Monday, June 18, 2018

Animation 101: Constructing a Story for a Short Film, Part 2: The Image

Every idea comes from a single image, no need to worry about a story at this point, that comes later. This image is what the story is built around. It's the very first brick, but is not necessarily the foundation, matter of fact the first image can become a rather minor part of the final picture. What's important here is to start somewhere, and start with something that sparks interest and establishes emotion. More often than not, for animators in particular, this image is a hybrid of several observations recorded in your sketchbook and then fused with a personal emotional flare. For example, the way different people drive, the way certain woman walk or eat. Perhaps the relationship between a triangle and a circle (I can see right away that the triangle is upset that it can't roll around freely like the circle). Or, it can simply be two clouds with distinctly different shapes (perhaps one very large, and one very small). One of my Thesis students last year, Kai-sen Chan, came into class on the first day with a sketch of a cactus hugging a flower. Perfect! On that he built his film "Plant Story."
Kai-sen Chan's "Plant Story"
The image that a film is built around typically expresses some type of cleverness, intrigue, conflict(more on that soon) or irony. For my film "Puppet" the image that I based the story from was a quick sketch of a kid wearing a hand puppet, but the hand puppet had a very mean expression, as if he was about to do harm to it's creator. This image creates interest and is deviously ironic, and the panic that is building within the kid can be felt. In Konstantin Bronzit's masterpiece "Au Bout Du Monde", the image was most likely a single house teetering precariously on the sharp point of a mountain. The image evokes thought, as we have certain preconceived notions of what a house symbolizes (solidity, safety, home), and the idea that it is balancing on a graphic summit begs for further information. It's interesting to point out here that the "Image" doesn't necessarily have to be character based, it can be environmental.

Konstantin Bronzit's  "Au Bout Du Monde"
Very often a strong image that becomes an impetus for a film is something that doesn't sit right with the viewer, or contradicts the viewers typical definition of what they are looking at. Or, more on a basic level, makes us laugh. Peter Ahern's very first image for his thesis film "Down to the Bone", was a kid who is inside out. He built the film around this very funny image.

Peter Ahern's "Down to the Bone"
Even within non-narrative films, an image is created in the beginning. In Ishu Patel's film "Bead Game", he created a row of small beads, mimicking his sketches of the snow drifts in the arctic. This image captured what he wanted to communicate, which was the way particles move together to create broad smooth lines that reflect the beauty of the natural world. In George Griffin's "View-master" the image was a bunch of people walking and running. This image led him to intense study of the animated looped cycle, and that in turn steered his technique that dominated the overall message of his film.
From George Griffin's "ViewMaster"
In Koji Yamamura's film "Mt. Head", the image of a small plant or tree growing out of the character's bald head intently creates intrigue. When we see this image we ask ourselves why this is happening, as well as feeling the roots of the tree burrowing into the bald skin of the character. It's bizarre, and creates an emotional interest in the character.

Koji Yamamura's film "Mt. Head"
Furthermore, an effective image typically illustrates a strong contrast in several ways. Contrast, is of course, a very important element in practically every part of film making, and we will discuss it more later. For now, let's just say that we should all be searching for contrasts, and attempting to put it in every place we can cram it into. Use that imagination of yours to find wonderful contrasts everywhere.  A very large but graceful man, riding a very small and delicate bicycle could very well be more thought provoking that an average sized man riding an average size bike. Contrast equals interest. If we see a goofy clown, and an anvil falls on his head, we may chuckle a bit.. but take a slick business man and drop an anvil on his head, and it's an uproar. You see, we expect something crazy to happen to a clown, but a man in a business suit creates better contrast with that particular action. Vice versa, if a clown sat down at a business meeting and started talking serious business.. we would laugh.

