Friday, April 29, 2011

Rio.. Bill's review..

My Junkie buddy Pat Smith asked me to review “RIO”, the new Blue Sky animated feature as a companion piece to his review, which you can read here.
Like Pat, I've got a lot of friends up at Blue Sky. Carlos Saldanak and Chris Wedge have been buddies of mine for a long time, and I've always been fans of their work. One of my favorites was “Horton Hears a Who”, which I believe was one of the best films of the year, if not the decade. And the “Ice Age” series is always one of my favorites.
But to me, “Rio” isn't up to the high standards, and I think the main problem is the story failings. So, I'm not really qualified to talk, but in my opinion, I never really connected with the two romantic relationships. The Moose Falls shop girl and the Brazilian Bird lover, and also the two blue parrots. In Pixar films, the relationships are so interesting and powerful. I believe that Carlos and his writers could have sacrificed a lot of the chasing and delved more into the relationships and character development, and the film would have benefitted mightily. Also, the colors, to me, were too haphazard. In “How to Train Your Dragon”, each emotion and setting had a separate color scheme to match the mood. Here, the colors were all over the place. Just because it's in Brazil doesn't mean that every shot has to include every color of the rainbow.

On the positive side, the movement and animation was excellent. The music was great (although I would have loved to hear the song “Brazil”, as clichéd as it is.)
The dancing birds were terrific and funny, and I did love the action and chase sequences. The film had a great sense of the vibrance and the flavor of Rio de Janeiro during Carnival.
But what do my thoughts count – the film is breaking box office records and will make a pile of money for Blue Sky and Fox. I just wish the suits would keep their meddling little hands out of the creative side. I give Rio a 'B' for its lively charm and humor.


I started out being involved in MoCCA at a very early stage. The founder, Laurence Klien, brought me in to help promote and spread the gospel of MoCCA before there was such an organization.
Then, around 1998, he started the MoCCA Arts Festival – very modest of course – but very quickly it caught on as one of the coolest comic events of the year. And what made it so cool was the fact that was only for independent cartoonists and small press. So, you won't see DC or Marvel or any of the large Hollywood studios there.
I was in attendance when it began in the Puck building. It was a wonderful, fancy space, but had no air conditioning. I was in line to enter about five years ago when one of the cartoonists had heat stroke and had to be hurried to the hospital. I believe it was then that they moved to the 25th and Lexington Armory – a much funkier and cheaper area, but I believe much more appropriate for the small press and flavor of the event.
This year, I shared a booth with my Rizzoli Book, “Independently Animated: Bill Plympton” co-author David Levy. I brought two cases of books to put on my table to see how they'd sell. Well, much to my surprise, we almost sold out! It was the biggest seller of my table – and at $40 a pop!
We had a lot of cool visitors to the table, Charles Burns, New Yorker cartoonists, Sam Grass, Rob Mankoff, Sydney Harris, Felipe Galinda, also noted children's book author and animator Mo Willems. The event was capped off by a special animation screening. I showed “Guard Dog Global Jam”, and an excerpt from my new feature, “Cheatin'”. Signe Baumane also showed some of her new animation, “Rocks in my Pockets”.
I want to thank everyone at MoCCA, especially Ellen Abramowitz.
If I were you, I'd make reservations now for next year's event. It's where you seen the coolest and most cutting edge of comics and cartoons.

Mike Smith, Natural Born Killers...

"We ain't gonna murder anybody on our wedding day"

One of my earliest exposures to cool, more independently styled animation was seeing this and other lightning fast clips used in "Natural Born Killers", by Mike Smith. Mike knows a heck of a lot about how to light and color drawn animation, which comes off really well with this twisty "the wall" style clip. But don't blink! it's over really quick.

I was obsessed with this comic oriented sequence for "Tank Girl", but now when I look at it, it doesn't quite hold up, especially if you compare it with the more recent Hewlett designed animation like the Gorillaz. although, i still love the outrageous MTV look to it, and again, the color is fantastic. It's a really solid nice piece of work by Mike Smith.

