Friday, January 23, 2015

Los Angeles appearance, January 30

Hey, Plympton fans, guess what?  I'll be making a rare appearance in L.A. next week, on Friday, January 30 at 8 pm, making a presentation of all of my new projects, sponsored by Trepany House at the Steve Allen Theater, located at 4773 Hollywood Blvd.

I'm going to show brand-new clips from my upcoming animated feature with Jim Lujan, called "Revengeance" - it looks very cool.  Then I'll show some of my newest shorts - like "Footprints" and my piece for "ABC's of Death" called "Head Games".

I'll also be showing excerpts from my other work-in-progress feature, "Hitler's Folly".  These clips will blow your mind.

And if that's not enough, I'll present the world premiere of my new short, "The Gastronomic Shark".

There will also be other cool surprises.  So, if you live in the L.A. area or know someone who does, get on down to the Steve Allen Theater and come say hello.  Hope to see you there.

For tickets and info, please visit:

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Bill P.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Homer Groening event

Back when I was at Portland State College and had dreams of making films, I attended the nascent Portland Film Festival, and one of the films in the festival was called "Study in Wet" my Homer Groening.  He happened to be there and was very friendly.  I told him I loved his film and especially his dry, ironic sense of humor.

He invited me up to his house to see some of his other work, and I took him up on his offer.  He and his wife, Margaret, were perfect hosts, feeding me while I watched some of his other "industrials" on his 16mm projector.

Well, that was back in 1967.  And now that his son, Matt Groening, is a big superstar, Anne Richardson and Lisa Groening decided to put together a long-needed retrospective of the forgotten genius (and inspiration for namesake Homer Simpson) at the famed Hollywood Theater, as part of their "Mid-Century Oregon Genius Program".  It was a packed house, full of Portland's animation celebrities: Joanna Priestley, Paul Harrod, Joan Gratz, Will Vinton, Marilyn Zornado and Craig Bartlett. 

I was honored to be asked to do the opening introduction, then the panel, consisting of film critic Tom Shrader, Ted Mahar, Lisa Bartlett (née Groening) and Matt himself, took over and talked about the life and art of Homer. 

The films they showed were made for big Oregon clients like Jantzen, White Stag and Pendleton, so they never really made it to cinemas or TV.  But they're so funny and entertaining, they should have been.  Matt noted that Homer told him that a film has to be either short or funny to be a success, and that demonstrates shades of my own Plympton dogma: short, cheap + funny.

I loved his sense of humor, very deadpan, which is also the kind of humor I try to emulate.  There's an ad agency in Portland called Wieden & Kennedy, and they've done ads for Nike and ESPN that are also very dry and ironic.  Hmm!  I wonder if they were also influenced by Mr. Groening.

I hope Lisa and Matt can put these gems on DVD.  Some are a bit dated, evoking the "Mad Men" era, with sexy bathing beauties everywhere, but they're so clever and witty, his work deserves to be discovered by more people. 

I believe you can find a few of them on YouTube, I'm enclosing a scan of the program so you'll know what to look for.  So check him out, Homer Groening.


Bill P.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Oscar Nominations, Part 3

Damn! It happened again!  I had a great short film on the Oscars short-list, and it wasn't nominated!  What's my problem?  I feel like the Susan Lucci of animation!

A lot of people told me I had a great shot at a nomination this year, and of course, I never took their predictions seriously - people always want to make you feel good.  But a number of Academy members told me that "Footprints" got the biggest laughs at the L.A. screening, so I thought that should count for something. 

Of course, the Academy rarely nominates funny films.  They tend to want to reward the films that are the most creative, emotional and pithy.  So "gag" films don't usually make it.  But I felt that "Footprints" was one of my most meaningful films - besides being funny, it has a message, albeit an elusive one. 

 In the past, I've had other shortlisted films that I believed deserved to be nominated.  "The Fan and the Flower", written by Dan O'Shannon, was a gorgeous film that came close to a nom but didn't get one.  Also, I think "The Cow That Wanted To Be a Hamburger" should have gotten a nod, but it also failed to get one.

And my short called "Santa, the Fascist Years" was labeled by many people as a surefire Oscar winner.  But because I failed to see the potential in the film, I released it online first, and that is a no-no for the Academy. 

