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:

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!


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:

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:

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.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

"Pour 585" animated short by Patrick Smith..

My 2018 short film "Pour 585" was released online yesterday, after an extensive year of festival screenings, please check it out and let me know what you think. It's always nice to see a film land in it's final resting place.  Great review by from Anthony L Tjandra..

"It’s been quite rare to see a short film that is entirely 2D animated in a hand drawn fashion that is similar to older cartoons in the 90s. But makes no mistake, Pour 585 is a modern short film that tackles one of the current era’s issues as its moral lesson."

What can I say? I'm a product of the 90's!

"Pour 585" was animated last year over the course of 2 months, every day for 10 hours.  Quickest film I've ever done. More info is available on the vimeo page, or my website Thanks for watching!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Cartoons on the Bay, Torino, Italy

I was very happy to be invited to the Cartoons on the Bay Festival last week to receive the prestigious Pulcinella Award for lifetime achievement.  Also receiving an award was the great Michel Ocelot.

Receiving the Pulcinella Award
Unfortunately, the weather was wet and rainy, but happily, this helped make my Master Class a big hit.  I had a packed, standing-room-only audience.

Lucca Raffaeli, the famed animation and comics historian, took a few of us VIPs, including my Italian producer friend, Marco Milone, to the famed Museum of Cinema, just a few blocks from our hotel.  It is a spectacular piece of architecture, very similar to the Eiffel Tower.

The tower part is called "The Mole Antonelliana", which was a decorative structure build on top of the original Jewish temple in 1877.  It's quite remarkable, because the whole inside of the structure is hollow, so you can see up to the very top.  In fact, they have a free-hanging elevator that takes you up to the top for a magnificent view.  Then, like the Guggenheim Museum in NYC, you can walk along a spiral path down to the bottom, looking at an exhibition called "Comics to Film", with pieces from Winsor McKay and Tim Burton's "Batman".

They have quite an extensive exhibition on the pre-history of cinema and then the very early years of cinema - Edison, Méliès, Lumiere.  They say it's the largest museum of cinema anywhere in the world.  In fact, Torino was where Italian cinema production began and it's still a center for filmmaking.

With the great animator Bruno Bozzetto!

The name of this film festival doesn't make much sense, because there is no bay nearby - Torino is right next to the Alps.  However, the festival began years ago in the beautiful harbor village of Positano - but they eventually moved it to Torino because of the cinematic history of the town.

I want to thank RAI TV and the entire staff at the Cartoons on the Bay festival for a great time.

If you have a new film that you want to show at a festival, definitely submit it to Cartoons on the Bay!  Enjoy this week's gag cartoon, and I'll talk to you next week!

--Bill Plympton

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Webbies

They're back again, and I can't get rid of them - the BOTS!

I just learned that my "Trump Bites" series has been nominated for a Webby Award - and these days, since the internet seems to be where most people get their news and entertainment, that's pretty important.  So my thanks to the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

By the way, I think it's very cool to be nominated - I can add it to my list of awards, like my Cannes Jury Prize, two Oscar nominations, Emmy nomination and Pulitzer Prize nomination - Wow, that's like the Full Monty.

In fact, "Trump Bites" is nominated for TWO Webby Awards, because it's nominated in the category of Video: Video Series & Channels: Animation, and also there is a Webby People's Voice Award, selected by the voting public.  Winning either one is a mark of internet excellence, and would also allow me to attend the star-studded awards gala, held on May 13 in NYC.  So I'm anxiously awaiting the results of the voting - the winners will be announced on April 23.

If you want to take part in the voting, and I encourage you to support my battle against Trump, please vote for my series "Trump Bites" (co-produced with 110th Street Films), by going to:

Voting is open until Thursday, April 18 at 11:59 pm. So please vote for "Trump Bites" in the category of Video: Animation

However, there's a serious downside - to represent the series on their site, the Webby Awards chose a still of Trump on a date with Putin.  As you may know, when that "Trump Bites" short originally played on the New York Times site, this activist started a campaign to smear my name and call me out as an alleged homophobe.  Naturally, all the Trump fans and Russian Bots all piled on with hundreds of threatening e-mails and messages -

Of course, now it's happened again.  Apparently the activist is back and now his re-tweet of our tweet is getting hundreds of hate messages in response.  And some of them have bad language and syntax mistakes, so it's obvious that a lot of them come from fake accounts overseas.  Or maybe just high-school kids.

In a way, it's kind of thrilling - to have a lot of responses, positive OR negative, is always the goal of a political cartoonist.  When I did my political cartoon strip in the 1970's and 80's, I'd be lucky to get one comment a week.  So to have this kind of response, even if most of it is negative, is such a compliment to my artwork.

