Monday, July 29, 2013

San Diego Comic-Con

I arrived in San Diego this year with a clear mission: get the word out about CHEATIN'.  I also wanted to spread the word about my new DVD "Dogs and Cows", and of course make a few bucks to pay the bills, but the big goal now is to get some buzz going for my new feature.

The film is going to start its festival run soon, where we hope to pick up foreign sales and distribution, so we decided to premiere the trailer for the film at Comic-Con.  There's no better stage than the annual San Diego event, where I have a lot of fans.  My crack team was there: Alexia Anastasio, Kevin, John Holderried and producer James Hancock, they were there to run my booth and help crank up the buzz.

                                      Bill screening the CHEATIN' trailer at his SDCC panel.

My kick-off event on Thurdsay was the CHEATIN' panel.  My plan was to show the Kickstarter documentary, two clips from the feature, and then cap it off with the world premiere of the trailer.  Unfortunately, we had some technical glitches with the trailer that had to be resolved.  We had a very frustrated audience after this exciting buildup of anticipation - so we showed the first 30 seconds of the three-minute trailer - then the monitors turned off the DVD automatically because our time was up.

The disappointed audience was about to riot, but I told them "It's OK, you can see the whole trailer online in an hour."  I then raced back to my booth to give everyone a free sketch and hopefully sell a few DVDs.  Then later on Thursday afternoon, my short film "Summer Bummer" screened in the Comic-Con Indepedent Film Festival, so I attended the screening at the Marriott Hotel and took some questions from the audience there.

One of the new features for me this Comic-Con was to offer prints of images from CHEATIN'.  They look very cool and sell like proverbial hotcakes.  We did a lot better this year than any previous year, so it looks like the recession is over in Geek world - yeah!

The best part of "the Con" is meeting all the great talents that stop by my booth - here are a few of the celebs that came to say hello: "Simpsons" director David Silverman, artist George Perez, Sergio Aragones, Tony Millionaire, Ruth Clampett, actor Irwin Keyes and artist Robert Williams.

                                                     Bill with "Simpsons' director David Silverman.

with comic-book artist George Perez

with MAD Magazine's Sergio Aragones

with "Maakies" cartoonist Tony Millionaire

  with Ruth Clampett, daughter of legendary animator Bob Clampett

                                          with "House of 1000 Corpses" actor Irwin Keyes

                                       with artist and JUXTAPOZ founder Robert Williams

                       with noisy neighbor Spike Decker of Spike & Mike's Animation festival

And then, to top it all off, I received the prestigious "Best Animation" award at the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival for my short "Summer Bummer".  For about 15 years, I've been trying to win this damn award, and every year I've gone to the awards ceremony and walked away empty-handed.  This year, I said "To hell with it, I'm not going to be disappointed again!"  Negativity does mean things to an artist's soul.

But, lo and behold, as I was sitting in my booth on Sunday, Gary Sassaman, the director of the festival, came by with a very sour face.  I thought, "Uh oh, he's angry that I refused to attend the ceremony..."  He gave me a dirty look, then thrust the beautiful trophy into my face - I won!  Whoopee, life is good!

                                                Bill with Gary Sassaman, director of the CCIIFF.

                         Bill with the "Best Animation" trophy from the Comic-Con Film Festival.

So, my next stop will be the New York Comic Con in October - see you there!


                                         Bill being interviewed by HBO Latino camera crew.

                          Bill with animator Emily Eslinger, who designed the "Tiffany" stuffed toys.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pacific Rim

About four years ago, I got a late-night phone call from the great Guillermo Del Toro - I thought, "How cool is this, the director of "Pan's Labyrinth" and the "Hellboy" films wants to work with me on his next film!  He said a lot of nice things about my work and then moved on to the reason for calling me - he wanted to do a voice for "The Simpsons" and needed Matt Groening's phone number.

Typical - why does everyone think I have Matt's number?  The only times I see him are at animation events - the Annies, Comic-Con, the Annecy festival - so I sadly told him that I didn't have Matt's personal number, and that was the last I heard from "Mr. Bull".

Then, last week I saw his new film "Pacific Rim", his labor of love that finally hit the big screen.

First, the bad news.  There are a number of facets of the film that I have problems with, such as: 

1) Why do they need to build these giant robots ("Jaegers") to fight the Godzilla-like monsters, when an attack helicopter, jet fighter or even a drone plane could incinerate them in seconds? 

2) Why couldn't a nuclear submarine eliminate these "Kaiju" as they escaped from their breach (a fissure in the ocean's bottom)?

3) Why did two of the stars who are antagonists look exactly alike?  Were they twins?  It was very confusing to tell who was who.

4) Why was it impossible to understand anything that is said in the film?