So, after all this, why don't I just give up and stop worrying about the famed golden statuette?  Because it's a life-changing event.  Another nomination would add tremendous value to my work, whether I win or not.  Besides, the Oscars are the best damn party in the world. 

So, how do I deal with this massive rejection?  Do I go to bed and hide for weeks?  No!

Do I give up animation all together?  Hell, no!

Right now I'm putting all of my energy and creativity into my new animated short, "The Loneliest Stoplight", and it's going to be the one to win the coveted Oscar statue.  Even if it doesn't, I still have to believe it will!

--Bill Plympton

Monday, January 12, 2015


Another interesting film I saw, which was not an animated film, was "Nightcrawler", starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, written and directed by Dan Gilroy.

A searing indictment of freelance news reporters, this is Jake Gyllenhaal at his best.  I love these cynical "film noir" movies where everyone is evil.  Plus, this film has a much deeper meaning, saying that our whole society loves violence - "if it bleeds, it leads", and local news often plays on that love of gore and suffering. 

I give the film, and Jake Gyllenhaal, an "A".

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Roger Ebert - "Life Itself"

Since I'm an Academy member, I get sent a lot of documentary films that are in competition for the Oscar.  I just received the wonderful documentary "Life Itself", a chronicle of the life and tragic death of Roger Ebert, directed by the famed Steve James.

The first time I met Roger was in 1989, I believe, when I was at the Telluride Film Festival with my film "How to Kiss".  A few friends and I were chatting with him on Main St. (I was listening, mostly).  I was very nervous, naturally, because a good word from him could have ignited my career.  So,  I encouraged him to see my new short.  He then realized he was late for a screening and asked what time it was.  Forgetting I had a drink in my hand, I raised my hand and rotated it to read my watch, naturally unloading my full drink all over my clothes.  After having a good laugh at my expense, everyone soon scattered to their screenings.

The next time I met up with him was at the Salt Lake City airport, at the end of the Sundance Film Festival.  I had screened "Mutant Aliens" there, and of course since it was an adult animated feature, it got no coverage and no buys.  I saw Roger sitting alone, reading in the gate area.  Gathering all my courage (and hoping he'd forgotten the spilled drink episode) I walked over to him and asked him if he could look at my new animated feature film, and I handed him the DVD.  You would have thought the film had Ebola all over it, because he refused to touch it, saying he had too many films to watch.

Later, this refusal really pissed me off - here was a guy who supposedly championed the independent filmmaker and also supported animation.  He was a huge supporter of Richard Linklater's animated film "Waking Life", which I thought, apart from the breakthrough computer techniques, really sucked.  And again, when my friend Nina Paley created "Sita Sings the Blues", he became best friends with her, promising to do all he could to get the film distributed - which was practically impossible since Nina failed to get the rights to some of the wonderful music she used.

So, maybe you can see why I have some bitter feelings about Mr. Ebert.  At the time I was the only truly independent animator making a career out of my feature films, and he couldn't at least acknowledge my work.  It's very frustrating.  And now, he's gone and it's too late.

Perhaps eventually I'll find a critic who can champion my career.  By the way, I give the documentary "Life Itself" a B+.  

--Bill Plympton

Friday, January 2, 2015

"Footprints" at Slamdance

Just a heads-up for everyone, my new animated short, "Footprints" (currently short-listed for the Oscars) has been selected to be shown in the great Slamdance Film Festival in Park City this January.

That's very exciting, because for two weeks every year, Slamdance and Sundance are the center of the indie film scene - all the press, distributors, buyers, agents, and theater owners go there, looking for interesting films.

It's my humble opinion that I may have had more films shown in Slamdance/Sundance than any other filmmaker.  (Though I haven't done the research to prove it...)  The reason is, I make at least one short film every year, and a new feature about every 3 years.  So chances are they'll get into one of the festivals or the other.

I'm guessing now, but I think I've had about 7 or 8 films that screened at Sundance, and maybe about the same number in Slamdance.  The funny thing is, I keep making these indie films while other filmmakers seem to either graduate to Hollywood to make big-budget films, or they go into real estate.   But me, I keep plugging away at my animation. 

So, if you're in the area, definitely check out "Footprints" at Slamdance, which will be screening in front of the feature "Bloodsucking Bastards" on Friday, January 23 at 8 pm in the Ballroom, and on Monday, January 26 at 1:40 pm in the Ballroom.

For more information, please go to: