Friday, December 30, 2016

The End of the Year

Well, it's almost time to change the calendar, so it's a good time to look back at 2016, which was a very momentous year for me.

First, I released my mockumentary called "Hitler's Folly", and as expected, I got a lot of opposition.  But also the film got a lot of fans, and in fact, it screened in both Tel Aviv, Israel and Krakow, Poland to full houses and laughing audience.  And if people in those cities can laugh about Hitler, it makes me wonder if people in other places can learn to do so, too.

If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch "Hitler's Folly" for FREE at my web-site here:

Then we finished and released "Revengeance", a film written, designed and (mostly) voiced by the genius Jim Lujan.  It's become very popular on the European festival circuit, and has been released theatrically in France, now we just have to arrange a festival premiere in the U.S.  We're already getting requests from some cinemas, but we'd like to make an impact at some festivals first.

Also, my studio made a music video for the great musician, Maureen McElheron, famous for composing and singing in "Your Face", "The Tune" and "I Married a Strange Person".  It's called "No Snow for Christmas", a wonderful song that comments on global warming.  (Sorry, I think the correct term is "climate change" now, same thing though...)

And we're now putting the finishing touches on my latest, and I think best, sequel to "Guard Dog", which is called "Cop Dog".  This will be released in early 2017.

Also, I had some time to create a safety commercial for Ford Motors, preaching about the dangers of distracted driving.  It's called "The Importance of Paying Attention: Teeth" and it shows an extreme example of someone picking their teeth while driving - and now it's been nominated for an Annie Award!  Plus it's got over 2 1/2 million views on YouTube!

You can watch it for yourself here:

Finally, I'm now working on a new "couch gag" for "The Simpsons", called "The Artiste" - watch for it on some Sunday night next year!

On top of all that, Jim Lujan and I have begun pre-production on a new animated feature film, but I can't say too much about that yet.  You never know who's reading these things...but as you can see, it's been a wonderfully productive year for me - in fact, a banner year!

If all that isn't enough, I decided to re-open my celebrated Plympton School of Animation in January, and we still have a few slots left for the in-person lectures.  So if anyone out there has ambitions to learn animation from a two-time Oscar-nominated "King of Independent Animation", please sign up.   The first class will be on January 9, and the class is limited to just 15 students.

Happy New Year!  I hope to see you in my class or at a film festival in 2017!

--Bill Plympton

Friday, December 23, 2016

Top Ten Christmas Movies

1. "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946, Frank Capra) - with Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, you've all seen it. The perfect Christmas movie, and dare I say it, the perfect film.

2. "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945, Peter Godfrey) - with Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet.  Not only great Christmas atmosphere, but a sexy, steamy, adultery love story.

3. "The Polar Express" (2004, Robert Zemeckis) - with Tom Hanks. From the famous Chris Van Allsburg book, a very witty visual fantasy of a boy's trip to the North Pole.  The stiff motion-capture animation looks very awkward now, but great storytelling.

4. "A Christmas Carol" (1951, Brian Desmond-Hurst) - with Alistair Sim, Michael Hordern.  This film was played every year on my local Oregon TV channel, and it scared the bejeesus out of me. Plus, it was a British production, so it felt very true to the Charles Dickens story.

5. "Bad Santa" (2003, Terry Zwigoff) - with Billy Bob Thornton.  As you know, I love twisted comedy, and "Bad Santa" really takes the satire of Christmas to hilarious places.

6. "A Christmas Story" (1983, Bob Clark) - with Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon.  Adapted from a Jean Shepherd story, this sweet little film is totally hilarious and twisted.

7. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966, Chuck Jones) - with the voices of Boris Karloff and a story by Dr. Seuss.  This is a perfect little gem of an animated story, I can watch it endlessly.

8. "Elf" (2003, Jon Favreau) - with Will Ferrell, James Caan (miscast), Bob Newhart, Zooey Deschanel.  This is the film that convinced me that Will Ferrell is a comic genius.

9. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993, Henry Selick).  Although Tim Burton had a lot to do with the design and story of this film, it's really a Henry Selick film, a lot of people forget that. Very dark for a holiday film, and that's why I like it.

10. "White Christmas" (1954, Michael Curtiz) - with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen.  The old Hollywood classic. I was in the tropical Columbia Hotel, floating around in the swimming pool, and they played the famous Bing Crosby song - a totally surreal moment in my life.  My son now thinks that if it snows outside, then it must be Christmas. 

