Wednesday, April 7, 2021

New Short Film - Demi NYC

As you may have already heard, or maybe not, I've started a new short film.  I was sent a script by the New England writer, Dan Leonard, about the coronavirus pandemic.  I don't usually do political shorts, but this script was a wonderful story, full of visual ideas that I could really have fun with.  Plus, I've never really done a serious film before and I wanted a change of pace.  

Right now, the temporary title is "Demi NYC", but we're considering different titles right now.  Last week, Dan and his wife, Lorena, came to visit my studio and I showed them how I make the animation.  So I'm happy to present to you all that demonstration, and also to alert you that they're about to run a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for production of the short.  I hope you all can help support the new short, it's going to be one of my best films!  Please check it out on Vimeo here - 

https://vimeo.com/534124082



--Bill P.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Alamo Drafthouse, COVID-19 and a new short on the way

I miss those pre-COVID days, when I was able to travel around the world and make appearances at local cinemas.  Back when "Cheatin'" came out, I had a booking agent that arranged for me to visit a bunch of the cinemas that were premiering the film, I think I went to about 13 cities on one trip, and I felt a bit like a rock star on tour.  You know how bands sometimes have t-shirts that list all the cities on their tour?  I should have had a t-shirt made.

But because of the pandemic, one of my favorite venues, the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX has closed for financial reasons.  I remember the first time I visited there, it was run by Tim League, a great guy, and I did a two-man show, co-starring the great Don Hertzfeldt. Of course, we had a packed house, because of Don's local fan base there. 

What really surprised me was that they had a kitchen and served food like burgers, salads and hot dogs at the seats.  Wow, what a cool concept, something more than just popcorn and candy - and in fact the idea was such a hit that Alamo Theaters got franchised across America.  

Now, some purists were offended by the idea of eating in front of a classic film.  They said it would disturb concentration and appreciation of the film.  However, the Alamo preferred to show over-the-top, wacky films - comedies, horror and action movies, so drinking and eating complimented the enjoyment of the film.  It made for a perfect date-night event, get the dinner and the movie out of the way in one fell swoop, then you can get on with the romantic portion of the evening....

I hope that after COVID-19 is gone (and I hope this happens soon) they will revive the Drafthouse plan, because it's such a great concept. And it really would be a shot in the arm, so to speak, for the struggling movie houses.  

Speaking of COVID-19, I'm now working on a short film that is about the pandemic.  Here is some art, posted below, and I'll be talking more about this project very soon. 

Thanks, 

Bill P.



     



Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Simpsons (again)

Guess what, folks?  Last fall I was asked to do another Couch Gag for "The Simpsons"!! Yeah!!

Now, you've heard my rap before about how I love the Simpsons show, the Simpsons people and the Simpsons audience.  So whenever I get invited to do another opening for their show, I go out and celebrate.

This time, producer Al Jean asked me to send in a storyboard idea - and I thought I'd go really off the deep end and submit a totally off-the-wall, bizarro surreal concept.  It's Homer's head, and his facial features start becoming his family members as they ooze out of his orifices.  I thought, "Those producers at The Simpsons are going to think that I'm taking way too many drugs" - but surprise, surprise, they loved it!  Then I thought, "Oh my God, now I have to animate this totally twisted beast..."

It was a gas making this nightmare come true on my drawing board - and thankfully, they loved the finished version.  The producers called me months ago and said it would be broadcast on their 700th episode on March 7.  But now I heard that because some NASCAR race ran into a rain delay, that it may run on March 14 or even March 21.  But still, it's going to open their 700th episode - what an honor!

So please tell all your friends to tune in to "The Simpsons" and you might want to get a little buzzed first, to really get maxed out on the weirdness factor.  Thanks to all you Plympton and Simpsons fans for following my work and spreading the word!  

Sincerely, 

Bill P.


                                    








Friday, February 19, 2021

Don Hertzfeldt

I met Don Hertzfeldt long ago - I think I was doing a Spike & Mike show, and I believe he was showing "Billy's Balloon" (one of my all-time favorite comedy shorts).  We became good friends, because our senses of humor were very similar, dark and surreal.  