40's Car Grill

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Masks" Preview Trailer on Vimeo..

With a full slate of festival screenings this summer, my latest film "Masks" is now in full release. This Sunday, it's taking home an award at the ASIFA-East awards show in New York City, then it'll be heading down to the epic Charleston International film festival, then back up to NYC for the Befilm Film Festival. It'll also be on the west coast May 5, at the Santa Cruz Film Festival, and will be overseas at the Tel Aviv Animation Festival, and so many other great festivals and screenings which I'll update as they approach. 

"Masks" Trailer/Teaser from Patrick Smith on Vimeo.

I def want you all to see my latest work in a proper theatrical setting, and not just on-line.  I hate that my main source of seeing shorts is on-line, and I try really hard to get out there and see them in a more suitable exhibition format!

Guard Dog Flip Book #2

Life at Tisch-Asia..

Three of my students made this little short to promote continuing education here at Tisch-asia, and they're going for a $1000 prize!  help out by watching their stop motion video! dig.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Second Thoughts on Films

I often like to watch films numerous times, to see if my initial perception of the films hold up or if I can find more information or qualities in the film that I missed the first time I saw it.

One of the films I re-watched was Disney's “The Sword in the Stone”, directed by Wolfgang Reitherman. I watched the film in Mexico, so I could not really understand the dialogue in Spanish. Consequently, I was not caught up in words, and was able to experience the film as purely visual storytelling. Able to gauge the film as a graphic story, I came to a new conclusion – first, the draftsmanship and design was not that good. Too simplistic and crude. And, the film is very episodic, which I didn't remember from the first time I saw it. Now, I get a lot of criticism for my features being episodic, but “The Sword in the Stone” is basically 8 different sequences that are not really that connected. In other words, there's no build-up of emotions or drama, which is okay in a comedy, but for a drama like this – it's death. So, on a second viewing, I give “The Sword in the Stone” a C-.

The other film I've recently revisited was “Sinbad”, the Brad Pitt adventure film that supposedly almost brought down Dreamworks. As I recall, my first appraisal of the film was somewhat mediocre – I didn't hate it as much as the critics, and I did like the action sequence where the Eagle chases Sinbad and his female partner down the giant glacier.

Well, after seeing it again, I have a much different opinion – the film really stinks! How could Jeffery Katzenberg sink over 100 million dollars into a project that looks as bad as this?

The animation is atrocious – the evil goddess voiced by Michelle Pfeiffer is so badly drawn, she changes design from drawing to drawing. And the mix of CG in the boat, and the eagle, compared to the traditional animation for the humans is jarring to the eyes. Not to mention, the script is just plain flaky.

I think “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” ranks up there (or should stay down there) with “The Black Cauldron” and “Quest for Camelot” as some of the worst animated features ever.

Guard Dog Flip Book #1

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jack Elam & Friend

The worst Animation in the history of the world..

Have we arrived at a point where this is acceptable quality for Television animation? or anywhere for that matter? I feel bad promoting it by blogging about it, but I couldn't resist. This is so far from the art form I love. The colors alone are grounds for vomiting. By the way.. crap isn't a style, it's just crap. "The Problem Solvers" on Cartoon Network. Be proud.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chief Dan George

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Perspective and Motion control to create the illusion of scale differences...

I have a love hate thing going on with digital. I know I need it it my life, but I also hate the dependency it creates. I have this romantic notion of an animator just drawing.. needing the minimal equipment necessary to put exhibit the final film.  I came across this excellent technique the other day in a link a friend sent me (watch the video below!), no digital used!  Good stuff on how they did the scale difference with the Hobbits.