5) What's the reason they needed two people to run these Jaegers?  It seems that coordinating the legs, arms, eyes, weapons systems would be doubly impossible.  They showed one operator with gouged retinas - I didn't get the connection.

OK, now the good news.  "Pacific Rim" is the most fun, kick-ass film I've seen all year.  It makes "Transformers" look like a bad 1950's TV show.  The look, the character designs, the imagination, the battle scenes and the humor are all wondrous. 

Plus, Ron Perlman is hilarious as a sleazy con-man/body parts salesman. 

This film is a geek's delight!  It's going to make a fortune.

I give it an "A".

--Bill Plympton

Monday, July 15, 2013


People always ask me, "Bill, how do you get funny ideas?"  And one of my classic responses is, I take a cliché and reverse it - I've done many films using that formula. 

The most successful is probably my short "The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger".  The cliché in that film is that all cows eventually end up as hamburgers and steaks, and justly should fear the processing plant.  But I took that and reversed it into a cow that was actually excited about becoming a fast food burger. 

So, if you ever run out of ideas, just use the old "reverse the cliché" technique.  Remember the vegetarian sharks in "Finding Nemo"?  Or the two kind old ladies in Frank Capra's great film "Arsenic and Old Lace" that were maniacal killers? 

Well, I just saw the new Dreamworks animated feature "Turbo" and they used my formula for a wonderful result.  The basic story is about a clichéd slowpoke snail who, through a bizarre nitrous oxide accident, acquires super-speed abilities that let him race in the Indy 500.

It's a very far-fetched concept, yet it was written and directed so well that the total absurdity of the idea really paid off. 

Visually, however, the film was not so special.  The other snails had very bland designs - snails are actually very beautiful animals, and they missed an opportunity to create some very cool mollusks.  The humans also were examples of mediocre design, and almost all of them were fat - what's going on with the fat people in L.A.?

But, all in all, I had a great time.  Because the story was so far-fetched, I give "Turbo" a "B-".


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Wilhelm M. Busch Sketches..

I knew of Busch's drawings, but never matched the name to the artist. I was browsing the amazing deja view blog, and these illustrations just jumped out at me. Amazing stuff. So, of course, there's just too many of his sketches to post here, enjoy some of my favorites..

Friday, July 12, 2013

San Diego Comic-Con, July 17-21

I've been going to "The Con" for about 15 years, and it's always one of my favorite events.

I get to see what all my buddies in illustration and graphic novels are up to - I get to check out their new work and perhaps steal some cool ideas for me films.

Again this year, we'll be situated in what we jokingly call "Animation Alley" - we're usually next to Animation Magazine, ASIFA-Hollywood, Ralph Bakshi Studios and of course the legendary Spike & Mike booth featuring the outrageous Spike Decker.  (If you can do enough push-ups for him, he may give you a free gift!)

Plymptoons Studio will have a lot of cool things going on as well.  My short film "Summer Bummer" will be playing in the Comic-Con Film Festival on Thursday, July 18 at around 3:40 pm in Marriott Hall 2, at the San Diego Marriott Marquis (this is just north of the Convention Center, close to Hall A).

I'm also hosting an amazing panel on Kickstarter and the funding of my new feature film CHEATIN', and everyone who attends will get a free Bill Plympton sketch.  You don't want to miss that!  That will take place on Thursday, July 18 at 12 noon in Room 23ABC.

Also, I'll be showing my new short film "Drunker Than a Skunk" on Friday night at the Spike & Mike Sick & Twisted Gauntlet of Animation: 9:30 pm, Room 6BCF.

But the coolest thing about Comic-Con is that I'll be premiering my new DVD "Dogs & Cows" that contains all my recent shorts, including "The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger", "Waiting For Her Sailor", "Summer Bummer", "Guard Dog Global Jam", and the brand-new, award-winning "Drunker Than a Skunk".  Also included is "Tiffany the Whale", my latest attempt at a TV pilot, and "Gary Guitar", another pilot I did for Nickelodeon that was not picked up.  And in the bonus features, there may be some animation that I'm not allowed to show, but I decided to sneak it in anyway...stop by Booth #1537 and I'll tell you what it is.

The second cool attraction is - for the first time, we'll be selling high-quality reproductions of art from the new feature CHEATIN'.  In the past, you could only buy original animation art from our booth for $200 or $300 - now you can obtain very cool signed Plympton artwork for 1/10 of the cost!

So, please stop by our booth, #1537, and tell us you read Scribble Junkies, and I'll give you a free sketch.

See you at Comic-Con!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Shins.. Rifle's Spiral..

Great song, excellent animation.. if you haven't already seen this gem, enjoy.