Over the years I've visited him in Austin - he even let me sleep over in his house.  He showed me his monster animation camera stand that he'd had shipped to his house from a long distance away, and he assembled the damn thing all by himself.

And whenever Don was doing a show in NYC, usually at the IFC Center in the Village, he'd always have a standing-room-only crowd, lined up all around the block.  Then after the show, he'd sign autographs and sell DVDs - man, what a rock star!  Then we'd go out for a drink together at a bar next door and talk about animation.

I remember one night while we were a bit high, I was joking about his style.  I was convinced he was actually a great artist but only used the stick figures as a gag.  So I handed him a napkin and asked him to do a realistic portrait of me - and sure enough, he drew me as a stick figure Bill Plympton.


The reason I'm talking about Don is because he's now involved in a Kickstarter campaign to finance his new BluRay of "World of Tomorrow, the First Three Episodes" and it's crazy how popular this is.  He originally asked for $30,000 but with 19 days still to go, he's already raised over $326,000!  And it's growing every day!  He might break $1 million for a BluRay disc!  What the fuck?  That's crazy!!  I had a Kickstarter campaign late last year and it took me three weeks to pull in just $80,000.

One of Don's advantages is that he has a very engaging and funny web-site that he's used to build up his digital audience.  Don has definitely used the internet to create his super-stardom.  Go for it, Don! Also, the copy on his Kickstarter page is hilarious, it's like a question and answer session between two people and by the time you scroll down to the bottom, it's gone completely off topic.  So if you get a chance, you've got to check out his campaign, you'll love it!  And donate if you want to get his BluRay or the other rewards!  

The campaign is here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/worldoftomorrow/world-of-tomorrow-the-first-three-episodes-on-blu-ray

Now, here's this week's gag cartoon!

--Bill

Friday, February 12, 2021

Blue Sky

I've been a fan of Blue Sky Studios for years - I've hung out with Chris Wedge many times.  Once we went to a film festival in Majorca, where he got stung very badly by a school of jellyfish - and I was ready to pee on him if he needed me to, but the pain abated, thankfully.

Also, I'm good friends with writer Karen Disher, designer Peter DeSeve and storyboard artist William Frake, who all work for Blue Sky.  I've admired many of their films, like "Robots", "Ferdinand", "Epic", and of course, "Horton Hears a Who", which is a classic.  Plus they had two money-making franchises, the "Ice Age" series and the "Rio" films. 




I've even lectured up there (Greenwich, CT) and was very impressed by their abundant talent and the joy they take in their craft.  But when Disney bought out Fox, everyone was nervous about the future of Blue Sky, why would they need an East Coast version of Pixar that competes with Disney and Pixar?  That wouldn't make sense.  But Disney let Blue Sky continue to make their films, until "Spies in Disguise" came out and wasn't much of a success.  I think after that, the writing was on the wall, as they say.

Now, a lot of very talented people are going to be out of work, and may be forced to move to L.A. to continue their animation careers.  My hope is that they can write and create remotely, or maybe form another studio here on the East Coast.  Dream on, right? 

Even though my mini-indie studio often has trouble surviving, at least I'm able to continue to produce films without worrying that Disney executives will be pulling the rug out from under me.  That's the biggest benefit of working as an independent.  Although if Disney were to offer me a boatload of money to buy my studio, I might consider it. 

You can read more about the closing of Blue Sky on Cartoon Brew here:


Here's this week's gag cartoon - thanks for listening!

--Bill 


Friday, February 5, 2021

Good news

About a month ago, my office manager, John H., signed me up to get my COVID-19 vaccine, which was very exciting - and he got me a slot at the Javits Center, where we've been many times with a booth at New York Comic Con.  The only problem was, the earliest available appointment there wasn't until the end of March!!!  What?  I've got to walk the NYC streets, day after day, for two more months, blocking the little coronavirus droplets from getting into my nose?  