The idea is that you put one actor really far from the camera and the other one really close to the camera, then shoot at such an angle that it appears they are next to each other and that one of them is really big and the other really small. Which sounds simple, until you realize that you need to build everything on the set so that the actors can interact with it at the same time while hiding the fact that they're far away from each other. The simplest example is with Gandalf's cart. In the movie, you see them sitting side by side ...
but the real cart is built so that if the camera is stuck in that spot, it hides the fact that Frodo is actually sitting about four feet behind Gandalf, with Ian McKellen's body hiding where the bench is split:
But the complication comes when you realize that this works only if the camera remains perfectly still. So any shot where the camera moves around has to involve a computer, right? Nope. In scenes like this one, where they share a table ...
... they are actually sitting at two different tables, one human-sized and one hobbit-sized ...
that are made in such a way that each piece slowly turns with the camera, so that the whole time, they appear to be one simple table, shifting with the perspective of the viewer. This required that the camera be put on a motion-control rig and half of the set be put on another rig that counteracts the movement of the camera. So when the shot moved, the set, props and even the actors moved accordingly (yes, while McKellen was trying to stay in character as Gandalf, he was on a stool that was slowly scooting him around the room).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bald Guy

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Flower" from The Wall..

This sexually charged flower scene from the wall is one fine piece of animation. I really think that a good piece of animation has more to do with the overall IDEA than it does with STORY. Story is nice if you're telling a long tale to kids, but expressing an IDEA is acting more of a painter, and less of an entertainer. Leave character antics aside, leave jokes, gags, all that crap. it's the concept that has the punch. It's also the visual display that works here. People have asked me where I got the idea for "DRINK", and honestly, although this may be a let down, I simply wanted to draw something cool, something that would express a simple idea and would look rad. This piece from "The Wall" is interesting to me personally because i usually shy away from overtly sexual content, i think it's easy. But this goes beyond simple sex content, and really explores the STRUGGLE that is always inherently present during a sexual relationship.

Outlaw Josey Wales

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two Upcoming Events not to miss...

There are two big events coming up that I want to mention to all my fans.
1- My big book (Independently Animated: Bill Plympton – Rizzoli Books) Premiere screening and party. There will be food, drinks, music, and lots of film surprises. Plus, everyone gets a free Bill Plympton sketch! So please come and be part of the party of the year!
It's on April 27th at 6:30 at the fabulous Society of Illustrators.
128 East 63rd Street
(between Park and Lexington Avenues)
New York, NY 10065

They will have the R. Crumb show at the same time – pretty cool, huh?

The second event you shouldn't miss is our Open Studio Starving Animators Sale!

On Monday, May 2, 4-8 pm, the brilliant artists at Bill Plympton'
studio will be holding an art sale. Have you ever wanted to own a
piece of animation art from "Your Face" or "Idiots and Angels" or
"The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger"? Well, now's your chance!
The art will be priced to sell (How do we do it? Volume, volume, volume!)
so you can proudly display your original drawing from a masterpiece like
"How to Kiss", or give a drawing from "Guard Dog" as a gift to your favorite
pet lover. The sale will be held at 153 West 27th St., Suite 1005, NYC.
Sorry, no credit cards, but we will take PayPal! Also, every purchase of
art will get you a free sketch and an authentic animation collectible! Wow!
See you there, art lovers!

Boxer Nose

Name Dropper: Richard Williams..

It's not every day you get to have a drink with a legend. A while back, Me and Bill Plympton met up with Richard Williams and his wife Mo when he was in New York for his MOMA show. Bill happen to sit next to Mo, and the way the seats were configured, I had Richard all to myself (not that Mo isn't awesome).  Over the course of an hour, I was able to talk to him about everything from working under Art Babbit, Ken Anderson, and Milt Kahl, to their techniques, personalities, similarities and differences. (below, a really crappy iphone photo of me and Dick.. kind of looks like a security camera photo)I was hesitant to get the conversation away from regular stuff like what we're up to, and how the weather is in Bristol, (i'm always up for conversations about England).. but then i just finally said, "richard.. i'm sure tons of people ask you this.. but what was it like to work with Art Babbit?" i was happy to see his eyes light up.. and he just talked for 1/2 hour straight, his jet lag seemed to disappear. One of the things that stood out was that Art Babbit did a lot of "pick up and trace" animation... which is the process of picking up the top sheet of paper, pivoting it at the joint of the character, and tracing the new position. This is a technique that I do all the time and i've always thought it was a lame cheat. We also talked about the value of solid drawing, as well as a personal theory i have, that animators spend so much time finding the "easy" way to do things, that if they just did it the hard way, they would finish quicker! he slapped me on the knee and told me he couldn't have said it better himself. I also LOVED the stories of how Art and Ken were IMPROVING even into their 80's. Dick said he witnessed it personally. These guys were the real thing. Outside of that, we discussed self taught animators, something we have in common.

Name Dropper is going to be a new item on Scribble Junkies, especially since bill does it so often:)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sketch A Day

For about 10 years I've been receiving sketches from the great Oscar Grillo via the net. It always amazed me how he was able to do a wonderful drawing every day and send it out to his fans. In fact, they are so wonderful I've been collecting them over the years. Then I realized: I do tons of sketches every day. Some are very interesting. I could send them out on a daily basis.

So that's what I'm inaugurating as of today. Check out Scribble Junkies daily and you'll be able to see what I'm drawing that day. Sometimes it's a random sketch I did in front of the TV, a drawing from a life model in class, or a piece of art from a new film I'm working on. I can't guarantee it's going to be a masterpiece every day, but it will be an interesting look into my art routine.

Also, I'm interested in hearing comments on each drawing. In fact, most of the drawings will be offered for sale for any collectors out there – just e-mail the studio at

I hope you enjoy this experiment.

Epic Sketchbook: David Hale..

David Hale is an artist that currently lives in Athens, GA. He co-owns "Anchor Tattoo", and you can see the heavy tattoo influence in almost all of his work. Along with Tattoo and Painting, he also is an experienced Illustrator, Designer, and Muralist. Some cool stuff. Enjoy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Epic Sketchbook: Luis Ruiz...

Luis Ruiz is an artist from Málaga, Spain who draws wonderful location sketches, particularly of architectural subjects. He also has a “Meet the Correspondents” page on Urban Sketchers, which is awesome. You can view posts marked with his name on Urban Sketchers, or visit his extensive Flickr sets, which seem to be his only formal web presence. Ruiz has a light touch, sketching in pen and ink with touches of watercolor. He has a particular skill for suggesting enough of a structure to give it weight and solidity with just a few lines. Thanks Charlie Parker:)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Night Drawing at Tisch..

I've started a free Sunday evening drawing session in one of the massive shooting bays here at Tisch-Asia. If you happen to be in Singapore, they are every Sunday 6-9pm, through May. You can view the Facebook event page here.

We all work in a visual medium, whether you're animators or filmmakers, drawing is the language of that medium. To develop this language, drawing from life has been proven over the centuries to be effective.  Also, it's a great way to relax.. unplug your brain.. get away from your computer.. meet some cool people, and participate in a ritual that is just about as old as art itself. Last night was our second session!  After we break for the summer, we'll pick up again in September.

When I was living in New York City, I often attended sessions at Minerva Durhams Spring Studio in Soho, and I've modeled my sessions after hers... Back in the 90's we used to go over and draw with Minerva for an hour during lunch (we worked across the street at Jumbo Pictures, doing "Doug"), and they were very formative years for me. I want to try to create that atmosphere here. Hope to see you!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tiffany the Whale

This long, cold winter in NY has been a very productive one for me. Because of the inclimate weather, I've been able to stay in and get a lot of work done. Four short films!

      1. The bulk of “Flying House” is done, and we're close to completing this wonderful restoration of the Winsor McCay classic.

      2. “Guard Dog Global Jam” is finished and now making appearances in festivals around the world, starting with the opening night at SXSW.

      3. The as yet unnannounced new music video for Weird Al Yankovic. The film is done and it looks great, but we're waiting for Mr. Yankovic to finish the album before releasing the short.

      4. And finally, a pilot episode from “Tiffany, the Whale”. This is an excerpt from the planned 3-hour feature that may or may not be broadcast as a webisode series.