So, if you want to support my battle against Trump and the Bots, please register to vote for the Webby Awards, and also the 2020 election, while you're at it.


Bill P.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

"Gun Shop" in Annecy..

Much to Bill's dismay, I've been working with object animation for the last year.  After my film "Pour 585" I needed a break and I was searching big time for a new way to convey ideas.  If you're attending Annecy this year, I hope you'll be able to see my first of several object animations "Gun Shop", and also say hi.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


As most of you know, I've been working on a number of music videos this past year - one of the most exciting projects is for a song from the great Tim Grimm, one of the best folk singers around.  A few months ago, he asked me to create some animation for his new song "Gonna Be Great".

You may recognize the title from an expression used by our current leader.  Tim asked me to keep the man in the background, so I zeroed in on the gangster side of politics.  It's very 1930's Warner Brothers gangster-type animation.  I believe it's one of the best things I've done.

Anyway, it's premiering on the Curve channel at DittyTV at 10 pm CDT on Wednesday, March 27 and then rebroadcast at 10 am CDT on Thursday, March 28.  You can find it here:

I hope you can all check it out then.  If not, watch for it on-line or on Tim Grimm's web-site or wherever you watch music videos these days.

More great News!!! I found out I was just inducted into the "Cartoon Character Hall of Fame" and I'm in some pretty fast company - Joe Grant, Eyvind Earle, Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Conan O'Brien, Milt Kahl, and more.  I don't know how they came up with the list, but I'm not complaining. It's a total honor to be accepted in the cartoon hierarchy.

You can find the Cartoon Character Hall of Fame here:

Instead of a gag cartoon, this week I'm including a bunch of design ideas for one of the prostitutes in my new work-in-progress film "Slide".  You probably already know my films aren't generally meant for children - well, this one is certainly adult fare because it includes are trio of brothel-workers who sing like the Andrews Sisters.  I can't wait to get started with the film.  I hope you like the sketches -

--Bill P.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Trip to Omaha Film Festival

I've just returned from a trip to the 14-year old Omaha Film Festival in Nebraska, where, to my surprise, there was two feet of snow piled everywhere.  Despite this, the film fans were everywhere and my two appearances had large and enthusiastic crowds.  In fact, for my evening event, I needed to get in early to set up for my show, but the waiting crowd would not let me through.  Of course, they didn't know what Bill Plympton looked like (animation directors rarely get recognized).

When I arrived from the Omaha airport, my driver took me on a tour of the city - we drove past Warren Buffett's modest home and we saw a very large number of churches.  My driver remarked how Omaha citizens are very religious and very friendly - they call it "Nebraska Nice".  But when I tried to get through the crowd and enter my show early, the "Nebraska Nice" had disappeared.  As hard as I pushed, I couldn't get through them.  If they were so determined to get into my show, then screw "Nebraska Nice", I guess.  Of course, once they realized I was Bill Plympton (and I wasn't going to steal a seat from them) they apologized profusely and we all laughed at it.

Between my shows, I had some free time to play - there was too much snow to really walk around and explore the city, so I decided to catch up on my movie viewing.  I'm a big fan of the "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise, so decided to watch the new (and final) release in the trilogy, subtitled "The Hidden World", directed by Dean DeBlois.  In this sequel, Hiccup and Toothless are grown up and taking care of the village.  The story is very emotional and exciting - the only boring part was the scene where Toothless (the Black Dragon) romances the white female dragon.  It was too long and didn't really use the humor and sensitivity available from the situation.

Still, the visuals were just overwhelmingly beautiful!  I often found myself swooning at the gorgeous imagery and design.  A lot of the style and the look of the film was advised by the famous cinematographer Roger Deakins.  What eye-popping visuals!  I give the film an "A".

The other film I wanted to see was "Captain Marvel", from the Marvel comic franchise, starring the great Brie Larson, who was also in "The Room" (one of my favorite films).  I saw it in the same cinema where I saw "How to Train Your Dragon" but the difference was literally night and day.  "Dragon" was alive, sparkling, and colorful, while "Captain Marvel" was brown, muddy, dark and difficult to watch, and that feeling followed through to the story.

I could not get excited about the story, in fact I fell asleep twice.  All the scenes took place in two boring locations that had no visual excitement.  I must confess I don't have a lot of background with Marvel Comics or Captain Marvel, but the character seemed very bland and I never was able to understand exactly what super powers she had, and why sometimes she used them and sometimes she didn't.   I give "Captain Marvel" a "C-".

