Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Hateful Eight

As most of you know, I've been a fan and friend of Mr. Quentin Tarantino for a long time - since he screened "Reservoir Dogs" at Sundance.  I got a special invitation to see "The Hateful Eight" in 70mm at the huge Ziegfeld Theatre in NYC. 

As you would expect, it was a packed house and an excited crowd, there to see Quentin introduce the cast (all except Samuel L. Jackson), and Quentin's one of the best introducers in the business.

The film opened with a still piece of art of a stagecoach, set against the Rocky Mountains, as 10 minutes of Ennio Morricone music played.  Then the film began - it starts off pretty slow, with lots of dialogue as the various characters are introduced to the story.

I could have done without a lot of the extra exposition - let's get to the anticipated conflict!

Finally, all of the Hateful Eight were assembled in the haberdashery and the bloody standoff was put into motion.  And what a bloody standoff is was - heads exploded, hands were blown off, testicles were eviscerated and bodies were hung.  And it's all done with a dose of Tarantino black humor, it's wonderful -

My only suggestion would be to cut a lot of the early redundant dialogue and bring it down from a three-hour epic to a more manageable two hours.

Somehow, I didn't mind a film like "The Revenant" being three hours long, I wasn't bored for the entire length of that film. 

I'm happy, though, to give "The Hateful Eight" an "A-" - it's vintage Tarantino.

--Bill P.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Santa Fe de la Antioquia, Colombia

Alexy Budovsky is a great Russian animator and a good friend, and he stopped by my studio a few months ago to give me an update on his life and travels. It seems he's now married to a Colombian woman and living in Bogota.

I asked him how life was there, and he said it's fantastic!  The weather's perfect and they have all different types of landscape - desert, rainforest, beautiful plains, snow-peaked mountains, and beaches that are to die for - well, that sold me.

So when I recently got invited to a festival in Santa Fe de la Antioquia, Colombia, I said, "Sign me up!"  The festival is small but it's been around for 15 years, and Santa Fe is also small, but very quaint.  It's an old, colonial city with charming cobblestones and horses and weird scooter-taxis in the streets. 

The Festicine Antioquia opened with a screening of "Cheatin'" in the town center.  Apparently they neglected to check the film for adult material first, so all the kids in the audience got a great education on human anatomy. 

But the screening started late, because a few of the dignitaries were still preparing for the event.  So instead of waiting for them to show up, I introduced the film one hour before the delayed screening started.  (I'd been up since 4 am and I was dead tired.)

It seems that in Colombia, people don't put much meaning to what the clock says - and that was a theme throughout my stay.  My master class the next day was well-attended, but again, it started late.

They put me up in a fabulous colonial hotel with a beautiful tropical pool, where I swam to the sounds of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas".  Weird.

Unfortunately for me, it's a big party town, and every night is like Mardi Gras - so I had a big problem catching up on my sleep. 

On my trip back to the airport, I had time to stop off in Medellin, to visit the Museum de Antioquia.  Since the great painter Fernando Botero grew up there, they are the repository of a large collection of his work - pencil art, sketches, sculptures, and of course his fantastic paintings. 

I've been a big fan of Botero's work since college, and I was surprised to learn that he's still alive, and painting in Italy.  I think he fled Colombia when Pablo Escobar sort of took over the country.  In fact, there's a wonderful painting of the death of the infamous drug lord included in the show.

Medellin once had a reputation for being a lawless city of 3 million, but since the death of Escobar, it's become much safer - though still a little rough around the edges.  They said I shouldn't walk around alone because I looked like such a "gringo".

Anyway, I give the festival an "A" because I had such a great time, despite the late starting times.

--Bill P. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Holiday offer from the Plymptoons store

Things don't always go as planned. We released my latest animated feature, "CHEATIN'"  on Blu-Ray, and we made an initial run of discs to sell at San Diego Comic-Con.  Then I had plane troubles and I missed the first day of the convention, so we didn't sell as many as we could have.  Then New York Comic-Con came around, and I accidentally scheduled myself to be in Argentina at the same time - so we didn't sell very many of them there, either.