My hope is to entice some big TV channel to bankroll the series and then after a year or so of broadcasting all the episodes, I want to release “Tiffany the Whale” as an animated feature film.

Here are some samples of the art:



Friday, April 15, 2011

A rad art thing to brighten up your day...

This is pretty cool...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boston Battle of the Sexes

A few days ago, I had a successful appearance at Boston University where Signe Baumane and I did our big smash “Battle of the Sexes”.

Upon arrival at the luxurious Commonwealth Hotel. We walked through the rain and snow to Harvard to meet one of the animators in the Battle of the Sexes show, the great Ruth Lingford. We also did a visit to probably the shortest street in Boston – Plympton Street.

Then Signe and I, after dressing up in our formal attire, rushed to the auditorium to make our show, only to find out that it was booked. Then the whole entourage moved across the street to another venue where we displaced a religious meeting.

When our audience finally arrived, Gerald Perry, the organizer, was forced to warn everyone that the “Battle of the Sexes” show contains explicitly sexual material and told anyone with very sensitive tastes to leave the room, to protect against any kind of lawsuits from religious nuts.

Me, “Fifi L'Amour” played by Sandrine Flament, Gerald Perry, Signe

After that, the show proceeded swimmingly. The Boston legend David Kleiler was the “Mad Professor” while the beautiful Sandrine Flament played “Fifi L'Amour”, our hostess and Vanna White stand-in.

Naturally, the women won the battle (again!), but everyone loved the films and the spirited debate after each short.

Signe and Ruth Lingford, creator of the film “What She Wants”

With David Kleiler, the “Mad Professor”

Signe and I have done this show numerous times and out next appearance is in May at the Planet Doc fest in Poland.

If you're interested in bringing Signe and I and the “Battle of the Sexes” to your town, just send me an e-mail and we can talk. The show is a smash success wherever it plays.



Bill Pressings card decks...

When I worked with Bill's Pressing back in 1996, I realized that I was working with one of the best draftsmen in New York City. A lot has happened to him since then, and I stumbled upon these images the other day. It's great to see he's still pushing it, and his beautiful lines continued to get better and better. His girls are epic. Enjoy these great playing card designs.  Such sweet simplicity of shape, contour and form.
This one below is from Josh Cooley, who collaborated with Bill on the project.. I will post more of his work soon.
and back to Bill..

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rockwell's War News...

Most people that know me know that I'm a huge Rockwell fan, so this post is not a shocker.  I was reading the news the other day (something that I really don't enjoy, and often think it's a complete waste of time) and I thought of "War News".. always fitting in these times of seemingly endless conflict..This has got to be one of my favorite quotes:

“May God deliver us from the worst of all sins: Man's own religious hypocritical self-righteousness, evil knowledge, and greed for power through every form of cruelty, including war!”  -Norman Rockwell

Despite the hostel reception to my past praise of Norman Rockwell, I wanted to share with you a painting that exemplifies Rockwells skill and social insight.  "War News" was completed in 1945, but never published.  Critics often dismiss Rockwell paintings as "Simplified unmercifully and reassured inappropriately", but I see him as a master that captured a great era with great skill, perhaps idealistically, but I think that makes his work even more important in this age of cynisym and elitism (especially within the art world, excuse my generalization).

This piece is wonderfullly constructed and composed. Through expert characterization Rockwell captured an apprehension and severe concern in the figures. I appreciate this work even more so as an animator, i almost see them as actors within a story. As far as content ... it's dead on. we've all experienced that severe concern to war news. In this same year Rockwell painted other great pieces like "Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes" and "The Homecoming".  For the cynics, it's interesting to point out that Rockwells "Four Freedoms" was viewed by 1.2 million people, and raised over 135 million dollars in war bonds. If this isn't an example of how art is an integral part of the world, I don't know what is. It's great that the humble master felt he "held a low rung" on the ladder of fine art. He considered Pablo Picasso the greatest, going so far as to add a bit of cubism into several of his paintings. He also held Mondrian in the highest regard.