they say. Enjoy.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Wind Rises review from Yestoyellow (commenter)..

Here's a well written comment responding to me and Bill's reviews of "Wind Rises".. comment is from Diana Tantillo. and there's a spoiler in there (although, we of course know how this story ends). Enjoy:

A friend of mine once told me that she played video games for the social interaction with other people. She didn't play 1 player games because if she was going to do something for the story, then she might as well read a book and have the same experience.

I know this sounds random, but I have a point to it. You say "The Wind Rises" could have been told as a live-action film. You're right, it could have been. But so can almost every story. With that kind of argument, why are films even made in the first place? I might as well just experience life. This film is not about the medium, it is about story. It just happens to be animated.

I think the story in The Wind Rises is amazing and I think you misunderstood many aspects of it. Miyazaki is not glorifying the war, but quite the opposite. What he talks about is Jiro's pure dream of making a beautiful aircraft, something that the other designers and engineers also wish to do. The film takes place in Japan, so of course things like the relationship between the Japanese and the Germans are going to be shown as "everything is sunshine and daisies, yay". But, did you not feel the tension every time the German character was on screen? The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end…. Maybe it’s just because he was kind of creepy…?

This film has so many sweet moments that "distract" from the main point. I think this is done on purpose. This film is about war, but you don't see any fighting. This makes it relate-able to the average person who, like me, has lived through war but never experienced it. When the war in Iraq was going on, I was going to school, having fun with friends, not thinking that across the sea thousands of people were dying.

The film's end is so incredibly sad. The thing that makes it sadder is that it is something that anyone, no matter what country, can understand. Jiro wanted to make beautiful planes, but now they are going to be used to kill and bring terror to people. This is exactly how the creators of the atomic bomb felt. This is exactly how scientists working at NASA felt. They knew they were creating this technology that eventually was going to be used to kill people, but what they really wanted to do was to learn more.

I think the film couldn't have come out at a better time, when war seems to be at the doorstep of every home. I think people, especially those in power, need to think more about the ethical and moral implications of what they are doing and I think this film tries to touch on that.

I'm sorry you found this film so boring, but I have to disagree with your review. I think this film has a deeper meaning that goes beyond the visual and I think that shows amazing storytelling.

CHEATIN' - New York Premiere

Exciting news!  My new feature, CHEATIN', is finally screening in NYC!

Yep!  The film will have its NY premiere at the prestigious Friars Club Comedy Film Festival.  They're going to screen it in the large New York Institute of Technology auditorium (1871 Broadway), so there will be room for everyone.

The film has already won 5 international festival prizes and awards - so come and see what I've been working on for the past five years.

Bring your friends and tell all animation fans, we need a big audience.  I want legions of people trying to get in to the screening.  I want riots, cops and paddy wagons taking rabid CHEATIN' fans off to jail...

Plus, everyone who comes gets a free drawing on a CHEATIN' card!  So I hope to see you all at the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival at 7:30 pm on Saturday, April 5!!!

Be there or be a chair...

Bill P.

For more information and tickets, please visit:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Wind Rises... Patrick's review.

Once again I find myself going against my esteemed colleague. Please read his review below (which I have bumped up the date) Sorry it took so long to get to this review, the film has just been released here in Singapore, and I don't have anything that resembles the Plympton early access to these films.
No disappointment here for anybody that appreciates the symbolic and emotional impact of Miyazaki's trains.

In the midst of the typical glut of gag driven, uninspired, and contrived Hollywood Animated Movies, comes a fresh Miyazaki masterpiece, "The Wind Rises."  Finally released here in Singapore, I watched it last night and could not have been more pleased. The artwork of the trains alone is worth a glowing review, but this is topped off by the interesting story about Jiro, the famous designer of the WW2 fighter plane, his ambitions, the state of Japan from 20's to the late 30's, and lastly a poignant (yet historically fabricated) love story. The contrast to other animated movies was set perfectly and immediately by showing a handful of trailers for upcoming animated movies, including Rio2, which promises absolutely nothing outside overly timed gags, cliches, and tired parody. I was expecting to see a matrix slow motion shot in there.
Jiro's love story with Nahoko serves the story well, giving the work obsessed airplane designer a distinct humanity.

Where other animated features rely on quit hit gags (even if they are funny), celebrity voices, and ridiculous broadway antics (that I think nobody ever enjoys), The Wind Rises is held up by sweeping panoramas, patient timing, smart storytelling, and sincere characters and acting. Everything about this movie screams sincere!  You get the feeling that you are being treated as a very intelligent person, a very engaged person, one who is ready to be told a great story with fantastic imagery to match. Some of the artwork was literally breathtaking. There's plenty of caricature and cliches, but they are used effectively as a story telling tool, and not sloppy fuel for a throw away gag engine.
Jiro studies an imagined wreck of his dream. Many of the most effective scenes in "Wind Rises" were dream sequences.

There are subtle moments in this film that I think are the greatest achievements of not only Miyazaki, but of the animation medium. When the main character, Jiro, looks into the distance as his prized ambitions are flying directly in front of him, the viewer understands the drama of the moment, the subtle suggestion of the war saturated future and destruction of Japan. This type of subtly springs up time and time again in this film creating an overwhelming feeling of an impending force that the current story is contributing to. Compare this to some of the blatant "on the nose" approaches to his earlier work, and you can see just how far this auteur has come in his legendary film career. I've always believe that subtly is the mark of a great storyteller. For the audience to understand what is happening clearly, particularly within an emotional context, with a minimal amount of screen information is a truly a masterful skill. My other favourite Miyazaki film "Kiki's Delivery Service" uses many of the same wonderful forms of subtly and character sincerity. Any film that can make a little girl that rejects her grammas pie into a demon more horrible than any big gnarly monster is a result of a master.

The Professor is happy to give this film an  "A."