Fat chance - so, naturally, I committed to staying inside as much as possible, except to walk 5 blocks every day to my studio and occasionally to the store.  A pretty dreary life...but I must say, I've gotten a lot of drawing done for "Slide".  

Meanwhile, my producer, Rachel, was checking for earlier vaccination appointments through various healthcare systems online - you apparently have to start looking for them very early in the morning, because by 10 or 11 am any open slots usually get filled up.  Then, of course, the news broke that Trump lied about the amount of vaccine that was on hand, it turns out there was no reserve, and he didn't order as much for the country as he could have!  So some states, including New York, went through all their doses and had to start cancelling appointments everywhere while they waited for more vaccines from the government.  Suddenly it seemed like a good idea to keep that Mar. 31 appointment, because it was a sure thing, and maybe by then there would be more doses arriving.  

Then, just last Friday, I got a phone call from my buddy, and brilliant animator, Signe Baumane, about open slots at the Armory in Northern Manhattan.  Apparently they had just gotten a big batch of the Pfizer vaccines, and there was nobody showing up to get their shots.  And if I hurried up there (a short subway ride) I might be able to get a shot.  

When I got there, the place was practically empty.  I only had to wait 15 minutes to get registered, and prove that I qualified because of my age, then I got the needle in my arm.  I didn't feel a thing, and in fact it felt very good to get the vaccine.  I was smiling all the way home, now I can sleep peacefully at night.  I'm already booked to get my second shot, in three weeks - and I feel so free and easy now. 

I think there was some controversy about this vaccination site I went to, because at some earlier point people from New Jersey or Connecticut were getting shots there, and there was concern that the local population was being under-served.  By the time I got my shot, I believe they were reserving 60% of the shots for neighborhood residents, and they had added some Spanish-speaking volunteers and hotlines to make the process easier.  The other 40% of their doses were going to other qualified NYC residents, including my age group - so by traveling uptown, I didn't jump the line or take somebody else's dose, I had an appointment and everything I did to get the shot was legal and legit.  Then we cancelled my March 31 appointment to free up my time-slot at the Javits Center for somebody else. 

I know some people might be having a hard time scheduling appointments, especially older people who might not be very good with computers and web-sites - and that's exactly who's qualified to get the vaccines right now!  All I can say is, keep trying, and I feel very lucky, and it's great to know people who ARE good with computers!  

Here's my gag cartoon for today's edition - 


Bill P.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Update on "SLIDE" Production

I've been working on "Slide" since 2017 and it's been a slow process, for a number of reasons.  One is that I'm financing the film myself (with help from my fans through Kickstarter) and whenever I'm just about to go broke, I make a music video or take on some other job to pay my bills.  But also, I'm really putting my blood, sweat and heart into this film.  I believe this feature will be my epic.  I'm drawing everything that appears on the screen - the characters, the backgrounds, the vehicles, animals and even the special effects. 

So, it takes me much longer to create these scenes than with any of my other films.  Plus, as you'll see, I'm using a different technique than I usually do.  It's a style I used a lot when I was an illustrator - lots of cross-hatching and ballpoint pen.  But I think it looks gorgeous.  It has a feeling of impressionism - the art is kind of blurry and soft-edged. 

So I had my staff, John and Rachel, choose some of their favorite drawings from the production so far.  Just remember that when the film is finished, all this magnificent art will be up for sale.  I hope you like the art - see you next time!

--Bill P.


The Lucky Buck Saloon (exterior)

The Lucky Buck Saloon (interior)

Izzy and Jeb in their office


Delilah being forced to sing

Friday, January 15, 2021

Milton Glaser (1929-2020)

I just learned, to my amazement and sadness, that the great Milton Glaser has died.  Maybe due to the pandemic and my own isolation, I found this out seven months after his death on June 26, 2020 (his 91st birthday!). I realize he was quite elderly but he was a demi-god, or semi-god, to me, and gods don't die.

My first awareness of him was back in college - Portland State - in the late 1960's when my classmate and artistic genius, David Harriman, turned me on to Pushpin Studios in New York, and specifically, Mr. Glaser.

