Friday, June 21, 2019

Annecy 2019

I've just returned from one of my favorite film festivals, the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, located high in the French Alps.  This is the granddaddy of animation festivals.  I've been going every year - since I first attended in 1985 with my first film "Boomtown".  (By my accounting I've probably attended Annecy more than any other filmmaker...)

The week started out as a rainy mess, so I was able to catch a few films - as you probably already know, I'm a huge fan of Masaaki Yuasa (his films "Mind Game" and "Kickheart" are brilliant).  He had his new film, "Ride Your Wave" at Annecy in competition, and it's a great departure from his other films...only in the wrong direction.  I don't know why he abandoned his radical gonzo style of animation, but this film looks just like a million other animé films I've seen.


Perhaps he's married and needs the money.  Or perhaps his producers forced him to copy the other Japanese animators.  But it was all there: the big eyes, wispy hair, no nose, all the clichéd telltale signs of animé!  And the story also was a sugary sweet romance between two young surfers. Please, Masaaki, get back to your brilliant kick-ass animation!

I was also really looking forward to the new Lorenzo Mattotti film "The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily".  I had to stand outside in the rain in a very long line to get in.  All the seats were sold out, but I managed to sneak in, just barely.  This film is the most beautiful film I've ever witnessed!  Every shot was a masterpiece and I wanted to linger on each beautiful background.  I was gobsmacked!!! I can't think of a film that was so similarly gorgeous - "Bambi"...No, "Fantasia"...No, "The Red Turtle"...No!  Plus, the story was excellent, with great characters, great designs, only the young female lead was badly designed and drawn, as if Mattotti had nothing to do with her.  As you all now, Mr. Mattotti is famous for his wonderful illustrations, posters and books, so it seems natural that his film would be a masterpiece.


Once the rain stopped, I was able to hit all the parties and play in Lake Annecy.  Even though the film I submitted this year was rejected, I was still able to show four of my films in various non-competitive programs.  The festival showed my classic 2001 short "Eat" in a special program about gastronomy, for example.

Plus, the Spike and Mike documentary "Animation Outlaws", directed by Kat Alioshin, screened to very large crowds, and even though my animation is featured prominently in the film, somehow they forgot to interview me.  But it's a great look at the crazy roadshow called "Sick & Twisted" that toured across the USA for many years.  The doc features such animated greats as John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Mike Judge, Don Hertzfeldt, Nick Park, Will Vinton and so on.  Unfortunately Mike passed away in the 1990's and the festival doesn't have the energy and weirdness factor that it once had, and it plays in much fewer cities, sad to say.

One of the highlights of the festival, for me, was the Academy party.  A very posh affair, where Bonnie Arnold introduced me to director Dean DeBlois of "How to Train Your Dragon" fame - now he's one of my great heroes.  I was awestruck to meet him, and he was a very friendly guy.  I hope to got back to Annecy next year, and every year after that - if I can get one of my damn films in!

with Dean DeBlois
Back in the USA, last night I attended the East Coast premiere of a music video I directed and designed, called "Wicked World" by the young genius, Matt Jaffe (no relation to Al Jaffee) at the National Sawdust Theater in Brooklyn.  First Matt played a bunch of his other songs - I did some caricatures, showed a clip from my new work-in-progress film, "Slide", then we showed the new music video.  Judging by the reaction from the audience, it was a big hit.  The theater managers seemed to like my work, so I may return to Williamsburg and do my whole show there. I'll certainly let you know when that happens.





The next event I've got coming up is a special screening of all SIX of my infamous "Trump Bites" episodes, at the IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue, NYC next Monday, June 24 at 6:30 pm.  I'll introduce those shorts, plus some of my classics like "Guard Dog" and "Your Face", and we'll do some live demos about how to draw Donald Trump, and then a Q&A with me and "Trump Bites" co-creator Billy Shebar.  Join us to have a good animated time as we make fun of the President!  For tickets and more info:

http://www.ifccenter.com/films/an-evening-with-bill-plympton-and-trump-bites/

Here are some more pictures from beautiful Annecy - talk to you next week -

Bill

with animator Michael Dudok de Wit (2nd from right)

with Sandrine, Pat Smith and Peter Lord 

with Pat Smith and Sandrine
my son Lucas was selling his own drawings at my table!























