Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kansas City Film Festival

The last time I was in Kansas City was about 35 years ago, when I had just signed up to do my political cartoon strip "Plympton" for Universal Press Syndicate.

Now that I've abandoned print cartoons for animation, the city has welcomed me back for the Kansas City Film Festival to show my film "CHEATIN'" and receive their Independent Pioneer award.  I thought it would also be a great opportunity for me to experience historic Kansas City, so here are some of the highlights...

1. I had some great barbecue at Arthur Bryant, a 50-year old ribs restaurant - delicious!  A+

2. I received a personal tour of the famed Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, where I saw a large collection of representational art: Grant Wood, Andrew Wy

eth, James Whistler, Frederic Remington, Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper.  I was in heaven! 

But the topper was their wonderful selections of Thomas Hart Benton.  They had some of his most magnificent paintings - and just recently I've become very influenced by his work.  If you'll notice, in some of my recent films I've started to distort perspective and really distort the human anatomy - two ideas I've stolen from Mr. Benton. 

What really bugged me was that I couldn't find an art book with his collected works.  What's going on?  Is there such a prejudice against representational art in this country that there's no coffee table book about the great Thomas Hart Benton?  It's a shame, a travesty, it's criminal - please, someone make a Thomas Hart Benton book!

3. And my final tourist stop was the old Laugh-O-Gram building.  Back in the early 1920's, when Walt Disney was just starting to create animation, he and Ub Iwerks set up a studio in Kansas City to make their films.  For a number of reasons the venture was not a success and they moved the studio to L.A.

However, this historic building is still standing (barely) and local artists and cartoonists are raising money to salvage the 2-story building and recreate the famous beginnings of my hero, Walter Elias Disney. 

Accordingly, one great thing about the Kansas City Film Festival is their love of animation - they showed one of the largest selections of animation I've ever witnessed at a film festival - PLUS, they had a wonderful retrospective on the Godfather of adult animation, Ralph Bakshi.  And after the screening of the notorious "Coonskin", he did an interview via Skype.  I was in heaven! 

I give the Kansas City Film Festival a B+

--Bill Plympton

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