So that's my list.  If you have any additions, I'd love to hear about them.

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


One of the animated features that qualified for the Best Animated Feature Oscar this year is "Trolls", directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn.  Unfortunately, most of the reviews that I read really panned the film.

And I understand why, because the film is very sugary and sentimental, with lots of bright colors, and the design of the trolls is very cutesy and clunky, with large hands and feet.

Yet, the film had very good humor and witty dialogue, and I liked the music.

Strangely, the film reminded me a lot of "Yellow Submarine", the 1968 Beatles film.  In fact, I felt like I was in a drug-induced flashback. It's like a magic carpet ride back to the 1960's - in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if large groups of hipsters decide to drop a lot of acid and then go to see "Trolls".

In fact, if you go see the film in a NYC theater, you may see me sitting in the audience with my eyes a mile wide - just leave me alone and let me trip out on the amazing visual surrealism and music.

I give "Trolls" a B+

Bill P.

Friday, December 9, 2016

"Avoid Eye Contact" program in Etiuda & Anima Festival

My former employee (now colleague and friend) Signe Baumane recently appeared at the Etiuda & Anima Festival in Krakow, Poland, where she presented three compilation programs of short films from New York animators.  Signe and I were both part of a group of animators that came together a few years ago to produce a DVD called "Avoid Eye Contact", and parts of these programs were based on that collaboration, while one program consisted of new work from NYC-based animators.

Signe wrote something for that festival's catalogue about what it's like to make independent animation in New York City, and I'd like to reprint it here.  These notes are also posted on her blog, which is located at:

Oh, and while you're there, please check out her animation art for sale, and her holiday offer to draw or paint any animal of your choice!

Avoid Eye Contact - Best of New York Animation in Krakow

Here are my New York Animation notes for Etiuda&Anima Festival catalogue:

It's probably not an understatement to say that New York City has one of the most vibrant and thriving animation communities in the world.  The reasons for this are multiple:

1. There used to be an amazing amount of animation jobs in the city (Nickelodeon, MTV, Little Airplane, Animation Collective, etc.) Perhaps not so much now, but animators stay here because –

2. We have a very excellent chapter of ASIFA-East that organizes screenings and meet-ups every month, and an annual festival of work from its members. When people see each other on monthly basis, it creates the sense of a community, involvement and support.

3. New York independent animators don’t compete with each other for funding (generally, the funding for arts or animation in the U.S. is scarce, so there is nothing to fight over) but instead we compete with each other over who will make a better film, we challenge each other and we support each other with advice, tips and animation tools.

4. There are at least five colleges in NYC that teach animation – so there are plenty of interns/apprentices for independent animators to employ which is a good reason to open an independent animation studio in New York. Also students have a lot of youthful enthusiasm for animation as a sophisticated form of self-expression. Enthusiasm is infectious.

5. New York City is a source of endless inspiration for stories.  Also, because everybody in NYC is constantly busy and short on time, we New Yorkers value time more than anything. As a result, good sense of timing for NY animators becomes visceral. Timing is part of our minds, our bodies, and our essences.  That's why some of the best animated films from NY may not have perfect design or the most amazing concepts, but they have timing that will make you laugh or cringe, and you walk away thinking you just watched a perfect film.

6. We in New York have the beacon of independent animation – Bill Plympton.  This beacon shows you the way to be an indie animator (create short films that connect with audiences and make a lot of them, consistently) but it also warns you not to come too close to the cliff, where the beacon stands on. It can ruin your life - to be an indie animator and consistently produce films you must give up on aspects of normal human life, like having friends, family and hobbies.

I don't know any independent NYC animator who hasn't looked at Bill and, at least once in their life, said, "That looks easy, I can do it." And then lunged into making indie short films. But then they had to stop after a few years because they got married and/or had children and had to find a better way to pay the rent.  No one else can do what Bill does (he is unique) but thanks to his example and our aspirations to be like him we have a lot of independent animated films made in New York. 

For these reasons, the community of NYC animators is so tightly knit and supportive that one day (in 2004) a bunch of us got together and published a DVD of our work, called "Avoid Eye Contact".  It was so successful (2,000 DVDs sold in one year) that we released "Avoid Eye Contact" Volume 2 in 2005. 

Since then, DVD's have fallen out of fashion, and we animators/artists have proven yet again that we are more interested in making films than selling them.  But the energy of cooperation and innovation is still there, because that is what New York City is about.