Friday, June 7, 2019

The Story Behind Gun Shop..

"Gun Shop" is my first foray into stop motion/object animation, and will be in competition at this weeks Annecy. Here's the story of how a hand drawn animator switched gears and experimented with stop motion, and in the process got educated about guns and our culture.

In July 2018, my mother had just passed away, and my father fell into deep dementia. The family was in turmoil, we had a house to sell, a father to care for, and no money.  Through all of this I became very close to my brothers and sisters.  As we were packing up my parents belongings, re-visting photos, reading love letters, all things children of loved ones do.  We came across my fathers Guns. My dad and his father were avid deer hunters, and had a variety of shot guns and rifles. I’m fairly familiar with guns; as an American it’s part of our culture.  I reached for my camera, positioned the guns on the table, and photographed each one.
One of my Dad's 12 gauge shotguns.. which started the entire thing.
Those were the first photos I composited as a test, in the style of one of my favorite filmmakers, Paul Bush. Paul Bush pioneered a technique that few have ever duplicated. The history of this particular type of object animation, a technique that involves using a different object for every frame, can be traced back to Jan Svankmajer, who used winged insects similar to Paul Bush’s masterpiece “While Darwin Sleeps.” You would be hard pressed to find ten more films in this technique. Some notables are Fabio Friedli, Alain Biet, Adnaan Jiwa, Gerco de Ruijter, Páraic Mc Gloughlin, and Ynon Lan. I’m sure there are more, but not too many more.
"While Darwin Sleeps" object animation by the legendary experimental animator Paul Bush.

I showed this animation test to my producer at the time, David Gaynes, who mentioned that it would work well synced to percussion (he was a drummer).  Most of my career has been visually interpreting music and interviews, and to my knowledge this object animation technique has never quite been synced properly to music.  Between jobs I researched some of my favorite films that utilized Jazz.. namely George Griffin’s “Koko” and the experimental synced work “Begone Dull Care” by Norman Mclaren and Evelyn Lambart. Also the experimental films by Len Lye.


Then... the project stalled as I got deeper into a few other drawn animation projects like my 2018 film “Pour 585.” This happens, and is often the death of new ideas.

One day, several months later, the phone rang. It was the impregnable titan of animation, Ron Diamond. He never calls me.  Ron had just watched “Pour 585”, and had a very simple critique for me.. “Pat it’s time to move on.. you’ve been making the same films for 20 years.”  Tough love. That conversation shook me, I trust Ron, and I had to admit that “Pour 585” as well as my previous film "Pittari" was failing to resonate.  So that evening my wife suggested I explore the Gun idea in more depth.

I traveled to several gun shops and museums, typically taking photos on the sly with my phone. I gathered roughly 250 photos.. but I needed well over 3000!  So over the course of a few weeks I posted messages on Facebook, twitter, and message boards, asking people to submit photos of their personal firearms, the response was overwhelming.  I also asked gun manufacturers for high resolution photos, which several surprisingly provided. Five months later I had well over 3000 photos to work with, my best source was from a private collection in Long Island, New York, which contained approximately 200 different firearms, many heavy.  Frightening? yes. And expressing this cultural phenomenon is what the context of the film morphed into.
Here I am unloading an 8mm Glock, if I'm going to photograph them, I may as well shoot them!.
Through my travels and communications, I learned a lot about firearms, and those who have them. The most shocking thing about the research I did for “Gun Shop” is how incredibly cooperative gun owners were with my project, knowing full well my anti-gun politics. It surprised me, and shook my view of the gun-toting populace. There’s more to it than most think.  This issue is incredibly polarizing simply because it’s so ingrained into American culture.