One time I was talking to Bill Plympton about his creative process behind his most beloved film "Your Face". He told me that he was sitting on the subway in New York, and across from him was a man with a very small, very scrunched up face. So scrunched up that it looked like it was going to just keep getting sucked into his head, and then reappear on the outside, only to get sucked into the middle of his head again. And we literally see, very early in his film, this image true to form.  It's a theme that I love about his work. He divulges in his observations about people, pushing them further than mere representation.
Bill Plympton's "Your Face"
Another effective method of achieving this "Image" is through the use of audio. When I was creating my idea for "Masks" I had an audio track to inspire me. I simply played this bizarre track, and images would appear into my brain. The first image I drew was a group of masked men singing to each other, being watched my little people a fraction of their size, the men looked like they were in a trance, resonating the trance-like score created by Karl von Kries. Music can do this, it evokes imagery, and becomes a very visual medium when you listen to it in a certain manner. I'm sure Nick Park couldn't resist seeing animals in cages when he first heard the interviews of people talking about their lives in nursing homes. From that audio the visuals came. The essence of this formula can be exemplified in Walt Disney's masterpiece "Fantasia." The artists created the imagery solely based on the direction and feel of selected classical scores, and remained beholden to those musical scores. Audio in this way works as a device to give  the artist a frame in which to work, limiting where he/she can stray outside of that frame (for example, the Disney artists could not, in any way, change the music), and limitations can often be your friend and closest ally. "The enemy of art is absence of limitations" stated Victor Hugo.

At this point it's a good idea to ask yourself what the "Normal state" of your image is. Get to know your image so you can answer any questions about it possible. These facts won't be in your film, but knowing them will affect how you make it move, react, struggle, etc. The "normal state" of Nick Parks animals in a zoo, are just that.. animals in a zoo. The "Image" creates interest because there is a microphone in front of these animals. But it's important to know the state of these creatures prior to the recordings. In feature film making they call this "Establishing the norm" and you really can't move on into your inciting incident without doing so. Since we're concerned with making a short here, this process needs to be condensed a bit. As I mentioned in the introduction, the use of symbols is a great way to establish this norm, or instantly give the viewer a bit of back story on character. As just a quick example, a circle is instantly recognizable as an approachable, friendly entity. Where as a prickly star shape has more of an edge to it. The audience will subconsciously pick up on the long spines and lack of soft appeal, and you can take advantage of that preconception. Often times, in a short, the very first shot will establish this norm.  In Michael Dudok De Wit's film "Father and Daughter" the very first shot establishes the deep bond between father and daughter, illustrated by showing them riding bicycles together, the bicycle itself becomes a symbol of their connection and is used throughout the film, all the way to the end.
First scene of "Father and Daughter" by Michael Dudok De Wit. This image immediately establishes the deep bond between father and daughter.

So, go create that all important "Image", allow it to guide you on your journey to creating your story. Let this image work for you, and your story will grow rapidly in your mind. Allow the relationships and contrasts to ask questions about the characters and situations, allow it to establish the normal state, and suggest intrigue into what may be happening. Pay close attention to what the emotional state of your image is. If you don't know what the emotional state is, all you have to do is ask yourself what the character or object in your image is feeling. We all have these images within us, for various reasons. Who knows why we, as artists, feel the need to express these things and put those images out there. It's just what we do I suppose.  Animators are sometimes intimidated by starting a short film. This is typically due to fact that they are inundated with complex solutions to their ideas. We often look at problems and our first action is to add garbage to it, make it complex. This is not how story works. The short story is simple, wonderfully simple. This simplicity is summed up in your very first "Image." Stay tuned, next up is Part 2 of "Conflict!"

Monday, June 11, 2018

Bernard and Huey



I first met Dan Mirvish at the Slamdance Festival about 15 years ago, and I was charmed by his crazy, outrageous behavior. Besides being a terrific filmmaker, he's also a founding member of the Slamdance Festival.  I've been to that festival many times, and my greatest memory is the filmmaking seminar held in a giant hot-tub - not to be missed.