Bottom line - I've got a stack of boxes full of Blu-Rays here in the studio, and my office manager says I'll have a "Blu" Christmas if I don't start selling some of them.  So I lowered the price for the holidays to try to increase sales.  From now until the end of the year, you can get the Blu-Ray from my web-site for $20 instead of $25 - that's 20% off!

As an incentive, I'll include with every Blu-Ray a signed copy of my annual Christmas card, featuring a very irreverent holiday tale about some very unlucky carolers.  This is the card I send out to all my friends and family - I've done this for many years, and this is the first time I've made this offer to customers, too. 

Some people may remember that I did a Christmas special for Cartoon Network some years ago, it was called "12 Tiny Christmas Tales".  Those little animated stories started out as my Christmas cards, I adapted them into that TV special, and Maureen McElheron composed some great music for the show, like the rockabilly "Plucky Present", "Cecil the Snowman", and the beautiful "Remember Christmas". 

So if you want some extra Christmas fun, please consider my DVD called "Bill Plympton's Dog Days", because we included the "12 Tiny Christmas Tales" show as a special bonus on that DVD.  It's not listed on the box, you have to play the DVD and look for it in the "extras" section.  But it's there, and I hope you enjoy finding it.  My short film "Santa, the Fascist Years" is also on that DVD, so you get two films about Christmas!

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


In case you hadn't noticed, I've been running a lot of movie reviews, because it's getting close to the end of the year and every studio is in a rush to get their films out on the screen to be eligible for the upcoming awards season.  As a member of the Academy, I've been invited to so many screenings, luncheons, dinners, and tea parties it's starting to seem excessive. 

Jay Roach's new film "Trumbo", starring Bryan Cranston, is a well-made, well-acted historical retelling of Dalton Trumbo's survival of the infamous Hollywood blacklist from the 1940's and 50's.  However, it's pure propaganda.  Even though Mr. Trumbo was a great writer ("Spartacus", "Roman Holiday"), he was a member of the Communist Party, and in the film we never see any Communist meetings or rallies, or Russian agents, and very little mention of Stalin.

The film bases its philosophy on freedom of speech issues, not Communism itself.  However, if Mr. Trumbo had lived in Russia, a country he loved and aspired to and had mentioned freedom of speech, he would have had a bullet in his brain within weeks.

It's my feeling that there were only two reasons that Americans at the time became Communist Party members.  The first was that they were uninformed and naive (which is ironic because they labelled themselves as intellectuals), or the other was that they wholeheartedly supported Josef Stalin and his mass murders.

Someone told me that during Stalin's regime, there was no press about his mass murders, or about the true situation in the Soviet Union.  However, many U.S. papers covered the terrible Stalin-enforced famine in Ukraine (in the early 1930's) that killed a large percentage of the farmers there through starvation.  In fact, when the Nazis invaded Eastern Europe, the Germans were treated as liberators by the Russians and Ukrainians.

And then there were the infamous Purge trials of 1936-38, which were widely reported on in the NY Times and other international papers.  Check out Robert Conquest's informative book "The Great Terror" for more details. 

Another good example is the great 1939 Hollywood film "Ninotchka", directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Greta Garbo, where they bring up the terrible political situation in the Soviet Union many times - the purges, the assassinations and the Siberian gulags.

Another issue with "Trumbo" is that they talk about the tragedy of people being out of work, families falling apart, and even suicides because of the blacklist.  Why didn't these talented writers move to New York, where there was plenty of work for them in TV, magazines, books and theater, and no one really cared about the blacklist?  A lot of writers and directors did move to Europe during this time, where Communism was much more popular and accepted. 

I would have loved to see an explanation for why Mr. Trumbo became a Communist, what he thought of the German-Russian Pact, and why he never renounced Communism, once it began to enslave Eastern Europeans after the war. 

Because of the recent fall of Communism, a lot of the correspondence and writings of Stalin have come to light, and it's been revealed that the courageous Americans who joined the famous Lincoln Brigade to fight fascism in Spain would have all been liquidated after the Communists had won the Spanish Civil War.  Fortunately for the Lincoln Brigade, Franco was victorious there.