Toy gun Oil Painting by Tony Curanaj.


The method of visually illustrating this cultural connection was a challenge. I remember an oil painting done by my old NYC studio mate, Tony Curanaj. He painted an iconic toy gun. It was beautiful and brought me back to my youth of squirt guns, cap guns, and plastic machine guns that launched Styrofoam bullets.  So I settled on that obvious juxtaposition.  Ironically, the toy guns were more difficult to find and photograph than real guns, an interesting commentary in itself. The film came together over the following months, much to the detriment of my commercial projects.. but that’s always been the case with me. So. Thank you Ron Diamond, thanks Jason Wiseman, my wife Kaori Ishida, George Griffin, Paul Bush and the talented musicians Jen Mitlas and Steve Rice. .. and the un-named populace that helped me immensely to gather the thousands of photos needed to produce “Gun Shop.”

My follow up film “Candy Shop” is almost wrapped, and is slated for premiere this coming November. I fear this technique will stay with me for a while.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

YouTube as a venue for independent Animators..

Does YouTube work for independent animators? I have a specific use for YouTube: To get the film seen, thereby garnering paid work. This mantra has paid off over the past 5 years, with an almost total majority of my clients coming from people who saw my videos on-line. I believe this to be the most vital part of the on-line venue. If you're interested in my methods of getting these views, let me know in the comments, maybe I can do a multi-part series about it.

So, “Pour 585” hit 1 million views the other day.. The majority viewing age is, 25-44, substantially older than my last viral video (Handshake which has about 3 million). Also the source of views was initially started by the 17k channel subscribers, who also provided insightful and thoughtful comments, more so than any other video I have up. Subscribers are key to any successful YouTube launch.. they are the ones that start the process into sliding into the coveted "Suggested Videos" column.It’s tempting to be cynical about views, but in the end, this is the reason we make animated films: To communicate to as many interested people as possible.
Thanks for everyone’s help pushing the original launch, especially Amid Amidi who gave it a short pick of the day at Cartoon Brew, JJ Sedelmaier, Dan Sarto at AWN, and everyone else who shared!
MAKING FILMS IS A BATTLE, with many obstacles and gatekeepers to circumnavigate in order to reach your audience!  Ultimately I think on-line viewing works seamlessly with more traditional venues, to the benefit of independents.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Upcoming Events

I'm sorry that I've been out of touch for a little bit.  I'm now working on two big projects - one secret project for my favorite TV show, and perhaps in a month I can make an announcement about it.  But for now, the lawyers say I'm forbidden to talk.

The other project, of course, is my new feature film, that the lawyers say I CAN discuss - it's called "Slide".  I'm now about 1/5 of the way through the film, and in all modesty, I must say it looks pretty damn good.

But I do also have a lot of other events that I'd like to talk about.  First, I just saw "Aladdin", the new "live-action" version, starring a blue Will Smith as the Genie.  This was the character I was almost hired to animate for the original Disney version, released in 1992.


The big downside for me in the film was the feeling I was watching a Broadway musical.  All the songs sound alike and therefore feel like processed cheese.  I found the plotting very lackluster and static.  However, the ending is something to marvel - it really came together in the last 15 minutes - I give it a "C" grade overall.

Another big announcement is the fact that one of my more recent music videos is getting a live premiere at the new National Sawdust music venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  On June 20 at 7:30 pm (doors open at 6:30, get there early!) I will make an appearance, along with boy genius Matt Jaffe to screen the video for his new song "Wicked World".  It's a great song, and then I added some wild animation to go with it.  We will be there to talk about the making and the meaning of this video, and then the audience will hear a bunch of his other tunes.  He's quite a phenomenon, at 21 years old he's extremely talented and very handsome, too.