Of course, it was my desire to do something in illustration after school, since I didn't have the technical knowledge at the time to make animated films, which is what I really dreamed about doing.  That's when I fell in love with Glaser's work.

His classic Bob Dylan poster was all the rage at that time - and I copied his different typeface designs for the film and music posters I was creating.  So I started collecting the Pushpin graphic magazine religiously.  Also, I looked for his art in New York magazine (which he co-created).

It was at that time I decided to move to New York City, because Milton taught a class at the School of Visual Arts on design and illustration.  That's it!  I'll move to New York and be one of Milton's apprentices!  So I signed up for classes at SVA, positive that because of the strength of my art that I'd be assigned to his class.  Better think again, Billy Boy - by the time I arrived and saw my class schedule, I realized that Milton's class was a very popular one, and only he chose who his students would be, via a portfolio review. 

Damn, I missed my chance - after two semesters I decided I couldn't afford art school and began to take my portfolio around.  

Here are a couple of incidents that I heard about Milton Glaser that are very revealing.  Apparently, when the Beatles decided to do an animated feature film, with themselves as characters, the producers and George Dunning, the director, asked Milton Glaser to be the design director.  Unfortunately, he was too busy designing restaurants and running his studio to take on such a heavy commitment, so he recommended German illustrator Heinz Edelman, who had a style very similar to Milton's, and of course, he did a super brilliant job.  But the story goes that the artist Peter Max was an intern at Pushpin Studios at the time, and he felt that he should have been chosen for the job.  And because his style is now so close to Milton's, he claims that he was the true designer of "Yellow Submarine". 

And another legendary story, that Mr. Glaser was asked to design a promotional ad for New York City, which at the time was having severe financial and cultural difficulties.  He was in a cab, on his way to meet the client to present his sketches when he got the idea for the "I Love NY" logo.  He sketched it down and the client loved it - but not only that, he decided to make the design copyright free.  He could have been a billionaire if he'd copyrighted the idea - but he wanted to give it to the world, and that's one reason you can see his design in every tourist stop in every city all over the world.  Thank you, Milton!

You'll be happy to know I finally met the great man at an SVA function about 10 years ago - and he was kind enough to chat with me for a while.  Of course, he had no idea who I was - I don't think he was much of a fan of animation.  He's way too busy.  I even sent him a DVD of my film "Your Face" but sadly, I never heard back from him.  

Still, I got to talk to one of my ultimate heroes - who knows how my life would have turned out if I had been able to take his class?  Oh, well, it's too late now.  

Thanks for reading, 

Bill P. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

January Update and Animated Shorts

Well, we finally made it into 2021, relatively safe.  And I'm extremely happy that my Kickstarter campaign was successful.  "Happy Happy Joy Joy!"  Thanks to all of you who helped with your support and who helped spread the word, I'm able to continue working in my studio, and I'll try to finish "Slide" animation this year. 

Right now I'm drawing my ass off (figuratively), doing about 15 seconds of animation per day.  I would love to finish the animation by this spring, that's my goal.

Also, at the same time, I'm watching all of the animated shorts that have qualified for the Oscars in 2020 - all 96 of them.  And some of them are over 20 minutes long - please, animators, try to make shorter films!  20 minutes is just too long for a short film - it's hard for me to vote for such a film. 

Also, I'm watching animated feature films - the latest was "Soul", directed by Pete Docter of PIXAR.  Now, you all know how I love PIXAR films, John Lassiter and his crew really revolutionized the movie business.  They made animation the leader in box office income.  

However, I must say I had some problems with "Soul", it's about a guy who loses his soul, and the problem for me was that there were too many ectoplasmic characters that had different roles and rules. And these rules never made much sense to me.  All these strange characters from an alternative mindscape never connected with me.  I didn't understand them and didn't really care about them.  What was that pirate all about?  

It's too bad, because I found the normal real-life characters totally engaging and beautifully rendered.  From a purely visual standpoint, "Soul" is a delight, but as an engaging story, it failed - which is rare, because PIXAR is usually very strong in the story department.  

Well, here's my first gag cartoon of the new year. 

Thanks, 

Bill