The film "Trumbo" makes its issues about artistic freedom and the First Amendment - when it should really be about the evils of Stalin and Communism.  I wonder what all the Communist sympathizers would feel about the blacklist if, instead of Trumbo being labelled a Commie, he was, say, revealed to be a member of the Nazi Party. 

Please let me know what you think of my scandalous comments.  I give "Trumbo" a "C-".

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Beasts of No Nation"

As I was attending the Telluride Festival in September, one of the hot tickets there was "Beasts of No Nation", directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.  It's a film about young boys in central African countries being recruited to fight in their rampant civil wars.

Now, this is not the kind of film I'm usually going to rush out and watch.  I prefer wacky comedies, so this subject matter was at the opposite end of my usual entertainment spectrum.

However, I'm glad I saw it - first of all, it is very well made, almost like a documentary.  All the acting, by a mostly amateur cast, is superb.  What realistic performances!

But, similar to the story from "Room", it focuses on a young boy forced into a very dangerous situation by events that are beyond his control.  So you empathize with his terrible situation, as this young black boy is recruited by a rebel colonel and forced to take drugs and murder people. 

Even though it does have a relatively happy ending, the experiences of this young, 11-year old kid create a total horror show.  I hope it gets recognition as the Oscars.  I give it an "A".

--Bill Plympton

Monday, November 23, 2015


One of the most talked-about films from the Telluride Festival is a kidnapping film called "Room".  But please, don't confuse it with the "so bad, it's camp" film called "The Room" by Tommy Wiseau.  The two films are at opposite ends of the scale.

"Room" is directed by Lenny Abrahamson and stars the great Brie Larson as a girl kidnapped at the age of 16 and used as a sex slave.  Her son, played by Jacob Tremblay, is fathered by the kidnapper - it's one of the most powerful and haunting films of the year.

The mother and son are isolated in the kidnapper's shed, where they set up a home in a 10 ft. by 10 ft. room, with only a small skylight for any connection to the outside world.  They also have an old TV set and the young boy assumes that everything he sees on the TV is not real. It's all make-believe to him, since he was born in the shelter and knows nothing about real life.

The film does not deal with graphic sex or violence - the horror is more of a psychological nature.  How cruel it is that this mother and son are forced to live in captivity and have such a minimal life experience.

The film begins when the young boy turns five, and it is at this stage that the mother tells him exactly what happened six years ago.  They then plan an escape, so about halfway through the film, the boy is able to get free and get help. 

The second half of the film deals with them confronting the real world and handling the media.  Just because they've escaped the horror chamber, that doesn't mean that their pain is over.  There are a lot of terrible after-effects from their terrible ordeal.  And the small boy even misses his time in slavery.

The screenplay by Emma Donoghue is so well written and wrenching, it deserves an Oscar.  And the acting by everyone, especially the young boy, is amazing. 

If you get a chance, please go out and see "Room".  I give it an "A". 

--Bill Plympton

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Revengeance" update

Dear readers,

Even though I've been swamped with commercial work lately, I still have to find time to continue production of my next feature film, "Revengeance". 

As most of you know already, it's a fabulous dark story, written by the great Jim Lujan, he's also doing the character design and a lot of the voices.  I'm producing the animation for the film, and I'm having a ball.

Jim's characters are so compelling and fascinating that it's a shame some of them are on-screen for short periods and then gone so quickly.  Jim has a real talent for observation and design.

In any case, I wanted to show you some of the recent work that's been done for the film.  I'm about 2/3 of the way through the script, and barring any major interruption, I'm hoping to finish the animation in the late winter or early spring of 2016.  I'll be posting occasional updates here in the blog, showing off new designs and animation.

I hope you like the new stuff -

Bill Plympton

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Last Days of Coney Island"

As most of you may know, Ralph Bakshi is one of my heroes.  He really pioneered the whole adult animation genre - I wouldn't be making the films that I make without the influence of Mr. Bakshi.