Even though I worked on his video, I've never met Matt in person before, but I've very excited to do so and to see him perform.  It should be a great show, so please check it out.  The National Sawdush is located at 80 North 6th St. in Brooklyn - and you can get more info and tickets here:

https://nationalsawdust.org/event/matt-jaffe-bill-plympton/

The third project on my list is the premiere of three more "Trump Bites" animated shorts at the IFC Center on 6th Ave. in the West Village part of Manhattan, starting on June 7.  I'll add more screening details here and a ticket link here as soon as I have them.

These are the anti-Trump shorts that I've created with Billy Shebar and David Roberts of 110th Street Films.  They've gotten HUGE international publicity and millions of fans (thousands of haters, also) by taking Trump's own words and adding surreal animation.

It's funny, in the 1970's and 80's I was drawing a syndicated political cartoon strip, and I'd be lucky to get 1 or 2 comments each month.  Now that my political animation hit the internet, I'm getting so much hate mail, it's more than I can read - and sometimes I'm afraid for my life.  Even Sean Hannity screened one of them, with his usual disgusting remarks that followed.

You'll be happy to know that the first set of "Trump Bites" episodes received a coveted Webby for "Best Animated Series" on the internet.  It's sort of the equivalent of an Oscar, since now more people watch things on the internet than go to the movies.

Finally, I'm now packing my bags for my trip to Annecy, France - the home of the biggest animation festival in the world, and possibly the most important one, too.  I've been going for almost 20 years, and I always see great friends and amazing films.  Plus, it's just a gorgeous place to hang out, drinking wine.

So, when I return I'll give you a full update on all my wonderful experiences in Annecy.  Now, enjoy this week's cartoon below!

Bonjour,

Bill P.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

All That Glitters

As most of you know, my last feature film, "Revengeance" was a co-production between me and my L.A. buddy, Jim Lujan.  It was a terrific project, so much fun to work on.

But now, Jim has a new show online.  It's called "All That Glitters", with his same gonzo underground art style, which I've really grown to love.  The crudity of the art is so perfect for the characters and the situations.

But this time, the milieu is a different sleazy side of L.A. - the music business, with all the crime that surrounds it.  Of course, there's so much humor and conflict involved in the music biz, it's a perfect environment.

I talked to Jim about his inspiration for the characters, and thus the show - he answered that he'd been watching a lot of "Breaking Bad".  He also has plans to create 20 two-minute episodes (there are 10 posted now) and eventually he'll make a lot more, to finally put it together as an animated feature film.

Fortunately, Jim has a lot of Patreon support and that's how he's able to make all these hilarious episodes.  Naturally, the animation is somewhat static, but it's the voices, dialogues and music that are really the soul of this show.

Jim has brought in a bunch of his friends to help do the voices and music. But Jim is a very talented voice actor and musician himself - just check out his work on "Revengeance".

But he needs support to continue his ambitions to make the long version.  He can be contacted at:

https://www.patreon.com/jimlujan

and if you do support him via Patreon, you'll get a lot of cool extras, like artwork and music.

I'll post some of the artwork from "All That Glitters" here - and also there's a playlist of the episodes on YouTube here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-vsMjocIYDws8TciyOtn5tIs5w706ZUc

Help keep this genius working!  Thanks,

Bill P.








Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sky Hi

Dear Fans,

About 15 years ago, I came up with a wacky idea for a book that concerned a young artist (a bit like myself) who attempts to smuggle some drugs overseas - but unfortunately the drugs that he swallows somehow dissolve into his bloodstream, causing him to have wild hallucinations during his trip.

Now, I took a few drugs when I was in college, and as a young hippie in NYC, but now I'm pretty straight.  However, the imagery still resides deep in the back of my brain.

So, I decided to make the book an illustrated novel, not a graphic novel but a novel with numerous full-page illustrations - similar to those N.C. Wyeth books like "Robin Hood" and "Treasure Island", etc.

My hope is that the surreal artwork will be a wonderful counterpoint to the bizarre story. I've never seen this done before, so I'm curious to see how it works out.

Here are some art samples from the proposed book:












 I'll post updates here as the work on the book progresses, or if there's any interest in publication.

