Monday, October 29, 2018

Recent Trips - Santa Fe, NM and Portland, OR

I've started to cut back a little on my trips on the film festival circuit these days, I got invited to two very appetizing festivals that took place last week.

The first was the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.  I'd never been to New Mexico before, so I thought it would be interesting.  The place is 7,000 feet into the mountains, and it has a very classic look to it.  All the buildings must be made from adobe or at least look like it.  And all the shop signs must have only two colors (no rainbows allowed, and obviously no Taco Bells) The festival is run by a young family with lots of energy, and they took very good care of me.

The cinemas were all cool, classic-type theaters and there were lots of volunteers offering to do anything I needed - and the Hotel Santa Fe was perfect - very comfortable.  Then at the big ceremonies I was given a Lifetime Achievement Award that included a freshly-baked peach pie in a ceremonial pie tin.

While I was there, I was able to visit Los Alamos, where the atomic bomb was developed.  I toured the scientists' houses and learned the history of the bomb, I found that fascinating.

Next, I flew to Oregon for the Portland Film Festival.  This festival has now taken over a huge canning warehouse that's been converted into a headquarters, lounge and multiplex.  I saw a fascinating film called "Behind the Curve" about people who believe that the earth is flat, and that the theory of a round earth is a conspiracy from the dark state.  The group is actually quite large, over 1,000 members, and very serious.

The PDXFF is a lively festival with lots of energy and ideas, created by Joshua Leake.  I highly recommend both of these festivals if you want a great experience watching work that is totally off the mainstream.

As soon as I returned from my trip, I joined my fellow Academy members for a two-day judging of all the animated short films that are eligible for the Oscars.  It was fun to see all my fellow members and watch this year's crop of the best animated shorts.  I also entered my very short film "Trump Bites: The Unraveling" so we'll find out in January if people like that. 

Dinner after judging Oscar-eligible animation, with Lisa LaBracio, Biljana Labovic, Pat Smith, Sandrine and Ron Diamond
Also, speaking of the atomic bomb, I've done some graphics for a new Off-Broadway called "Nuclear Follies", directed by one of my favorite voice actors, Daniel Neiden.  He provided the voice of the main character, Del, in my first animated feature, "The Tune".  I haven't seen "Nuclear Follies" yet, but I know Daniel is a very funny fellow, so it should be hilarious.  You may even see some art in the show that looks a little bit "Plympton-esque". 

That show opens on Thursday, November 1 at 7 pm at St. John's Lutheran Church, 81 Christopher St. (west of 7th Ave.)  You can check out more information about the show here:

and you can buy tickets here:

I also heard that tickets to the November 6 performance will be FREE if you vote.  Which you should do anyway, so, really, there's no reason NOT to vote and then enjoy a great night at the theater!  I hope to see you there.  If you like your comedy dark, then that's the place to be.

Happy Halloween, everyone - and here's my cartoon of the week.

--Bill P.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Last week...

Busy busy busy... A lot of projects in the works at my studio. I'm finishing up my newest music video for Matt Jaffee, a brilliant young singer-songwriter, and his song is called "Wicked World".  It's being done in a very cool style, like a graphic novel.  Watch for him, he'll be the new Justin Bieber.  That video should be out next month some time.

Also, I'm doing some animation for Joan Gratz's compilation short, where animators talk about their earliest beginnings.  Mine is a story about how, as a kid, I recycled bloody butcher paper to draw on, to create a panorama of a World War II battle.  I don't know when that will come out.

And for all you fans of my early "Sex & Violence" series, I'm starting work on a new version called, appropriately enough, "Sex & Violence III".  It will have a bunch of way over-the-top offensive segments.  That should be out this Christmas, or so - perfect for the holiday season.

And of course, while I'm creating these short projects, I'm still happily drawing away on my upcoming feature, "Slide".  And I've got to tell you, this film will have some of the best animation I've ever drawn.  I'm so excited about "Slide", and that film should be finished in about 2 years.

Some of the events I've been attending are the ANNY (Animation Nights New York) screenings, hosted by Yvonne Grzenkowicz.  On Saturday, October 6, it took place in the lobby of a huge glass-enclosed skyscraper, just north of Wall Street here in NYC.  Yvonne organized a very special weekend gathering that involved anything related to animation - workshops on V.R., traditional, computer, festivals, the early years of animation, independents, studio animation and games.

The moment I entered this three-ring animated circus, I felt the excitement of young kids checking out the animation scene.  I also ran into a lot of my animation buddies - so be sure to check this event out next year!