I'm a big fan of his work, especially his music-based films like "American Pop". 

Well, now he has a new short online, called "Last Days of Coney Island" and I know he's been working on this film for a long time.

I just saw it this morning, and was totally seduced by his great artwork.  The drawing is very loose and stylized, and the backgrounds are powerful collages of Coney Island imagery. 

He could have done without the multiple views of Kennedy's death, and the story could be a bit more coherent.

But his style of filmmaking is unique and so personal that I totally got sucked into this visuals.  I think you will, too.  Check it out at:

--Bill Plympton

Friday, November 13, 2015

Virginia Film Festival

About three months ago, I got an e-mail from one of my heroes, Leonard Maltin - he was invited to the Virginia Film Festival and they gave him the chance to invite some filmmakers to participate in some screenings and workshops, so he asked me to come along.  How could I say no to Mr. Maltin?

So, last week I flew to Charlottesville, Virginia - in a tiny plane with Oliver Stone just a few seats in front of me.

After checking in, I was joined by my producer, James Hancock (a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, one of the festival's sponsors) to take a guided tour of Monticello, the fable home built by Thomas Jefferson.  My old friend Mary Burress was our guide, so we got a private tour of the dome room (I hope that doesn't get Mary in trouble).

We then took a tour of the Monticello Museum, where we got to see a lot of Jefferson's genius - his writings, his collections and his inventions.

But back to the festival - my screening of "Cheatin'" was a big success, and I was totally excited about being interviewed on stage by Leonard.  After all, he's interviewed everyone who's anyone in show biz!

That night, I went to see some films.  I had some free time, so I randomly stopped in to a Norwegian film called "The Wave" by Roar Uthaug.  This is a fictional story about a common danger in Norway, where there are a lot of sheer rock cliffs overlooking the fjords, and these cliffs often break off, causing massive landslides that then cause tsunamis that race the entire length of the fjords, causing massive death and destruction.

"The Wave" has no big stars and the budget seemed relatively low by U.S. standards - yet I've never seen a film so powerful and terrifying.  After a 20-minute set-up, waiting for the inevitable avalanche, I was gripping the armrest so tight, I thought my fingernails might tear off.

The terror was relentless.  This is how a disaster film should be made.  The small crowd in the theater gave it a huge ovation.  "The Wave" is eligible for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, and I pray it gets nominated, because it should be seen by everybody.

As for the Virginia Film Festival, it's Southern hospitality at its finest.  I was never taken care of or fed so well before.  And Charlottesville is a beautiful historic college town - Mr. Jefferson even designed the original campus.   I give the festival an "A".

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Academy Awards anniversary

It's been just over 10 years since I was nominated for an Oscar for my 2004 short film "Guard Dog".

Biljana Labovic, my producer at the time, recently found a clip of the ceremonies on the web, and for those of you who have never seen it - perhaps you were taking a bathroom break during the show - I present the short clip of the animated shorts nominees, by Laura Linney. 

Spoiler alert - the award was won by Chris Landreth for his fantastic and very deserving film, "Ryan".

I was just happy to be there since my film had about 1/100th of the budget of the other films.

By the way, if you're wondering what all that sign language I did with my hands was, I was saying "I love you" to my mother.  What a good son I am!

--Bill Plympton

(Skip ahead to 2:39 on the video below if you want to go straight to the animation nominees)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Oscar Animated Shorts Screening 2015

It's Oscar time again - not the award ceremony, but the pre-nomination screenings.  Once again, I have a short film to toss into the competition, it's called "The Loneliest Stoplight", voiced by the great Patton Oswalt, and I think it's one of my best.  We screened it at the NuArt Theater in Los Angeles for a week in August, in front of the documentary "Station to Station", in order to qualify it.

Around the end of October each year, the Academy screens all of the eligible short animated films at branch screenings in New York, L.A. and San Francisco.  It's a wonderful occasion for all of the Academy members (myself included) to gather and see every film that qualified.  This year, the rules were stiffened to make the standards more demanding - but instead of cutting down on the number of submissions, the number increased to 60 short films.  So it took two long days to judge them all.