So a few years ago, he told me that he had discovered a lost manuscript for a possible feature film for Showtime.  After two years of production, he premiered the feature film last week at the Cinema Village East, here in New York.  Unfortunately, Dan couldn't be there, he had to be in L.A. for the West Coast premiere.


Filling in for him was filmmaker Paul Rachman and, as a great surprise, Jules Feiffer was there too.  "Bernard and Huey" is a take-off on two of his iconic cartoon characters from his "Playboy" years.  And I got to attend the premiere, it was great to see Jules again - my early film "Boomtown" was an animated short that featured his text that was all about defense spending and the threat of Russia in the 1980's.  It seems like we've come full circle -

"Bernard and Huey" is typical Feiffer, concerned with social status, artistic careers and sexual obsessions.  It's a lot like a Neil Simon play, with lots of witty dialogue.

Good work, Dan!  Good luck with the film!  And if you can't catch "Bernard and Huey" in the theater, please check it out on iTunes! 

--Bill P.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Animation 101: Constructing a Story for a Short Film, Part 1: Introduction..

The Short Film is a very different beast from it's more long winded counterpart. A short doesn't have the time to tell intricate details about characters, back stories, or environments. We have our audience for a very brief, very precious period of time, and we can't waste any of it. A short film is like living in a tiny New York City apartment, you own very little, and what you do own has it's place. Within this apartment there's very little room to indulge in anything that isn't vital, and often you are forced to get rid of a lot of stuff, in exchange for clarity and a de-cluttered living space. The art on your wall has to be chosen carefully, because, well, it's your only wall. The filmmaker must be brief with his/her short and stick to the idea and not stray, yet cannot rush anything or cram info in at all. Often times shorts use symbols more readily than features, symbols have preconceptions attached to them already, thus one more thing the filmmaker doesn't have to worry about, or spend precious time divulging. It can be a challenge to express a clear idea in a matter of minutes, but it can also be a very clear and concise vehicle of communication.  There are several types of "Stories" you can employ in your short, some don't concern story at all. In Nick Parks short "Creature Comforts" we see a collection of interviews from elderly care homes translated to animals living in a zoo. The interviews themselves are so interesting and filled with character that the story becomes a simple exercise in recording, hence the film begins with the levels of a recording device, that's all the information we need to get going.



It can be suggested that where a feature tells a story, a short expresses an idea. This idea is packaged in a complete manner, and wraps up in a satisfying way. People that know me know that I'm not a big advocate of story in general, or at least I don't share the obsession of overstating it's importance, I believe it is purely one of the key elements to making a short, but shares this importance with character, design/aesthetic, overall appeal, technique, as well as execution of that technique. Many of the cliche chunks of advice filmmakers hear all the time are even more important with a short. "Show don't tell", "Get in late, get out early", "The medium is the message", etc.. all even more important when we only have a handful of minutes to express our idea. The medium is truly the message, so choose your medium well. The content will likely dictate your medium, for example, JJ Villards epic piece "Son of Satan", features the gritty poem by Charles Bukowski. JJ employs a raw, gritty, and awkward line art as if out of his sketchbook. The style and medium matches the equally raw words of the voice over.

When I first started making shorts, over 15 years ago, I was hesitant and worried about my skills as a story teller, animator, and lots of other things, so I kept things simple, brief, and based on the idea. I didn't realize it back then, but I was on the right track from the start. Humility can help you in many ways! understanding your limitations and working inside those limitations is key. There's a world of creativity that lives and breathes inside your limitations, in other words, there's limitless ideas within your limitations of skill.


I knew I couldn't' draw that well, but I also knew I had a knack for weird abstract action, like morphing, and twisting. My first film was called "Drink", based on the simple premise that we have many personalities in us all. To express this I illustrated different people crawling and stretching out of each others mouths.