For Program 1, I selected 14 films that are my favorites from the two "Avoid Eye Contact" volumes.  The films are perhaps on the older side ("One of Those Days" is from 1988) but since animation doesn't age like other films, they are still classic.

Programs 2 and 3 were put together exclusively for Etiuda&Anima and they consist of films never screened at Etuida&Anima. There are several things that are striking about the work for in those programs – first, a lot of these shorts take place in strange spaces, for example - "Terrible Alpha 9" (Jake Armstrong), "Pangs" (Wendy Cong Zhao), "Egg" (Jack Wedge), "Mirage" (Youngwoong Jang) and "Wandering Eye" (Edwin Chavez).  It probably can be explained by New York City being a strange place with its own rules that are not immediately accessible to a newcomer and the city can seem like an alien planet at first. Note, "Wandering Eye" was hand drawn on index cards while the animator was commuting to school on subway.

To counter that, there are a couple of films that explain this strange place called New York – "Concrete Jumble" (Gary Leib) and "The Lost Tribes" (Andy and Carolyn London) - they give the audience a little bit of local history and context.  Then there are films that are strongly, unapologetically female and even raunchy, like "Teat Beat of Sex" (Signe Baumane), "Boobatary" (Leah Shore), "Cee Cee's Bedtime Stories" (Joy Buran and Noelle Melody) and "Everybody's Pregnant" (Debra Solomon).  Their unabashed revealing of the most private elements of a female life (body functions, having sex, being infertile, getting high or drunk) may come from the experiences of being part of the masses moving through the streets and mass transit of New York which erases your feeling that your privacy is sacred.  You are just one of the 8 million humans living here, and everyone has the exact same problems as you do, so get over it and share your shame and private thoughts with everyone else. It's only a stereotype that big cities alienate their residents from each other. New York does just the opposite - it connects people and teaches us to love other humans (you really can't live in New York if you don't love humans).

And, of course, as in any place around the world, in New York, too, there are inevitably films made about universal themes like food ("Gastronomic Shark", the Polish premiere of Bill Plympton's short film) and aspirations for love ("Hedgehug" by Dan Pinto, "Video 69"). Love is everywhere, even in New York.

The notorious neurosis of New Yorkers is depicted in "Something Left, Something Taken" – and since the filmmakers in the film also make fun of themselves, it shows a very typical New York humor – the self-deprecating kind.

In the end, without the compassion and understanding of other human beings the life in New York would not be possible, and that's what animated doc "A Life with Asperger's" is teaching us.

If you can't come to New York, then New York must come to you!  These 3 programs are showing some of the best New York animated shorts created in the last 20 years. This is your chance to experience all the inner workings of the minds of New York and New Yorkers. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and we hope you'll leave the screening inspired to make a film of your own.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Bill Plympton Animation University

How would you like to be famous, like Bill Plympton?  Well, here's your chance!

Starting Monday, January 9, 2017 - I plan to kick off my 2-month intensive course on animation, which will last until March 6.

Every Monday night from 6-8 pm I'll hold detailed lectures at my studio about each phase of making a short animated film.  Through the use of drawing lessons, film screenings and tips I've learned during my 50-year career as an illustrator, cartoonist, caricature artist and filmmaker, I will inspire and motivate the students to make their own films.

The classes will take place at my studio on West 27th St. in Manhattan (Chelsea neighborhood, off 7th Ave.)  The class size will be limited to 15 students.  There is no requirement other than a hunger to learn how to create a great film.

The curriculum will cover story ideas and concepts, storyboards, character design, humor, animation, the "Plympton Dogma", post-production, film festivals, distribution, crowd funding, with guest appearances by my producer and office manager to cover all of the facets of my animation operation.

The fee will be $2,000 and at the last session, we will screen the resulting animation, and then hopefully the films will be accepted into festivals and receive greater glory.  And every graduating student will get a formal degree from Bill Plympton's Animation University.

UPDATE: We are also planning to make the course available on-line, via private Vimeo link, for students who can't make it to New York City, for just $1,000 !  That's half-price, and will also include TWO private Skype sessions, so I can review your work at the storyboard stage, and also the finished animation.   Videos will be posted each week, a few days after the Monday class.

So if you are interested in the classes, either in-person or online, please contact me by e-mail at:

See you on January 9!

Bill Plympton