But, I must say that I really enjoy the experience, because whether the films are great or terrible, I always learn something from each film.  The judges do have the option of collectively deciding to turn off a film that's too long and boring (which we only did once).

All in all, the quality was really good this time, there were a lot of famous animators with qualified films.  PES had "Submarine Sandwich", Cordell Barker had "If I Were God", Pixar had "Sanjay's Super Team", Don Hertzfeldt had "World of Tomorrow", Moonbot Studio's Brandon Oldenburg had "Taking Flight" and Konstantin Bronzit had "We Can't Live Without Cosmos". 

So, it's very hard to predict which films will make it to the short list - these are the 10 films from which the Academy will pick the five nominated ones.  I ask everyone to please cross your fingers for "The Loneliest Stoplight" - he needs some love and attention.

--Bill Plympton

Friday, October 23, 2015

Beirut Animated, Lebanon

I've been attracted to Beirut for a long time.  In the 1970's, the city was referred to as "the Paris of the Middle East" - it seemed like an oasis, basking in the sunny Mediterranean.  So I had these fantasies of this tropical paradise, a French city right next to white sandy beaches, with scantily-clad babes drinking cocktails.

So when I met a group of students from Alba, the animation school based in Beirut, they were big fans and they invited me to come visit their school, I jumped at the opportunity to realize my "oasis" fantasy.  After three years of delays due to scheduling conflicts, my visit to Lebanon became a reality.

Upon arrival in Beirut, I noticed a lot of soldiers guarding the airport.  The civil war that took place during the 80's and 90's really changed the place.  The power was intermittent, traffic was clogged, the water supply was limited (I was forced to put used toilet paper in cans beside the toilet) and there were mountains of garbage all over the city.  And I never did find that perfect beach beside the city.

YET, I was totally charmed by the kindness and positive attitude of the people.  Even though the government is powerless and corrupt (so they say), the city survives, with a wonderful democratic belief that the future will be better.

I did two screenings at the wonderful Metropolis Cinema, where I greeted a packed house of enthusiastic animators and fans.  Then I also did a class at the wonderful school, ALBA, which is the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts.  The students were magnificent, so eager and talented - their work was equal to that of any art school students in NYC.

We did a delightful excursion to an ancient coastal town called Byblos, where we watched boats go in and out of the harbor while we had a delightful 3-hour lunch of fantastic Lebanese food.  To top it all off, I got to go swimming in the crystal clear Mediterranean.  But alas, no cocktail-sipping bikini girls. 

I want to thank Neyla and all of the wonderful people at ALBA and Metropolis Cinema, who showed me such a great time in Beirut.  I hope to return to Beirut when it's reverted to its normal state.

--Bill P.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New York Comic Con 2015

Due to my trip to Argentina, I was only able to get to the New York Comic Con on the last day, which is too bad, because I love the convention.  But I'd already scheduled my trip to South America, and it was too late to cancel. 

This also meant I was unable to do a panel, which is the sure way to scare up publicity and audience attention - but we still had a decent crowd on the last day.  James Hancock and John Holderried kept my booth going until I got there, and I had autographed some Blu-Rays of CHEATIN' in advance so that fans who were only able to attend on one day could still buy one.  The Blu-Ray edition contains my new short film "The Gastronomic Shark", which is not available anywhere else.

This year, as an added attraction, we had Adam Rackoff with us, selling some very cool DVD's from his business partner Matthew Modine's experiences working with Stanley Kubrick on the film "Full Metal Jacket".

I also got to meet Jared Gilman, who starred in Wes Anderson's film "Moonrise Kingdom".  He bought a copy of my book "Independently Animated" so I drew a caricature of him inside the book.

Here are a bunch of photos from the Comic-Con, most of them taken by John H. - you can check out his full album of pictures at:

Those last three photos are of the same woman, she's a model named Vera Baby.  She had a booth a few rows away from mine, and she wore a different sexy outfit every day, which kept my staff entertained, especially James.

--Bill P.