Then the following Thursday night, SVA sponsored an exhibition of political art, called "Art as Witness".  What a gala event!  It had all the excitement of my early years in New York as a political cartoonist.  It was a who's who of great cartoonists and illustrators - let's see, where do I begin?  R.O. Blechman, Felipe Galindo, Andres Arroyo, Ed Sorel, Steven Brodner (one of the organizers), Steven Heller, Joe Ciardiello, Peter Kuper, Marshall Arisman, John Cuneo and the great Brad Holland. 

with Francis di Tommaso and Brad Holland at SVA's "Art as Witness" event

The exhibition was terrific - such a wide panorama of political statements on pollution, police brutality, women's rights and of course, lots of anti-Trump stuff.  They also had some beautiful pieces from the late David Levine and Robert Grossman.  It was a wonderful night.  I almost forgot, they played two of my "Trump Bites" animated shorts.

Now, on to something that I think is very exciting - for me, anyway - you may not think it's cool but I love it.  I've been making rough drawings of cartoon ideas for future gag books.  And now I have a nice collection of them, so I decided to preview all the gag cartoons here - so my plan is to premiere each cartoon, one per week, here on my Scribble Junkies site.  So, starting this week, my first gag cartoon in a series - this is called "The Trump Years".

Please let me know what you think!

Bill P.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Will Vinton (1947-2018)

I just learned the sad news about Will Vinton's death.  In the 1980's and 90's he was a real force in animation and a magnet for creative artists to move to Portland, Oregon, which helped make it the Mecca of animation that it is today.

I first met him way before I got into animation, back in the late 1970's or early 80's, on one of my annual trips back to Portland, my hometown.  I desperately wanted to get into the field, so I though I'd just visit his studio, unannounced and uninvited.  Back then his studio was based out of a little house in N.W. Portland.  They were the friendliest people: Mark Gustafson, Joan Gratz, Craig Bartlett - I guess they'd seen my illustrations.

I would usually visit Will whenever I was in town and they'd give me a tour of their quickly-growing studio as they went from short films to features, to commercials and T.V. shows.  Will became famous after he received an Oscar for "Closed Mondays", the short film he made with Bob Gardiner.  And I became closer friends with Bob later on - Will and Bob split up for creative reasons and after a while, Bob became extremely jealous of Will's huge success.  I used to hang out with Bob in the bars of Portland, he loved to drink, and would rail against Will's success.

It's my theory that Bob was sort of the real genius behind Claymation - he was an extremely talented artist, musician and storyteller but like a lot of artists, he was very disorganized.  So Will took over the production, post-production and distribution, and therefore became in many ways the key to their film's success.  Will was definitely a genius when it came to sales, promotion and attracting talent - Will drew some of the greatest 3-D animators in the U.S. and through Will's fabulous talent, his studio rose to the great heights of animation success.

Will Vinton and Bill Plympton in 2000 at the Week With the Masters in Trivandrum, India
Then, the story goes, he got two TV shows side-by-side - "The PJ's" and "Gary and Mike", so he had to expand the studio immediately.  He was taking over more Portland real estate just to shoot more stop-motion, so in order to keep his studio going, he turned to his friend Phil Knight of Nike fame for a big loan.  Unfortunately, both shows got cancelled in quick succession, so poor Will was stuck with a huge unpaid loan.  Phil Knight knew that his son, Travis, who was a great animator working for Will, wanted to make feature films, so Phil Knight and the board that ran Will's studio turned the studio over to Travis, and Will instantly found himself without a studio.  Gradually Will Vinton Studios became Laika, producer of "Coraline", "The Corpse Bride" and "Kubo and the Two Strings" fame.

I never could figure out why, if Will was able to build Will Vinton Studios so quickly, after losing control of it, why couldn't he do it again?  He was so great at promotion, gathering talent, sales and producing, plus he had a big name and reputation in the business.  But it just didn't happen.

With Will Vinton at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2006.
I visited his house about 7 years ago, and he took me water-skiing on the Willamette River - he was very athletic for his age.  We then went out for dinner and he complained to me how he had 50 shows that he was trying to sell, and couldn't find a buyer for one.  This was very mysterious - the great Will Vinton couldn't make a sale?  It didn't make any sense to me.  I heard he had a producer's read-through of one of his Broadway show ideas, called "The Kiss" to attract investors, and it didn't go very well.

Apparently there's a documentary about him in the works (they interviewed me for it) and I'm dying to see how they'll portray the two most controversial episodes in his life - the Bob Gardiner fiasco and the Phil Knight disaster.  Anyway, he was an amazing guy and a real inspiration.  Here's to Will Vinton -

--Bill Plympton

May 26, 2012 "Bill Plympton Day" at the Mission Theater in Portland, OR with Will Vinton (3rd from right)