We see incredible short films all the time, but rarely do we slow down and ask ourselves "Why" they work. What mechanics behind your favorite shorts contribute to their success? I love asking the question "Why!" There is so much to learn and benefit from others victories. There are so many ways to do things, and of course you don't have to follow the techniques I've outlined below. These are methods I've found useful, as well as many of my colleagues. I've written this more for the struggling idea maker, the person having trouble getting started or wrapping it up. These are not rules, they are suggestions, and suggestions are designed to be twisted, torn apart, chewed up, and spit out. So with that attitude, let's begin. In the following days I will post a 4 part series on Constructing a story for a Short Film. Most material is drawn from my personal notes while teaching the graduate thesis program at NYU Tisch-Asia from 2009-2014.

Friday, June 1, 2018

First look at "Slide"

You may remember that I'm about to begin animating my new feature film, "Slide".  The storyboards are now complete - though I've sent a copy to Jim Lujan so he can polish up some of the dialogue and add some of the crazy humor that he's so good at. 

But the first 5 minutes of the film are without dialogue, so I can begin that animation now - and lo and behold, I now have the first bit of animation to show the world.

You can see I'm animating in ballpoint pen and it looks very cool.  Also, the color will be added much later.  Just to set up the shot, the film starts with our hero, the mysterious musician "Slide" lost in the desert.  The clip is on Vimeo but we'll also embed it here.  Enjoy!

https://vimeo.com/272983835



Thursday, May 31, 2018

"Pour 585" and creating the colour palette..


I've always struggled with colour (not even sure how to spell it!), in the past I've had better luck with limited palettes, staying away from anything bold, relying more on subtlety.  That changed when I started studying the street paintings of Zimer, a brilliant artist who uses a lot of deep, almost blood-like, reds on top of greys.  His subject matter is typically dramatically posed woman in graffiti-esque lettered dresses.
Still from "Pour 585" on left, Zimer street painting on right.
Ironically, the first time I saw a Zimer painting was on a wine bottle, he was commissioned a few years ago to paint a bottle for Intrinsic Cabernet Sauvignon, no joke.  You can get your inspiration anywhere, funny being that the characters of the film are wine glasses!

Here's the bottle of Cabernet that changed the course of my film!

Zimer mural

Friday, May 25, 2018

Rockin' Jelly Bean..

It shouldn't be a shock that I'm a big fan of Japanese illustrator Rockin Jelly Bean, especially if you consider my obsession with Jim Phillips, whom which you can pull tons of parallels to RJB (although Jim veers away from sexual content). I mean, it's difficult not to be drawn into his overtly sexy gals pushing out their ridiculously large, gravity affected yet defying chests! Can you find RJB's Jim Phillips nod in the drawing below? (cough- roskopp- cough)
The graphic style brings me back to when I first noticed art in general.. for me it wasn't the classics that first pulled me in, it was cool stuff like this on skateboards and stickers that first got my attention, as lame as that sounds. Enjoy, not sure why I've never posted his stuff before. Here's a great interview with him that I just stumbled upon while writing this.
He's also an interesting guy that has crafted a very mysterious public image. Outside of his possibly surreptitious name, RJB shows up at every appearance wearing a different Mexican wrestling mask, and surrounded by girls that are as smokin' as his drawings.

Friday, May 18, 2018

49th Annual ASIFA-East Awards Ceremony

If you're around NYC this weekend, one of the biggest and best events of the year is the annual ASIFA-East awards.  ASIFA-East is the East Coast chapter of the International Animation Society, and their award ceremony is like our version of the L.A. chapter's Annie Awards (which itself is a bit like the Oscars, but for animation only...)

What's great about it is that anyone can enter, and also that all of the ASIFA members get to vote on films in several categories: student films, independent films, and commissioned work - plus there are special awards given out for excellence in writing, sound, design and both educational and experimental work.

It all culminates each year at the awards ceremony, which is a FREE event and is open for everyone to attend.  You can hang out, meet all of the best NYC animators, see the winning work, and enjoy the reception afterwards. 

This is all taking place on Sunday, May 20, from 6 to 10:30 pm, at the Tishman Auditorium, 63 Fifth Ave. (at 13th St.) in Manhattan.  And did I mention that the admission is FREE?  How often do you get a chance like that?  So if you're not going to be traveling to London for the Royal Wedding, swing on by and I'll see you there! 