But my office manager, John Holderried, who's a big Marvel Comics fan, also saw the "Captain Marvel" movie this week, and I've asked him to chime in here with a dissenting opinion.  So, take it away, John:


Well, unlike Bill, I do read Marvel Comics, but I don't usually read the "Captain Marvel" series.  I only know of the character because of her on-and-off history as an Avenger, and her appearances in the company-wide crossover books like "Civil War" and "Infinity Wars".  She's been around since the 1970's, only she was formerly known as Ms. Marvel, the girlfriend of the original "Captain Marvel", who died of cancer.  (In fact, Marvel has had EIGHT characters that have gone by this superhero name, Carol Danvers is the most recent, but also one of the most successful.)  Later Ms. Marvel lost her powers and memory, but gained new powers and called herself Binary, then when she got her old life back she went by the name Warbird, then finally landed on Captain Marvel when the name was free, and the editors could stop the writers from creating new characters calling themselves that.

There was a push in the 1970's by Marvel to create new female characters, but usually they just ended up being female versions of the already-popular heroes.  So, after Spider-Man took off, they created Spider-Woman.  Do the fans like Hulk?  Then, they'll love She-Hulk!  More recently, Thor's ex-girlfriend Jane Foster became Lady Thor for a few years (as if that's not a contradiction) and then they created a female Hawkeye (also stupidly called Hawkeye) and now an Iron Man female knock-off called Ironheart, among others.  Yes, it's silly, cheap and a blatant attempt to double profits and market share, but it not only reaches the female comic-book fans (yes, they're out there) but works to redress the traditional unfairness that's been around since the early days of comic books.  It's very rare when an original non-knockoff female character becomes a hit, like Black Widow or Squirrel Girl.

You see, back in the early days of Marvel, only 20% of the original Avengers and X-Men were women, and only the Fantastic Four fared better statistically at 25%.  Things improved slightly during the 1970's and 80's, especially among the X-Men, with the introductions of Storm, Kitty Pryde, Dazzler, Rogue, Psylocke and many of the New Mutants, but the top-respected teams like the Avengers and Fantastic Four remained mostly a boy's club.  In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they fell into the same trap, with only one female member on the "Avengers" team at the start. (see also "Guardians of the Galaxy")  When nearly 50% of the movie audience is female, why should women be only 16% or 20% of the heroes?

But finally, there's a game-changing Marvel super-heroine movie, following, of course, on the heels of DC's smash "Wonder Woman", and Disney/Lucasfilm making the lead role in the latest "Star Wars" trilogy female, and isn't it about damn time?  I expect "Captain Marvel" to do for women heroes what "Black Panther" did for African-American ones.  And if you want to be ready for "Avengers: Endgame" then you simply MUST see this movie if you want to start to get an idea about how the Marvel heroes are going to ultimately manage to defeat Thanos.

I'm not sure exactly why Bill found the movie so boring - maybe because most of it took place back in the 1990's, and there were no Avengers or other super-villains yet, and in fact there was no internet or smart-phones or Sony Playstations, so maybe the world was a little more boring back then.  Nick Fury wasn't a cynical renegade agent who breaks the rules, he was just a regular old government guy who followed orders.  If anything, he and Phil Coulson reminded me of the leads from "Men in Black", especially since they were suddenly forced to deal with not one but TWO races of aliens invading the Earth.

And when "Veers" (the Kree soldier with the mysterious past) finds herself on Earth, and starts finding evidence that she might in fact BE an earthling named Carol Danvers, she's got to piece together what happened in her past to figure out what's so important on Earth that both the Kree and their enemy, the Skrulls, both want it.  Usually I hate films that are this flash-backy, but here it sort of works, because the audience learns Captain Marvel's origin at the same time she does.  Perhaps everything that she's been told about herself, the Skrulls and the whole Kree Empire is a mountain of lies.

And that's where "Captain Marvel" becomes relevant for today's audience, even though it's set in the 1990's, and also was clearly developed before the 2016 election, which I think somebody assumed would go the other way. (Why else would the Supreme Intelligence appear to Carol Danvers as an older woman with blond hair, wearing a pants-suit?  JK...)  And it turns out that her Kree handler has been training her NOT to use her powers, just to keep her in check - plus they've been torturing her with memories of every time that she's failed or fell short at something during her entire life.  (Bill, this is why she didn't always use her powers, the Kree Patriarchy was keeping her down...)

So, really, what we've got here isn't just the first Marvel solo superheroine, she's the first #metoo superheroine.  Both the Earth society AND the Kree society have been telling her all her life that she shouldn't play sports, shouldn't become a pilot, shouldn't use her powers.  She's been lied to, marginalized and manipulated for years, and finally she determines, rightfully so, that she's had just about enough of that, the gloves are coming off and the power she has is there to be used.  So if I were you, I'd get out of her way.

While this isn't a perfect film - I'd rate it a "7" where I gave "Black Panther" an "8" - if it connects with an audience, male or female or both, I predict it will be a similar success.   --John H.


Well, there you go.  Now here's a new gag cartoon for you - see you next time!

--Bill P.