The Shins : The Rifle's Spiral from Jamie Caliri on Vimeo.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Bill with his son Lucas at Lac D'Annecy

I departed for Annecy with mixed emotions this year – after all, it was a year of major changes. 
The iconic Bonlieu Centre, where all the action usually takes place, was being torn down to be replaced by a larger and hopefully more beautiful structure. Some say the new theatre complex will be finished next year and some say in two years – who knows, with French construction workers?

The other new kink was the fact that celebrated artistic director Serge Bromberg was leaving after 15 wonderful years, to be replaced by Marcel Jean. So, naturally, I felt that this would be a transitional year.

My wife Sandrine and I arrived just in time to go to the opening night event, taking place in the freshly-constructed hybrid tent cinema. The opening film was the long anticipated Pixar sequel "Monsters University", directed by Dan Scanlon, along with the new Pixar short "Blue Umbrella". The 6-minute film by Saschka Unseld had a very different look from all of the former Pixar shorts, a lot more realistic, and the love story involving two colored umbrellas in a rainstorm has certain similarities to last year's Oscar winner, "Paperman".
"Monsters University" was a bit disappointing – for me there were too many extraneous characters to get emotionally involved, and the colors, especially the backgrounds on the campus grounds, were too neon bright, which made it hard to enjoy the beautiful design and follow the characters. 
The next morning was my panel on crowd funding and Kickstarter – once again it was a packed house (I hosted a similar panel in Stuttgart). After years of sucking off the government teat, the Europeans are mad for a more democratic and perhaps hassle-free way to raise money to make films.

Tuesday afternoon was the Competition Shorts screening #2, and my film "Drunker Than a Skunk" was in that group, so Sandrine and I needed to attend to present the film. The program started off promisingly enough – meaning that the films were not that good and hence the audience would love our film. All the early films in the program were abstract or avant-garde, therefore not crowd-pleasers. Then came "Betty's Blues", a wonderful ode to Southern blues music that had a terrific style – then "Drunker" came on and we got a very nice reaction. We felt we were looking good for Awards Night.

Then came Chris Landreth's unmemorably named "Subconscious Password", a totally delightful and bold CG film starring Chris and the enigmatic John Dilworth. Well, then I knew our awards chances just flew out the window. Oh, well, once I knew I didn't have to worry about awards, I could just enjoy the week and relax.

My next event was a work-in-progress screening of my new feature, "Cheatin'". There was a really good buzz going about this film, so tickets were very hard to get and a lot of people asked me to sneak them in.

I showed some pencil tests and finished scenes, drew some of the character designs and talked about the production. The audience applauded throughout (which I loved) and then I moved to a table just outside the exit, next to a beautiful creek, and gave everyone in line a free sketch – which took about an hour.

Bill Plympton with Chris Landreth

For the past seven years, I've been presenting the "Annecy Plus" show, first with Pat Smith, but now with Nik and Nancy Phelps. It's been a smashing success, and this year we were forced to relocate the popular event to the wonderful Café des Arts in Old Town. We promoted the hell out of it, and the weather was perfect – so we had high hopes for a big success. Unfortunately, there was no movie screen!

Jonas Raeber, the projectionist and sound man, was able to "borrow" two large sheets from his hotel. Another problem – the door with access to the balcony, where we wanted to hang the sheets, was locked with no key. So, two drunk Indian animators volunteered to leap from an open window across to the balcony – a real Jackie Chan-type moment. I had visions of a terrible accident, and me spending three years in French courts fighting a lawsuit, but the dashing Indian succeeded, and he had free beers all night.

So Nik Phelps and his band kicked off the evening with some lively music, and we began the show. Then, the next tragedy struck. Even though Virginia, the proprietor of the bar, had gotten permission from the city council to hold a late-night screening, there was a rave the night before and it created such a ruckus that her permit was revoked. Thus we had to turn the sound off at 10 pm, and the problem with that was that it didn't get dark until 9:30. So the audience only heard 1 out of the 4 programs – the last three were silent. Quel dommage. 

Bill Plympton with Titmouse’s Chris Prynoski

However, there was enough beer and wine for everyone, and a good time was had by all. The Annecy Plus winning film, by the way, was "Super" by Johan Klungel. As for the Annecy Animation Festival awards show, it was a happy affair with nice weather, and Serge showed up to give out the awards with Marcel Jean. The big winner of the evening, and justifiably so, was "Subconscious Password" by Chris Landreth. He gave a great speech, then we all went to party at the Palais, where I got to visit with Eric Goldberg, Bill Kroyer, Chris Prynoski of Titmouse Studios, Dominique Puthod, the president of the festival, Chel White, and Michaela Pavlatova, last year's winner with "Tram".

The good news was that everyone was talking about "Cheatin'", so chances are good it will be in competition next year in Annecy. See you all there!

Bill Plympton 

Dominique Puthod (Annecy Festival President), his wife Catherine, Bill and Sandrine Plympton