Wednesday, April 27, 2016


I've known Chris Prynoski for years, he used to work at MTV, then he started the animation production company Titmouse, where he achieved legendary status producing hit programs for the Adult Swim line-up on the Cartoon Network.

Finally, he decided to produce an animated feature film, "Nerdland", which I saw last week at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Also, Chris invited me to animate a section of the film - the only thing he said to me was to "create the most violent and grotesque scene of torture", and that it had to last less than 2 seconds.  So I dashed off a very short, violent comedic bit that appears quickly in the film.

I'm so glad that Chris is creating animated feature films, it seems to be a major trend now.  Aaron Augenblick is directing "The Adventures of Drunky", and the Seth Rogen / James Franco / Jonah Hill crowd all did voices for "Sausage Party", which is coming out later this year.  So maybe finally animated features for adults are starting to catch on. 

I really liked "Nerdland", and was excited to see that it covered a lot of the same territory as the film that Jim Lujan and I are making now, "Revengeance".  Both films are set in the sleazy underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles.  However, "Nerdland" was more about nerds and their search for fame, while "Revengeance" will be more about the desire for money and power. 

I loved the look and design of "Nerdland", but I had two complaints.  The story kept meandering - there were some very promising directions, like when they made fun of giant computer companies with a conglomerate called "Mega Soft".  I thought that direction would be fun, but after a few minutes, that plotline was dropped. The same thing happened when the two protagonists decided to become famous serial killers, but that was quickly dropped, too.  It's too bad, because I loved that idea.

My other problem with the film was that it wasn't that funny.  You'd think with the two great comedians Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt as stars, the jokes would be hilarious - I say, just turn on the mic and let Patton improvise, and you've got a film.  But unfortunately, I think they forced Patton to follow the script. 

I'm a great one to complain, my stories and humor tend to get bad reviews, and that's the reason why I've teamed up with Jim Lujan for "Revengeance", he's a terrific writer. 

I don't know when "Nerdland" will be released, but I highly recommend that you see it - it's still a wonderful film.  I'm giving it a "B" because we've got to support kick-ass adult animation.

--Bill Plympton

P.S. My office manager, John Holderried, also went to see the film, and he had a slightly different take on it.  You can check out his full review on his blog here:

But here are some highlights from his review:

It's not too much of a mental leap from "Beavis and Butthead" to John and Elliot.  Maybe if those kids finally stopped watching videos and got off the couch, moved to L.A. and tried to find work in the entertainment industry.  In the meantime, they have to support themselves with various jobs to pay the rent - and just like Scott Lang in "Ant-Man", Elliot's been fired from an ice-cream shop (and a record store, and a video-store, and...)  

But in a few days they'll both be 30 years old (Ya feel that, millennials?  It's coming...) so they decide to take the fast-track to being famous, and these days that means only one thing - making internet videos.  When that doesn't work, they decide to become hackers, then pop-culture news heroes, and when THAT doesn't work, really, there's only one solution, right?  If the first two words you thought of were "hard work", then you're way off-base.  Think more like "murder spree".  I think the twisted logic that gets them there is quite an interesting turn, even though if we like these guys, we don't want to see them kill a bunch of people.  

But there's a message here, kids, if you can stop texting long enough to hear it - there is NO fast track to fame.  For most people, there isn't even a slow track.  Every person who became famous, for the right reasons anyway, had to work hard to get there.  I heard some rock stars bad-mouthing "American Idol" about a month ago, because it seemed like such a fast-track to them, and the people involved don't seem to be paying their dues.  Yeah, but nobody has natural talent, not even pop stars, they have to practice, they have to learn songs, they have to get up on stage and perform.  They even have to appear in silly Ford commercials, and that's not easy. 

Oh, sure, there are YouTube stars, and there are Kardashians.  But even YouTubers have to work hard to make good videos, and anyone who has success thrust upon them for the wrong reasons - do you really WANT their kind of fame, in the end?  You might have some money, but no soul.  So quitcher whining and get a job, because no one's going to give you a free college education, and nobody's going to successfully wrestle money from the corporations and banks and distribute it out to twenty-somethings.  