--Bill Plympton

Monday, May 6, 2019

Oregon Film History Conference & "Avengers: Endgame"

I just returned from my old home-town, Portland Oregon, where I attended a wonderful symposium organized by Anne Richardson and Dennis Nyback, of the Oregon Cartoon Institute.  It was a bit awkward for me, because of the a majority of the speakers talked about me and my work.

David Chelsea, an Oregon-based graphic novelist and expert on perspective, and Paul Harrod, design director par excellence ("Isle of Dogs") led a discussion titled "Brush Up on Bill", about some of my feature films, and Marne Lucas, an Oregon/NYC artist who also worked on one of my favorite short films, "The Operation", led another panel discussion.

with David Chelsea and Paul Harrod
Then the great animator and music video genius Jim Blashfield and I had a conversation about Oregon and independent animation, moderated by Chel White.

with Chel White and Jim Blashfield
This all took place on the beautiful Lewis & Clark College campus, high up in the forested hills overlooking Portland.

I remember 40 years ago, drinking in my favorite bar, the Veritable Quandary, when someone said there was an easy-access outdoor pool at Lewis & Clark College.  "LET'S GO!!"  So about 6 of us, male and female, jumped in a car and climbed the security gate, doffed our clothing and had a nice summer's night swim.  But if the campus police had caught us, we'd have dried off in the county jail!

Back to present day - I saw a lot of friends at the conference, the night before my talk there was a welcome reception at Black Hat Books.  Chel White, stop-motion genius, the great artist Mike Smith, the wonderful writer Mark Christensen - who after 40 years has moved back to Oregon.  It was a wonderful event and I had a great time.  Thank so much, Anne and Dennis!

with Mike Smith
By the way, right now Portland is probably the second largest scene for animated features in the U.S. Of course, Laika is in the middle of producing animated features, they just released "Missing Link" and are probably starting production on another one.  Henry Selick is producing his feature, "Wendell and Wild" there, and on top of that, Guillermo del Toro is in town, in production on his animated version of "Pinocchio".  It seems like Hollywood finally realized that there's something in the water or the air around Portland that produces great animators, so it just makes sense to open a studio there!

Also, last week I was able to watch "Avengers: Endgame", a much-anticipated film that I was really looking forward to.  Unfortunately, I left the cinema very tired and disappointed.  The first problem I had with it was the feeling that the directors, the Russo brothers, tried to cram every Marvel character, alive or dead, into the film - and my brain started to shut down from character overload.  At some point, more becomes less.


Also, when the Avengers finally rescue the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet, why weren't they able to defeat all the forces of evil?  But my biggest complaint is that, perhaps understandably, the main audience for this film is the gamers.  But can't they find a more peaceful way to resolve their issues than massive waves of good guys and bad guys punching each other to death?

This is a perfect film for the Trump era - we can't live together, so let's just pound the shit out of everybody.  For a 3-hour film, it seemed like 2 of those hours were fistfights and battles - and I'm the guy who makes films entitled "Sex & Violence"...

I give the film a C- and that's only for all the great special effects.

Now, here's my cartoon for the week...

--Bill P.


Monday, April 29, 2019

The Simpsons 30th Anniversary panel

On Friday, my buddy Jeff Jaworski e-mailed me and said he had an extra ticket to a panel and screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, which would celebrate the 30th Anniversary of "The Simpsons" premiering on Fox TV, and he wanted to know if I would like to go.  At the time, I was out in Montauk, celebrating my upcoming birthday, but I said, "Hell, yes!" and I caught the next bus back to Manhattan.

Jeff, being a true Simpsons fan, was already waiting at the head of the line.  Just as I got there Matt Groening and Simpsons producer Al Jean arrived in a limo, to loud applause.  They didn't see me, because I was surrounded by so many rabid Simpsons fans.

