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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Plymptoons: The Complete Early Works of Bill Plympton
Plymptoons: The Complete Early Works of Bill Plympton
New Video // Unrated // March 28, 2006
List Price: $26.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted April 4, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

If you're familiar with Billy Plympton then you know him as a unique artist with a dynamic style. His art could easily be considered "lively" thanks to the scribbled appearance, sporadic animation, and colored pencil that is employed. He is best known for his animated shorts and once you see a few of them you'll realize that his creativity defies conventionalism. Because of this he has garnered a lot of recognition and praise from critics. A couple of his pieces have even been nominated for Academy Awards.

His animations employ an excessive amount of disfigurement and slapstick violence most of the time. He always seems to think outside of the box to say the least and his works helped define a portion of the MTV generation. He did a few clips for them in the late 80s and early 90s for things like a message about acid rain to shorts that told the tale of the previous lives for Eddie Van Halen and Rod Stewart.

Plymptoons: The Complete Early Works of Billy Plympton is a new release that catalogs 23 of his pieces from 1977 to the very early 90s. The collection is balanced between animated shorts, commercials, and his bits from MTV. Those of you who may have purchased the first DVD Plymptoons: Special Edition from 2002 may want to tread softly because many of the selections are repeated in the new release. Regardless this is a great disc with a look at Plympton's art from the very beginning.

Things get started humbly with "Self Portrait", "The Turn On", and "Lucas the Ear of Corn" but gradually get more involved once "Boomtown" hits. That particular short involves a political landscape with symbolic commentary about the Cold War. I've never been particularly into political satire but I appreciate the manner in which Plympton got his point across. Fortunately I found "Drawing Lessons #2" to be more attractive to a wider audience. The story for that short follows the life of a magical line. He begins by showing you how to draw simple shapes and eventually goes into his love for a shapely woman. Heartbreak eventually strikes for our friend but his optimism keeps him going.

More recognizable from Plympton is "Your Face" which was actually nominated for an Academy Award in 1987. Its simple design features a man singing "Your Face is like a song." As the song progresses his face gets more distorted and rearranged like a Picasso. It twists, contorts, implodes, and does all manner of unrealistic animations. It's perfectly symbolic of what you can expect from Plympton and easy to see why it was nominated for an Oscar.

"One of those Days" is another of my favorite Plympton animated shorts. It takes you through the routine of a man from his perspective. He starts out his morning by shaving and slicing off his nose but eventually moves onto setting his arm on fire and blowing up a vacuum cleaner. My favorite bit is when he goes over to kiss the beautiful neighbor over the fence only get punched by her significant other. This was one of the more enjoyable shorts on the disc though it's not as funny as "25 Ways to Quit Smoking".

Kicking the habit can be tough, but Plympton's ideas warrant further inspection. After all if you were to light up only to have a sumo wrestler fall on top of you, you may think twice. It just keeps escalating as the film progresses and each topic gets more insane and hilarious. These particular ones were my favorites that were included on the disc but "Plymptoons", "How to Kiss", and "245 Days" were nearly as good. If you're a fan of Plympton's artwork and you don't have the prior release then you'll definitely want to check this out. Most of these are classic and of great quality though it does leave you wanting to see some of his more recent productions.

The Plymptoons:

Self Portrait
The Turn On
Lucas, the Ear of Corn
Boomtown
Drawing Lesson #2
Your Face
Love in the Fast Lane
One of Those Days
How to Kiss
25 Ways to QuiteSmoking
245 Days
Noodle Ear
Human Rights
Environmentl" Acid Rain Spot
Trivial Pursuit #1 & #2
Sugar Delight #1 & #2
Previous Lives #1 & #2
Plymptoons
At the Zoo
America Upper and Lower Class

The DVD:

Video:

The material on Plymptoons: The Complete Early Works of Billy Plympton covers the better part of nearly 15 years. Needless to say the video quality of such varies greatly. It goes from being extremely poor with a lot of dirt in the material to being fairly decent in the blink of an eye, but the progression in quality does go in order of the disc. Plympton's art style isn't the cleanest out there anyway, so I suppose you could argue that it matches his charm.

Audio:

The audio is presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. With that in mind I didn't go in expecting to have my socks blown off so I left with a fair impression. There isn't a great variety in the soundstage and often times the volume pitch is all over the map. Again just like the video quality it's easy to understand due to the age of most of the material. No subtitles are offered.

Extras:

A decent selection of bonus content awaits the Plympton fan looking for more than just the animated shorts. There is a "sketch" gallery that is really just a collection of still images from "Your Face", "25 Ways to Quit Smoking", and "One of Those Days." A nice little featurette is included that follows Plympton through his creative drawing process. It wasn't anything too involved, but it was nice to see the man in action. The most prominent extra is a twenty minute interview called "Sunday with Bill". I found this interesting because he goes into the details about his art style and even shows some animated rarities.

Final Thoughts:

Plymptoons: The Complete Early Works of Billy Plympton is a compilation that will be most appreciated by fans of the man's films. Plympton's art style is unique, creative, and takes on a life all its own. My only real beef with this collection is that it feels more like a double dip than something fresh. It would have been nice if his more recent works were included as well but in case you missed the IndieDVD release from 2002 this will suit your needs.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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