Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dublin Animation Film Festival

As we entered the Dublin Airport passport office, Sandrine and I prepared ourselves for a repeat of what had happened at the U.S. passport office - and as we neared the gruff-looking inspector, the lady in front of us wanted to ask him a question.  He looked at her and said, "Due to the poor financial state of the Irish economy, you'll have to pay 5 euros for the answer."  The lady looked stunned and, after a short pause, the inspector laughed and said he was only kidding.

                                                      At the IADT with Will Becher

Right then, I know I was in a different place - and that's what my experiences at the Dublin Animation Film Festival (DAFF) were all about.  The director of the festival, Fionnghuala O'Neill, put us up at the posh Royal Marine Hotel - and anything we wanted was supplied.  Sandrine and I both held workshops at IADT, a college for animation, to good crowds and the next day I hosted the Irish festival premiere of "Cheatin'" to a large, loving crowd.

                                                         Bill's Master Class at the IADT.

                                                  Sandrine hosting her workshop at IADT.

One of the great events there was the screening of Irish animation.  I was thrilled and amazed to see such wonderful films from young filmmakers. Three films stood out for me - "Wounded" by Helga Kristjana Bjarnadottir, "The Ledge End of Phil (From Accounting)" by Paul O’Muiris, and "Coda" by Alan Holly.

                                           Bill and Lucas checking out the Irish animation

On our last day there, we took a trip to Killkenny ("kill" means area") to visit with my good friends Tomm Moore and Paul Young at Cartoon Saloon.  They just finished their new feature, "Song of the Sea", which is why their studio is half-staffed (about 40 people).  They showed me their new TV show, "Puffin Rock", which is very charming.  I'm so excited to see "Song of the Sea", because the artwork is so glorious.  It opens in the U.S. in the middle of December.

                                                 With the DAFF Award for Best Feature!

The Dublin Animation Festival is only 3 years old, but already it's bursting with energy and talent, so I highly recommend you enter your films next year to this up-and-coming festival.  If you attend, you'll feel the warmth and generosity of Ireland, and perhaps you'll run into the same crazy immigration officer that we did.

I give the festival an "A".

Bill Plympton

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I met the great painter Robert Williams about 15 years ago, at a custom car convention in L.A. and I was very impressed that he talked to me.

And just last year, I met him again at the San Diego Comic-Con, where he was a special guest.  I told him how much I love his stuff, and his magazine, Juxtapoz.  He said it's the largest circulated art magazine in the U.S. (bigger than Art Forum or Art in America).  That's pretty cool.

He said I should put my stuff in it, and sure enough, this new October issue of Juxtapoz has an interview with Matthew Modine and me, and they show finished drawings from "Cheatin'", plus some of the storyboards.  I'm really honored to be in Juxtapoz because they show real art by real artists, not that conceptual, artsy-fartsy intellectual masturbatory crap.

No, this is art with a sense of humor, fantasy, storytelling and great draftsmanship.  That's why I love the magazine and why you should pick up a copy at your nearest newstand or art store.

Thanks for your patronage,

Bill P.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Message to Man Festival (Part 3)

Of course, my main purpose at the Message to Man Festival was to serve on the jury, to select the best films in each category from all over the world.

To help, there were 4 judges of extreme talents - Philip Groning, a director and writer from Germany, he made the great documentary "Into Great Silence"; Claire Simon of France, who had 2 films there, "Gare du Nord" and "Human Geography"; Alisher Khamidkhodjaev, who is a famous cinematographer from Russia; and Sylvia Hoeks, a beautiful actress from Holland.

                                                   The judging panel at Message to Man

The screening process was long, but consistently entertaining - the selection of the winners went pretty smoothly.  There was only one conflict, over best short documentary - it was between two excellent films, "La Princess (La Reina)" and "Beach Boy".  They were both excellent, so we decided to split the prize. 

The grand prize went to a feature-length film about Pygmies in the Congo, "Forest of the Dancing Spirits" by Linda Västrik.  It's a wonderful documentary that looks at a remote tribe as a soap opera. 

One curious thing was the fact that during all of my interviews, the questions were about politics.  What did I think about Putin, or the situation in Ukraine?  I told them all the same thing - I was there to show my film "Cheatin'" and talk about animation.  I'm not a student of politics, especially Russian politics, so I wasn't going to make a fool of myself talking about that.

