Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Animator, And L.A.A.F Honoree, Bill Plympton Talks About His Classics And New Favorites

L.A.A.F. Honoree Bill Plympton
The Los Angeles Animation Festival begins this Thursday and runs through Sunday at the Regent Showcase in Los Angeles.  The programming includes many movies returning to the big screen for one night only.  Among the highlights of the festival will be a night honoring Academy Award nominated animator Bill Plympton.

Recently I asked Bill what he thought about being honored by the L.A.A.F.  "It's very exciting!  I must say, L.A. is the mecca of animation around the world.  I always love seeing these other animators and hanging out with them and talking animation.  It's always exciting to hang out in L.A. so it means a lot that they chose to honor me like that."

This year marks the 20th anniversary of his famed movie The Tune.  About this Plympton said, "It's funny how many people still remember that film and still tell me about watching it.  They have old mucky videocassettes that they still watch it on.  What's interesting about The Tune is that it kind of kicked off a whole revolution of people making their own feature films.  Up to that point, it was impossible.  You had to have a studio, or money, behind you.  But now people are just doing their own feature films without any studio help.  It's really exciting that this movie helped kick off that revolution that's going on now."

Thinking about how he created, and released The Tune, I asked how he thought the movie would do if it was released today.  "I think it would have been a lot better.  I was competing against the big boys when it came out in 1992. [That same year Disney released Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast was still showing on many screens.]  Now, there's more of a market for indie films, and indie animated films."

The L.A.A.F. will not only be screening The Tune for it's 20th anniversary, but they will also be premiering the documentary Adventures In Plymptoons.  Bill told me that production on the documentary began three years ago where they followed him around to several events and conventions.  When I asked Bill what he thought about having a documentary about him, he said that he like the idea.  "A lot of people know my work, my style, my sense of humor..but they don't know a lot about the real Bill Plympton.  Also, I wanted to show that it is possible to make a living without a big studio behind you.  You can make cartoons and drawings that sell without working for Disney, Dreamworks or Pixar.  I think that's an important message to be seen all over."

Bill is able to do this by having his projects for sale on his website where fans can projects of his that they've been missing.  That includes his book - Independently Animated: Bill Plympton, which has a forward by Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam.  The two of them met while Gilliam was in New York promoting The Fisher King.  I asked if Terry's Monty Python animation influenced him.  "Absolutely.  His surreal, absurd, bizarre sense of humor is imminent.  It's a sense of humor that is perfect for animation."

In being a part of the Animation Festival, I asked if there has been any animated movies that he's seen in recent years that blew him away.  "Oh yes.  How To Train Your Dragon was a wonderful film.  I loved Toy Story 3.  I think that was real amazing storytelling.  Just beautiful."  He also listed some animated shorts that he loved, including Luminaris, from Argentina, and recent Academy Award winning short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

As the honoree of the L.A.A.F, Bill is hoping to use some influence to screen something that he has been working on, and is very proud of.  He has taken the 1921 Winsor McCay cartoon The Flying House and restored it.  "It had been forgotten and sort of neglected.  So I colored it, cleaned it and put sound and music on it.  I also had Patricia Clarkson and Matthew Modine re-do the voices.  It's now a wonderful, entertaining eight and half minute film."  He admitted that this was really just a passion project that isn't meant to make money.  He only wants it to introduce audiences to Winsor McCay, whom he credits with starting the surrealist movement.

As our conversation turned back to the festival, he was very excited to let all of you know that he will be at both of his shows, and he will be giving everyone a free cartoon drawing of his dog.  Jokingly he said, "Everyone who comes to my shows gets a free Bill Plympton cartoon!  You don't see Brad Bird doing that."  He went on to say that he's just excited to be a part of the festival and watch many of the programs.

You can keep up with Bill by visiting his blog and his website

The Los Angeles Animation Festival begins tomorrow at the Regent Showcase (614 La Brea Ave).  You can view this years line up - and purchase tickets - by visiting the festivals official website

Thank you to Bill Plympton and the Los Angeles Animation Festival for being so giving of their time.

What say you?

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Jungle Jesse 

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