My main complaint is that the film is called "Nerdland", and the two main characters aren't really nerds, they're more like slackers.  The main nerd in the film is an overweight man who runs a collectibles store and wears a crown (King of the Nerds), but he's too much of a stereotype, an urban version of Comic Book Guy from "The Simpsons" or The Collector from "PowerPuff Girls".  And like those other stereotypical nerds, he'll do just about anything for you, as long as you can get him a rare action figure that's MIB.  But we've all seen plot points like that before, right?  

Look, I've been across the country, I've met nerds from coast to coast.  Nerds are, for the most part, decent people, and the vast majority of them are hard-working and not very murder-y.  And they have smart phones, not flip phones - they love technology, after all!  If you're going to call a film "Nerdland", maybe put a few more nerds in it, that's all I'm saying. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Blame it on RIO (and Sao Paulo, too)

About 15 years ago, I was invited to the newly-organized Anima Mundi Animation Festival in Brazil.  It was exciting to see all of the enthusiasm and talent from the young attendees at the festival, and because my films are popular in Brazil, I was recently invited to do a career retrospective screening and Master Class in both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, put together by Boulevard Filmes and sponsored by Caixa Cultural. 

By coincidence, the two-city tour came as Brazil was in a rush-rush hustle to finish all of the venues and install a new trolley system for the 2016 Summer Olympics.  And if that weren't enough, their president, Dilma Rousseff, was up for impeachment, and everywhere I went, there were protests and political controversy.

I started out in Sao Paulo, where they held the first massive screening, and then I did my Master Class, which apparently sold out in 24 hours - that was fun.

                                                          Signing for fans in Sao Paulo

                                           With Rosana Urbes, an animator from Sao Paulo

I then flew to Rio, where I stayed in the Copacabana area, so I was able to swim every morning, singing the song "The Girl From Ipanema".  Unfortunately, that was also the location of a massive demonstration on the night of the impeachment vote.  Everyone told me to stay inside, and for God's sake, don't wear anything red.  That's the color of the opposition, and there had been reports of citizens wearing red getting beaten up.  I sure didn't need that.  However, when I went out for my afternoon swim, the protestors were very friendly and didn't bother me a bit.

As you may have read, the Lower House easily voted for impeachment, and now it goes to Brazil's senate, where it may also pass.  Then the President has to plead her case to the government, and who knows what will happen then.

                                                            My Master Class in Rio

In any case, my screenings and Master Class in Rio were also well received.  So I had a great time in Brazil, and definitely check out Anima Mundi, it's a wonderful film festival.

However, there was one negative note in my visit to Rio - apparently, they've passed a law that outlawed topless sunbathing - which is really weird because here in NYC's Times Square, you can see topless women all the time.  What's the world coming to?

--Bill P.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Behind the scene at MAD Magazine

I remember my first issue of MAD magazine - it was given to me by my Aunt Hazel, I was about 7 or 8 years old.  And I loved the magazine, especially the cartoons by Jack Davis and Don Martin.  It was the funniest thing I'd ever seen (except for Tex Avery's "Red Hot Riding Hood" cartoon).  I wasn't a constant subscriber, but I've always enjoyed the magazine whenever I got a copy. 

I've known Sam Viviano, MAD's art director, for 30 years, since we were in a cartoonist rock band together, comprised of big-time NY illustrators like Mark Alan Stamaty, Lou Brooks and Elwood Smith, it was called Ben Day and the Zipatones.

Jim Lujan was in town from L.A. to work on the editing of "Revengeance", and he'd met Sam at San Diego Comic-Con, and Sam told him to come by for a tour, if he was ever in NYC.  And then I found out my office manager, John, has been reading MAD since he was a kid, too.  I guess maybe this explains a lot about how people who appreciate the magazine's twisted sense of humor at a young age end up working in the cartoon business in some way. 

In any case, Sam was kind enough to invite Jim Lujan and me to the NYC offices of MAD magazine, and John tagged along to take our photos.  We got to meet MAD's editor, John Ficcara, and together they gave us a first-class, deluxe tour of their offices.  Quite frankly, I was surprised by how organized and normal their offices were.  I expected a floor filled with crazy people doing crazy things. 