Besides, I'm returning to Russia in December, to a festival in Ekatarinburg, and I don't want my visa to get rejected because I made some anti-Putin remarks!  In fact, I heard that the documentary "Pussy Versus Putin" was ordered to be withdrawn from the festival by the Minister of Culture - so there you go.

--Bill Plympton

Friday, October 17, 2014

Message to Man Festival (Part 2)

Another activity at the Message to Man Festival in St. Petersburg was my Master Class - it took place at the St. Petersburg State University of Film and Television, and they totally underestimated my draw.  There were seats for about 60-70 people and over 150 showed up!  They were laid out on the floor and standing in the back and on the sides.  Some people didn't even have a view of my films, but they came just to hear me talk.

I've often wondered why I'm so popular in places like Russia and China, when in the U.S. it's so hard for me to fill a cinema. I asked some of the fans where they saw my work, and all of them claim to have seen my stuff on the internet.  So, I may not be making a lot of money in Russia, but I sure have a lot of fans.

That may change in the near future, when all of my shorts and features get released on iTunes in the middle of October.  So hopefully I'll soon enjoy the same recognition in the U.S. that I have in Russia. 

I was very excited to see my old friend Konstantin Bronzit in St. Petersburg - he's one of the greatest Russian animators.  His films "At the Ends of the Earth" and the Oscar-nominated "Lavatory Lovestory" are classics.  We got to hang out and swap animation gossip - apparently Yuriy Norshteyn's not going to finish "The Overcoat" and doesn't even want to talk about it.

                                               With Konstantin Bronzit in St. Petersburg

We did have time for some cultural visits to the giant St. Isaac's Cathedral and the Hermitage - it's called that because czarina Catherine the Great used to go there and became a "hermit", alone with her art.  There we saw some very nice Da Vincis, Michelangelos and Rembrandts. 

We also visited the Russian Museum.  When I was in Moscow a few years ago, I visited the Russian Museum there and was blown away by the pre-Revolutionary historical giant canvasses.  They were meant to tell stories from Russian history and they had such a grasp of storytelling and drama, it was like watching "Gone With the Wind" frozen in oil paint. 

The two artists I liked the most were Vasily Surikov and Mikhail Vrubel.  From their work, I can see where the great animator Alexander Petrov gets his draughtmanship and storytelling skills. 

End of Part 2

Monday, October 13, 2014

Message to Man Festival (Part 1)

If you read my previous blog post about my visit to Kiev, then this one should have some interest for you - it was purely by accident that I arranged sequential film festival visits to two warring countries.  This afforded me the opportunity to see a world crisis from both sides.

I've had many films play in the Message to Man Festival in historic and beautiful St. Petersburg, Russia - so I was delighted to be invited to the festival and be the president of the international jury (they all kidded around by calling me "President Bill Clinton", ha ha).  I was also commissioned to create the festival trailer, to play in front of every film.

                                   My Message to Man trailer playing at the awards ceremony

After I arrived, they put me in the luxurious Kempinski Hotel on one of the wonderful canals that wind throughout the streets of the city.  After the grand opening and lots of vodka, we began the next day at 10 am, watching a hell of a lot of films.  I had planned to work on "Revengeance" storyboards, but the film schedule was so rigorous there was barely time to eat.

I truly enjoyed the programs of film.  This festival is one of the few major festivals that celebrate shorts, animation, documentaries and experimental films.  They even have a category for "mockumentaries", which is one of my favorite genres.

Also on my schedule were three screenings of "Cheatin'", but unfortunately because of my frantic pace I was only able to attend one and half of those.  As you may already know, I like to introduce my film, then take questions after and sign cards for everyone.  Well, the president of the festival demanded that I attend a dinner with him and all of the VIPs, so I had to flake out on handing out the sketches, and the audience was very disappointed.  By the way, the dinner started late and I never got to talk with the festival president.

I would think that the festival organizers would prefer that the audience had a great experience - than have my presence at a silly dinner party.

Continued in Part II, later this week

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Linoleum Film Festival, Kiev

The big news in the headlines over the last few months has been the Russian grab for Crimea, the Malaysian Airlines plane that was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, and then the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Before all this political turmoil, I was invited to attend the Linoleum Animation Festival in Kiev (or "Kyiv").  As the festival neared and the war was really heating up, many friends warned me not to go.

However, at the moment the war seemed to be located on the eastern side of Ukraine, and I figured I would be relatively safe in Kiev, which is more centrally located in the country.  The festival organizers were probably very relieved to see me step off the plane and arrive at the Arts Center, the location of the festival.  I think they took bets on whether I had the guts to make the flight there.

                                                   Outside the Arts Center in Kiev, Ukraine

The festival took place September 17-20, and was organized by Michael Tsarev.  It was originally located in Moscow but they felt that the Ukraine was a much better location.

Other than the flower memorials for fallen demonstrators placed around the famous Mydon Square, there was no physical evidence whatsoever that there was an invasion going on.  However, in talking to all of the people at the festival I could feel a palpable mood of fear and insecurity, since Ukraine has an army about 1/1000 the size of the Russian army - besides, Putin is such a madman (very similar to George W. Bush).

But the festival went on with a great spirit of a brighter animated future.

One of the other judges was the great Russian animator Garri Bardin, who I met 20 years ago.  He's done some of my favorite films.  We chose to give prizes to "Gum" and "The Lost Handkerchief", two very wonderful films.

After a quick tour of the famous "cave" monastery" and the Russian park for World War II ("The Great Patriotic War"), where I saw all the mighty Russian battle weapons, T-34 tanks, and Sturmovick airplanes, then I was whisked to my next stop, St. Petersburg, Russia.

--Bill Plympton

Monday, October 6, 2014

"The Festival", Mexico City

I get numerous invitations to festivals and I find it a very enjoyable way to see the world and meet new people when I go to these fun events.

I was recently invited to a festival in Cuernavaca, Mexico - which seemed like a fun place to go, but I already had a commitment to the Message to Man Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia (my blog on that trip will follow soon), so I had to say no to the festival organizers in Mexico.  However, they still wanted me to go, so Jose Inesta invited me to come to Mexico City 2 weeks earlier, as a promotion for the Mexican Animation Festival in Cuernavaca. 

I could show "CHEATIN'', hold a masterclass and meet with the press - it sounded like fun, so I soon found myself in their fantastic blend of ultra-modern and brick hotel called "The Downtown", situated exactly where that name implies.  This hotel was so exclusive, it only had about 10 rooms, but it was quite a large hotel with a wonderful pool and a bar on the roof.

I started my stay in Mexico City with a tour and a master class at a film school, where I talked to 50 or so very eager students and showed them my new projects.  Then later that night, I was escorted to a huge bunker-like museum of digital arts, underneath a large roundabout traffic plaza.  There I held another master class for about 150 Mexican fans.

The purpose of my visit to Mexico City and the Cuernavaca Festival was to plant the seeds of animation in one of the world's largest cities (estimated population: 22 million).  So I was there to introduce independent animation to the new generation of artists - and hopefully 10 years from now there will be a budding Pixar studio or perhaps a few Mexican Bill Plymptons making great animations about Mexican culture. 

I hope that happens, and I'm looking forward to returning next year to continue my mission.

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

New York Comic Con, October 9-12

It's Comic-Con time again, and do we have some cool stuff this year!

Because of Lucas, my son, we've had to make some more room at home.  So all those bins of original animation art that have been taking up room in my apartment had to be disposed of.  But when I started throwing stuff out, my wife said that she wanted to keep some of the art because it was so cool!

Then she said, rather than toss it, I should sell it at the Comic Cons at discount prices!  I thought she was crazy, but I gave it a shot and, much to my surprise, the artwork started selling like the proverbial hotcakes. 

So, I've had my trusted interns go through all of my old art bins to pull stuff that people might like to own, and these are the drawings we will be offering at NYCC at severely discounted prices.

The other cool new attraction will be my availability to do caricatures for anyone who wants to see what they would look like in the drawing style of my animated films.  I offered this in San Diego for $20 each, and we had so much demand that it caused arguments at the booth over who was next in line.  So unfortunately I have to increase the price to a more sane value of $40 per caricature.  But you have to remember that at one point, I was one of the most successful caricature artists in the U.S., so they should be highly valued.

                                       Buy this book from us at NYCC and get a FREE gift! 

I'll also let you in on a little tip - we'll have copies of my Rizzoli book "Independently Animated" for sale at the booth for $40 and I'll usually do a caricature inside the book for anyone who buys one.  And since I charge $40 for a separate drawing, it's a great deal - just buy the $40 book and you get the drawing for free!  So it's like getting $80 worth of stuff for half-price!  

                               We'll have info on how to order your own 3-D printed "Guard Dog"!

So along with the other cool stuff - like art prints from "Cheatin'", the new "Guard Dog" 3-D sculptures, original art, posters and of course my ever-popular DVDs, we're also gonna have something we've never had before...

If you read my previous blog posting about doing a Penthouse pictorial (directing, not posing for one, thank God...) for the December issue, well, Penthouse really loved what I did, so they proposed that the beautiful and sexy Penthouse model, Julia Ann, should make an appearance at our booth!  That's right, you heard me correctly, every day at our booth #2944, we're gonna have one of the sexiest women alive right there, and she and I will be signing very collectible prints of my glorious art for Penthouse magazine. 

                                                               the lovely Julia Ann!

We're not sure of Julia Ann's hours yet, but keep track of our updates, follow me on Twitter (@plymptoons) or just come to our booth at NY Comic Con and get a very sexy piece of art signed by the hot Julia Ann and also yours truly!

See you there - at the Javits Center that is.  For more information and show hours, please visit:

--Bill Plympton

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bette Davis Animated Interview.. PBS's Blank on Blank series..

We're starting our third season of Blank on Blank, and this weeks animation features Bette Davis. This was a particularly interesting one to draw mostly because of the black and white old cinema feel.  I loved drawing her heavy eyes and aloof attitude.  Also, her words were filled with visual imagery opportunities. These episodes go a lot smoother when the subject speaks in a way that can be illustrated graphically.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Penthouse magazine

For those of you who have read my books or my biography, you probably know about my illustration history.  But for those of you who haven't, I got my illustration career started by drawing cartoons for men's magazines.

I started with Screw and worked my way up through Knave, Adelina, Hustler, Penthouse Letters and Penthouse Forum, and finally Playboy and Penthouse.  Of course, once I moved into making films, I ended my career as a porn cartoonist.

Recently I was asked by Penthouse magazine to direct a nude photo spread called "Pop Shots", where they invite well-known artistic celebrities to create a sexy section in the magazine.  The other contributors are famous tattoo artists, musicians, actors, etc.

Since I've created many sexy stories for my cartoons, I used the scenario of a woman who goes on a date to a drive-in cinema, and gleefully takes on numerous men, including actors from the movie - only instead of real male porn actors, I used some of my own cartoon characters, who would appear to be having sex with a live female model.

They asked me to supervise the shoot in L.A. on their large film studio (they also shoot films in these facilities).  So I made my selection from a group of local L.A. models.  I wanted a "va-va-voom" type actress, like a Jayne Mansfield or Jessica Rabbit type, however, the ones they initially showed me weren't exaggerated enough.

My first pick couldn't do it because she got married and found religion - too bad, because she had enormous breasts.  So I went with my second choice, who was blonde and looked great!

I flew out there in late August, and met the model.  A couple of problems popped up, she looked a lot older than the photos I'd seen, also she had more tattoos than I remembered from the photos.  I became very nervous, plus it was taking hours for her to get ready.  Damn, was this whole project a big mistake?  Had it become a failed wet dream?

After the first few shots, I saw how perfect she was, and my fears happily disappeared.  The shoot was a big success and a great learning experience for me.  In fact, this was one of my boyhood fantasies come true.

I've just received the finished shots, and now I have to fill in the cartoon drawings for this "backseat fuck fest".  It should appear in the December issue of Penthouse - so check your local newstand in a month or two.

The editors wanted to try something different for the magazine to attract younger readers - and I think my photo spread is definitely very different.  If you like it, be sure to let the editors of Penthouse know - then I may do a sequel!


Bill Plympton

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 - - 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:

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! 
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