After another half-hour in the cold, they finally let us in and first up were two classic episodes of "The Simpsons".  Then the panel began - in addition to Matt and Al there Harry Shearer (who had performed the night before in "Spinal Tap") and James L. Brooks, originator and executive producer, and the Q&A was moderated by Yeardley Smith (voice of Lisa Simpson).

To my surprise, Al Jean was aware of my presence and pointed me out in the crowd.  I took a bow to modest applause - and because of that, Matt Groening became aware of my presence, and invited me backstage for the private party after.  There, I was able to chat with Matt, my old Oregon buddy, and Al Jean.  And they introduced me to Yeardley Smith and the great James L. Brooks, one of my epic heroes of television.

with Yeardley Smith and James L. Brooks
Then I met Harry Shearer, and we got in a very nice conversation - apparently, he knew who I was, which always surprises me.  So I told him that "This Is Spinal Tap" is my all-time favorite film, which is totally true, and he seemed happy to hear that.  Then we talked about how the band's British accents were totally accepted and loved in England.  I should have mentioned my film "Hitler's Folly" since he loves mockumentaries - but I didn't want to keep him from his other fans.

with Matt Groening and Harry Shearer
Then, since I had been on the bus all day, coming back from Montauk, and hadn't eaten, I stuffed myself with the green room snacks, like a total freeloader.  I just wish they had had some large round lunchmeat slices to go with the too-tiny bread slices!

Happy 30th Anniversary, Simpsons!

On another topic, I just found out that my "Trump Bites" series won a Webby, for best internet animation series - very cool!  And since no one watches movies any more, except on the internet, I guess this is better than an Oscar!


I want to thank everybody who voted for "Trump Bites", this is a great honor.  By the way, I'm not going to the gala awards ceremony, since the tickets cost $450!  I'll watch it on TV, or maybe on the internet.

Enjoy this week's cartoon!  Catch you next week -

Bill P.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Florida Film Festival & DisneyWorld

I've been going to the Florida Film Festival for almost 20 years now, and this year, my son Lucas - who's six years old, just the right age for Disney World - decided to tag along.

When I told him about Disney World, he wasn't that interested at first - all he asked was, "Can I have some cotton candy there?"  For some reason, he's one of the few kids on the planet who's not obsessed with Disney characters - but off we went to Orlando.

The Florida Film Festival is as great as ever.  Matthew Curtis, head programmer of the festival, always has a lively and unorthodox group of films lined up.  One film, "Buzzer", was animated with dead flies.  Another hit was "Prison Zoo" by Alix Lambert, a stop-motion story about a fennec fox in prision.  Very funny!  I showed my new short "Sex & Violence III", which got very loud laughter.

What's great about the Florida Film Festival at the Enzian Theater is the warmth and personality of the festival, everyone is so friendly and knowledgeable.


On Friday, we took Lucas to DisneyWorld, and as soon as I walked into the Magic Kingdom, I felt like I was 10 years old again - I was actually skipping!  I wanted to go on all the rides.  The last time I went to DisneyLand in CA was 40 years ago, and I'd never been to DisneyWorld in Orlando.  So we tried to enjoy as many rides and attractions as possible.  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was exciting, the It's a Small World ride (designed by Mary Blair) was very inspiring, the "Monsters, Inc." ride was very funny, and the Peter Pan ride was uplifting.  Disney's "Carousel of Progress", however, was totally boring - but we needed to be inside because of a sudden rain storm.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
The best was Splash Mountain, for several reasons - first it's based on some of my favorite characters, Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear from "Song of the South".  Then it was a super-exciting roller-coaster ride through that animated world - then it turns into a splash ride in boats, what a gas.

The "Song of the South" characters outside Splash Mountain
The water-ride part of Splash Mountain
The amazing thing to me is how professional and smooth the whole Disney World operation is, I never once was bored.  And it really is a testament to the genius of Walt Disney and his Imagineers.  I believe Walt was the greatest entertainer of the 20th Century and his work will probably dominate the 21st, too.  Hell, maybe I should start to construct "Plympton World".



See you next week -

Bill P.