For more details:

https://www.asifaeast.com/festival/

--Bill Plympton


Friday, May 11, 2018

Three Projects

There are three big projects to talk about - the biggest one is that I just finished the storyboards for my next animated feature film, "Slide".  I can't remember how much I've talked about this already, but it's a very personal story for me because it's about a musician who plays the slide guitar (like me!).  And it takes place in the forests of Oregon (where I'm from) and the soundtrack will be music in the style of Hank Williams (which I grew up with).  Basically, it's a musical about a mythical musician who come to a corrupt gambling town and cleans it up (something I've never done, though...).



I'm about to start the animation phase, and I've love to release occasional shots from the work in progress, periodically so you Plympton fans can follow the production of my newest, and perhaps most ambitious, animated feature.


The second project - and I may have already mentioned this one, too - is a series of animated political cartoons using real sound bites from our President, Donald Trump, as a backdrop for my animation.  As some of you may know, for 15 years, way back before I became an animator, I was a successful political caricaturist and cartoonist.  So it feels great to get back into that trade, and it seems that the urgency now to do so is much more intense. 


These cartoons will start to be broadcast soon and we want to coordinate the release with a Kickstarter campaign, because what the broadcaster is paying isn't really enough to cover the costs of making these films.  Of course, I'm not doing these shorts to get rich, but I would like to break even.  So watch this space for an announcement about where you can see these "Trump Bites" cartoons.  I'm working with a company called 110th Street Films to produce these short pieces.

But what a perfect team for Kickstarter, right?  Bill Plympton and Donald Trump.  How can it fail?  (Maybe it will even be YUUGE!)


My third announcement is an upcoming screening at the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn of my brand-new, 30-minute epic music video for blues rocker Jackie Greene, "The Modern Lives".  But that's not all - I'll be showing some of my more celebrated music videos for Madonna, Weird Al Yankovic and Kanye West.  (Kanye's invited, however, he's probably too busy praising Donald Trump to attend.)  

And to top things off, we'll be showing footage of Jackie performing one of the songs from the music video (recorded live in front of an audience) - how about that?  The show will be on May 22 at 7:30 pm, and I'll be there to introduce the program and talk about the music video as an art form.  Also, everyone who comes gets a free Bill Plympton sketch.

If you don't know the Nitehawk Cinema, it's the coolest cinema in NYC.  You can get food and drink while you watch a film!  If you're into it, Jackie's music is perfect "stoner" music.  (So come prepared.)  See you all there!

You can see more information and get tickets will be on sale (soon) here:

https://nitehawkcinema.com/williamsburg/showtimes/bill-plympton-jackie-greenes-music-video-extravaganza-52218-730-pm/

Bill P.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Stuttgart Animation Festival 2018

Once again, I returned to the International Trickfilm Festival in Stuttgart, Germany.  This time I was there with a short music video, "Tupelo", in the Panorama section, plus I was invited to be a judge, along with my friend, Jean Thoren, and German producer Fabian Driehorst in the Kids TV series section of the festivl.

I started going to this Stuttgart Festival back in 1988 with my short film "One of Those Days".  This was back when the festival was only six years old and I had just started animating.   It was a great experience - in fact, that's when I first met Joanna Quinn and Peter Lord, two of my favorite animators.  At that time, it was a very bare-bones kind of festival.  I remember taking our cinema breaks on an old WWII concrete bunker, sitting in the sun and getting drunk - oh, those were good times. 

The Stuttgart Trickfilm Festival screening my short "The Loneliest Stoplight" outdoors.
Of course, now the festival is one of the top festivals in the world, thanks to its success and wonderful sponsor support.  This time, I ran into my old friends David Silverman ("The Simpsons"), Mark Shapiro (from Laika) and of course, Andreas Hykade (a great animator and this year's head of FMX, the digital version of the festival).

Some of my favorite films there were "Sog", by Jonathan Schmenk of Germany, "Enough" by Anna Mantzaris of Great Britain, and "Hybrids" by five great computer students from France.  The best for me was an animated feature from Italy called "Cinderella and the Cat", even though it was a CGI film, the technique and story were very edgy and very adult.  I loved everything about it.  If you ever get a chance to see it, GO!

With two of the filmmakers of "Hybrid" after they won the Amazon Prime Video prize.
As you may know, Stuttgart is also the home of Mercedes Benz and Porsche.  And I've always wanted to visit their respective museums - so Sunday I had the day off (no films programmed) and that was my day to immerse myself into the car culture.  I liked the Porsche museum because of their history of making racing cars.  They had a lot of the early prototypes, that was fascinating.   But I found the Mercedes Museum much more interesting, because of the educational angle, plus it featured a lot more vehicles.

I've heard many Germans complain about how Americans think that Henry Ford invented the car.  Well, this museum has the lowdown on the invention of the automobile, separately by Gottleibe Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach and also Karl Benz.  It's interesting because both companies submitted their patents in the same year, 1886!  I loved seeing the very early transformation from a wooden buggy powered by a tiny one-cylinder engine to a sleek, powerful luxury roadster of the Roaring 1920's.  They even covered the extent of using slave labor during World War II. 

On Saturday, the Festival celebrated its 25th Anniversary, and I was invited to tell a few anecdotes in front of a crowd of VIP's.  They introduced me as "The World's Greatest Animator" (not true, by the way...) and that's why I love going to Stuttgart.

--Bill P.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

New Short "POUR 585"...

I figured it was a good time to announce my latest short, heading into it's premiere next month.  It's a simple short addressing indoctrination, and the individuals role in hierarchy.. a bit of a cautionary tale, and very much a typical pat smith short.  I hope you enjoy the trailer.  On another note, stay tuned on Scribble Junkies, me and Bill have some big news we want to share!

"Pour 585" Trailer from Patrick Smith on Vimeo.

Monday, April 9, 2018

MoCCA Arts Fest 2018 Report

As you already know, the MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) Arts Fest, presented by the Society of Illustrators, is one of my favorite events of the year.  What's cool about it is the fact that all the great independent artists from around the world are represented there.

This year, I met great artists from Spain, Norway, China, Argentina, and Mexico, and they all travelled here for MoCCA.  Their ideas and techniques were so varied and unique - this is where all the creative geniuses are emerging from. 

I was there selling a lot of my art (art from my "Simpsons" couch gag was especially hot), DVDs and books, and I got to catch up with a lot of old friends.  So pardon me if I name-drop a bit. 


My illustrator buddy, Arnold Roth and his wife, Carolyn, who's a painter - he just had a stroke, but he looked great.


Mike Mignola of "Hellboy" fame was there to sign books - and we chatted a lot about Guillermo del Toro and his big success last year with "The Shape of Water". 


Mo Willems, animator of "The Man Who Yelled" and "Sheep in the Big City" and author of children's books like "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!"  He's now doing theater, we gossiped about John K. 


Patrick McDonell of "Mutts" fame, which is one of my favorite comic strips.  He's moving into animation, apparently. 


My good buddy, John Cuneo, who just completed a fantastic poster for the Woodstock Film Festival. 


Roz Chast, the Queen of New Yorker cartoons, was there to promote her new book and chat with the young generation of cartoonists. 


And the great actor John Leguizamo was there signing his new comic book.  Since I did some animation for his film "Fugly", we were like old friends and we talked about perhaps doing another project together.

It was a very fun, very busy two days and I left the event totally inspired and anxious to get going on my new projects.  To all those who stopped by, thanks for coming - see you again real soon!

Bill P. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

MoCCA Arts Fest


Coming up this weekend, the glorious MoCCA Arts Festival is taking place, April 7-8 at the Metropolitan West, 639 West 46th St. in Manhattan - put on by the wonderful Society of Illustrators.

I've been attending since the beginning, it must be 15 years now, and it's one my favorite events of the year.  It's a gathering of all of the best independents, graphic artists, cartoonists, and animators.  No big-time companies are allowed, no Marvel, D.C. or Dark Horse.

For that reason, some of the artwork is a little more mature, more up my alley, closer to my line of work.  Crazy, sexy and brilliant.

Last year, interestingly enough, it seemed the women had taken over the MoCCA Festival floor.  I would guess 70% of the tables were staffed by women.  And honestly it was a very refreshing change for ideas and art.

And, as usual, the place was packed.  So I'll be there showing my new Simpsons animation, plus some great books and DVDs.  Also, I'll be doing caricatures - so please come by, I'll be at Table C136.

For more details and tickets, please visit:

https://www.societyillustrators.org/events/mocca-arts-festival-directions-tickets

Monday, April 2, 2018

Odds and Ends

I don't have one big topic for this installment of Scribble Junkies - because there's so much to talk about:

1. Our big Jackie Greene music video extravaganza was a huge hit.  We filled up the large screening room at the SVA Theatre, with fans of my animation, of music videos and of the man himself, Jackie Greene.  

I showed some of my earlier music videos, made for Madonna, Kanye West, "Weird Al" Yankovic and the European group Parson Brown.  I then introduced Jackie, he played two wonderful songs that had the room rockin'. 

Then we showed the world premiere of his 30-minute video "The Modern Lives", which people seemed to love.  Then Jackie ended with a third song, "Gone Wandering" that blew me away - what a great live performer! 

We did a short Q&A session together and then went out to the lobby and gave everyone autographs and I did little sketches.  It was so wonderful to hear such positive feedback from the audience!  I hope the songs get a great audience on line.

Here are some pictures from the event:

The marquee at the SVA Theatre
The line outside, which started to form an hour before the screening!
A still from "Modern Lives" that was used as the welcome screen
Introducing Jackie before we showed "The Modern Lives"
Live performance of "Modern Lives"
Live performance of "Tupelo"
Jackie and me with my cousins Nick and Christian Vellanoweth
Signing autographs after the show at the merchandise table
Jackie talking with his fans and signing autographs
and somebody filmed some of the songs, you can see "Modern Lives" here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3CUYcHHPFw


2. I just came back from a screening of Wes Anderson's new film, "Isle of Dogs".  As you may know, I'm not a huge fan of Mr. Anderson's animation.  Although I did love his film "The Grand Budapest Hotel", I thought it was very funny. 

This new film, however, has very little humor, just a lot of his quirky ideas.  The plot wasn't very engaging to me.  I never really rooted for the dogs - in fact, I fell asleep at one point.  The concept of using Japanese dialogue with no subtitles seemed like a poorly conceived affectation  - I wasted half of the film listening to an unintelligible foreign language.  And the music was constant huge Japanese headache-inducing drums. 

And it had Anderson's trademark look, which is that everything was completely symmetrical - which gave it the feeling that he lined up every shot according to a precise design.  It seemed that the whole screen was sitting on a fulcrum. 

I did, however, like the fight scenes where all of the participants were engulfed in a cloud of smoke and dust. 

Thus, I give the film a C-.  It's not a film I would like to view again, or recommend to others.

3. There's just been news on Buzzfeed about apparent sexual misconduct by the creator of the great TV series "Ren & Stimpy", John Krisfaluci  (or "John K." as many people call him.)

I don't know John K. very well, but we did co-host some live shows in Chicago a few years back - and I found him to be a nice, friendly, though a bit eccentric, guy.  But I am a huge fan of his cartoons and stories, he is a genius.

So that brings up the question - can a person admire a great artist, even if his private life is repulsive?  I still love the films of Roman Polanski, even knowing that he's done some very bad things.  And I believe I can still look at "Ren & Stimpy" or "George Liquor" and separate those films from his scandalous life.  But then, that's me and everyone has their own values and entertainment thresholds.

--Bill P.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Simpsons "Homer's Face"


Usually, I like to use this forum to tell people about upcoming events - however this time I'm using the blog to talk about last night's premiere of my latest "Couch Gag" for "The Simpsons, with animation of Homer Simpson singing the song from my Oscar-nominated film "Your Face". 

Unfortunately, my new couch gag got bumped from its original premiere date of March 18, and we had just finished announcing the on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram when we found out the airdate was being changed.  There was some kind of schedule snafu, I guess, or maybe it had something to do with that O.J. Simpson confession special.  Anyway, we had to go back on all the social media platforms and announce the programming change. 

So now my new couch gag aired against the "60 Minutes" report on Stormy Daniels and their exposé on Mr. Trump's sex life.  I guess the NCAA basketball ran into overtime, so people had to choose between "60 Minutes" and "The Simpsons".  Fat chance I'll get anyone to see my epic animation (at least in the East Coast time zone.) 

Nevertheless, it looked great and we got some terrific comments on YouTube.  (Also, some very crazy ones...)  

If you missed the new couch gag "Homer's Face"", you can see it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbI8kJuSkkY



Friday, March 23, 2018

"The Death of Stalin" + MoCCA Arts Festival


I've always felt that the most interesting characters in a film are the "heavies" - Hans Gruber, Wile. E. Coyote, Cruella de Ville are just a few examples.  These are the fun characters.

I don't like the "goodie" heroes that save the day, I want to see imperfect, flawed, venal anti-heroes that ruin the day.  That's why I love film noir, where everyone is evil.  The more evil characters, the more noir, the better.  And that's why I was excited to see Armando Ianucci's new film, "The Death of Stalin". 

I had seen one of his earlier films, "In the Loop", a rollicking political satire, which I truly loved.  So I was anxious to see how he managed to make a comedy out of the death of Stalin, one of Russia's cruelest dictators.

The cinema was packed and people laughed uproariously.  The picture stars Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor and Paddy Considine, and was advertised as "A Comedy of Terrors".  It is truly a dark comedy.  In fact, I have an idea for a parody of dictators that I've been working on for years - so that's why I really wanted to see what Mr. Ianucci created.  In my mind, it's the funniest comedy of the year - and in a not so subtle way, it's a brilliant reflection of our current administration here in the U.S.  Please tell all your friends to go see it at once, especially if you like black humor. 

Another reason I wanted to see it is because a couple years ago I created "Hitler's Folly", a mockumentary that imagined what if Hitler had not only gotten into art school, but also went further and decided to become an animator. 

Well, the response I got from many people was - how could I make a comedy about Adolf Hitler?  He's too evil to make jokes about.  Yet it's possible that Stalin had many more people killed than even Hitler, and yet it's somehow OK to make a comedy about him.  (It's very hard to compare two dictators on some kind of evil scale...) 

But fortunately, you can compare the two films, this comedy about Stalin and my comedy about Hitler.  My film "Hitler's Folly" is available on-line for FREE.  I can't charge any money because there's some copyrighted material in it that I wasn't able to clear.  But please check it out on my web-site at www.plymptoons.com  and if you like it, a donation would be appreciated. 

By the way, I give "The Death of Stalin" an A+.


Also, if you're around NYC on April 7 and 8, I'll be at the great annual MoCCA Arts Festival, sponsored by the Society of Illustrators.  This is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to see the best independent writers and cartoonists from all over. 

You'll see amazing new styles and humor from the graphic novel stars of tomorrow and I'll be there at Table C136.  The MoCCA Arts Fest takes place at the Metropolitan West Pavilion, 639 West 46th St., right by the Intrepid Museum (the one that looks like a big aircraft carrier - you can't miss it!)  Bring your friends, and I'll see you there!

For information, hours and tickets, please visit:

https://www.societyillustrators.org/mocca-arts-festival

--Bill P.