                                  Sam Viviano, hard at work at his desk.  I hated to wake him...

                                                 Me and Jim Lujan with Sam Viviano

                                                 With John Ficcara, MAD's editor-in-chief

                                       There were display cases full of MAD memorabilia -

                             And an board with sketches from some of MAD's great artists.
                          "Celebrity Snaps" - photos of famous people holding MAD magazines

                                           The "Alfred", MAD's spoof of the Oscar award

                                          We got free hats, and a copy of the latest issue!

In any case, I had a very great time and learned a lot about the great artists of MAD over the years - Don Martin, Sergio Aragones and their famous trips to Europe.  Plus, I got a free magazine and a lot of other cool stuff. 

Thank you, Sam! 

--Bill Plympton

Monday, April 4, 2016

Boston / Tampa / NYC - Crazy week!

In my constant search for funding for my new animated feature, and to do some advance publicity, I've been traveling all over and speaking a lot.  It just so happened that several engagements got bunched up in the last week of March.  I think when the weather first starts to get nice, there are a lot more film festivals and screenings, since my January and February schedules seemed pretty light.

The first event last week was a screening of "Cheatin'" at Emerson College in Boston, where it played as part of the celebrated "Bright Lights" series.  There was a great crowd and I had a wonderful day in Boston, meeting all my animation fans there.

                                         Signing for the fans at Emerson College in Boston

                                                  With Janet Benn at the Emerson event

I took the train back to NY and then jumped on a plane for Tampa, for a full day of animation events.  My wonderful host was David Andrade of Theory Studios, he drove me in his hot red Mustang to Ringling Art School in Sarasota, where I spoke before a packed house of young animators.

                                       Speaking to the animation students at Ringling School

                                           Signing postcards and art prints for the students

The Ringling School was founded in 1931, during the Depression, by John Ringling, one of the famous Ringling Brothers of circus fame.  Apparently he was a big art fan and wanted to create a mecca for artists in Sarasota.  I've seen a number of films made at the Ringling School, and I'm always impressed by the wit and professionalism of the students there.

We drove back to Tampa for my next event, at the Gasparilla Film Festival, which used to be held at the same time as the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, which is kind of like a local version of Mardi Gras or Carnival that takes place every January or February.  The film festival was a wonderful event, although my presentation wasn't very crowded.  Still, we had a good group of hardcore animation fans show up. 

                                            Some ice cream after a quick dip in the ocean

After a quick, refreshing swim in the beautiful ocean (avoiding stepping on the sting rays) I jetted back to NYC on Friday, where I met my "Revengeance" co-creator, Jim Lujan at the airport, his plane got in just an hour before mine. 

The next day, we set up our table at the wonderful MoCCA (Museum of Cartoon & Comic Art) Arts Festival, hosted by the great Society of Illustrators.  It's like a comic convention, but just for independent comic artists - so no DC or Marvel booths.  So that's one reason I love MoCCA, no corporate meddling. 

Jim and I hosted a panel on our new film, "Revengeance" - we had a packed house at the Ink Hotel (how appropriate!)   They seemed to love the excerpts we showed and our presentation about the film. 

Then we rushed to the South Street Seaport, for a show called "Out to See", hosted by Animation Nights New York (ANNY).  Yvonne Grzenkowicz hosted "An Evening With Bill Plympton" at the Howard Hughes Building.  Again, it was a packed house, and our presentation for "Revengeance" was the hit of the evening.

Sunday was the last day of the MoCCA Arts Fest, and the last day in my animation promotion marathon.  We saw a lot of artist friends at the festival and hung out with celebs like R.O. Blechman, Steve Brodner and Rick Meyerwitz.  Also, I sold some drawings and DVDs and made enough money to continue production on "Revengeance" - thanks to everyone who came to my booth!

                                         With Jim Lujan and Signe Baumane at MoCCA Fest

See you later - on the next promotional tour, maybe!

--Bill Plympton