Wednesday, April 27, 2016


I've known Chris Prynoski for years, he used to work at MTV, then he started the animation production company Titmouse, where he achieved legendary status producing hit programs for the Adult Swim line-up on the Cartoon Network.

Finally, he decided to produce an animated feature film, "Nerdland", which I saw last week at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Also, Chris invited me to animate a section of the film - the only thing he said to me was to "create the most violent and grotesque scene of torture", and that it had to last less than 2 seconds.  So I dashed off a very short, violent comedic bit that appears quickly in the film.

I'm so glad that Chris is creating animated feature films, it seems to be a major trend now.  Aaron Augenblick is directing "The Adventures of Drunky", and the Seth Rogen / James Franco / Jonah Hill crowd all did voices for "Sausage Party", which is coming out later this year.  So maybe finally animated features for adults are starting to catch on. 

I really liked "Nerdland", and was excited to see that it covered a lot of the same territory as the film that Jim Lujan and I are making now, "Revengeance".  Both films are set in the sleazy underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles.  However, "Nerdland" was more about nerds and their search for fame, while "Revengeance" will be more about the desire for money and power. 

I loved the look and design of "Nerdland", but I had two complaints.  The story kept meandering - there were some very promising directions, like when they made fun of giant computer companies with a conglomerate called "Mega Soft".  I thought that direction would be fun, but after a few minutes, that plotline was dropped. The same thing happened when the two protagonists decided to become famous serial killers, but that was quickly dropped, too.  It's too bad, because I loved that idea.

My other problem with the film was that it wasn't that funny.  You'd think with the two great comedians Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt as stars, the jokes would be hilarious - I say, just turn on the mic and let Patton improvise, and you've got a film.  But unfortunately, I think they forced Patton to follow the script. 

I'm a great one to complain, my stories and humor tend to get bad reviews, and that's the reason why I've teamed up with Jim Lujan for "Revengeance", he's a terrific writer. 

I don't know when "Nerdland" will be released, but I highly recommend that you see it - it's still a wonderful film.  I'm giving it a "B" because we've got to support kick-ass adult animation.

--Bill Plympton

P.S. My office manager, John Holderried, also went to see the film, and he had a slightly different take on it.  You can check out his full review on his blog here:

But here are some highlights from his review:

It's not too much of a mental leap from "Beavis and Butthead" to John and Elliot.  Maybe if those kids finally stopped watching videos and got off the couch, moved to L.A. and tried to find work in the entertainment industry.  In the meantime, they have to support themselves with various jobs to pay the rent - and just like Scott Lang in "Ant-Man", Elliot's been fired from an ice-cream shop (and a record store, and a video-store, and...)  

But in a few days they'll both be 30 years old (Ya feel that, millennials?  It's coming...) so they decide to take the fast-track to being famous, and these days that means only one thing - making internet videos.  When that doesn't work, they decide to become hackers, then pop-culture news heroes, and when THAT doesn't work, really, there's only one solution, right?  If the first two words you thought of were "hard work", then you're way off-base.  Think more like "murder spree".  I think the twisted logic that gets them there is quite an interesting turn, even though if we like these guys, we don't want to see them kill a bunch of people.  

But there's a message here, kids, if you can stop texting long enough to hear it - there is NO fast track to fame.  For most people, there isn't even a slow track.  Every person who became famous, for the right reasons anyway, had to work hard to get there.  I heard some rock stars bad-mouthing "American Idol" about a month ago, because it seemed like such a fast-track to them, and the people involved don't seem to be paying their dues.  Yeah, but nobody has natural talent, not even pop stars, they have to practice, they have to learn songs, they have to get up on stage and perform.  They even have to appear in silly Ford commercials, and that's not easy. 

Oh, sure, there are YouTube stars, and there are Kardashians.  But even YouTubers have to work hard to make good videos, and anyone who has success thrust upon them for the wrong reasons - do you really WANT their kind of fame, in the end?  You might have some money, but no soul.  So quitcher whining and get a job, because no one's going to give you a free college education, and nobody's going to successfully wrestle money from the corporations and banks and distribute it out to twenty-somethings.  

My main complaint is that the film is called "Nerdland", and the two main characters aren't really nerds, they're more like slackers.  The main nerd in the film is an overweight man who runs a collectibles store and wears a crown (King of the Nerds), but he's too much of a stereotype, an urban version of Comic Book Guy from "The Simpsons" or The Collector from "PowerPuff Girls".  And like those other stereotypical nerds, he'll do just about anything for you, as long as you can get him a rare action figure that's MIB.  But we've all seen plot points like that before, right?  

Look, I've been across the country, I've met nerds from coast to coast.  Nerds are, for the most part, decent people, and the vast majority of them are hard-working and not very murder-y.  And they have smart phones, not flip phones - they love technology, after all!  If you're going to call a film "Nerdland", maybe put a few more nerds in it, that's all I'm saying. 

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