It's pretty fair to say that Bill Plympton is the most successful
independent animator working today. He
is best known for his award winning shorts Your
Face, 25 Ways Stop Smoking, How to Kiss, and the decidedly bizarre One of Those Days as well as his feature
films The Tune, I Married a Strange
Person, and Hair High. His
work is chocked full of surrealistic
humor, sex, violence, and decidedly skewed look at life.
Now, at long last, comes a documentary about
the celebrated animator: Adventures in
Plymptoons. It's a great look at the
artist, and one that fans and those new to Plympton's work will enjoy.
Produced, directed, and co-edited by Alexia Anastasio, at
first glance this film feels like a typical documentary:
It has lots of famous people singing praises,
some amusing anecdotes about the subject, and clips of his work. It's not a typical docu however.
This film, like Plympton's cartoons, takes a
slightly off-center look that world and injects a good dollop of humor
proceedings. It starts with fellow
animator/director Terry Gilliam stating that he's only talking about
he's being paid, and then wondering when he'll get the check. It's a nice signal to viewers that they're in
for a unique look at a unique cartoonist.
Broken into chapters, much like Plympton's 25 Ways Stop
Smoking, the film looks at
the animator's beginnings, his early shorts, the features, and the
his own studio, but it's not a chronological walk through his life and
every short is mentioned. Instead it's a
free-flowing trip though Plympton's achievements as told by the man
a slew of famous fans and friends. Moby,
Ralph Bashi, Ed Begley Jr., "Weird" Al Yankovic, and many others make
appearances, but they don't necessarily talk about Plympton's work or
his influence. Yeah, there is a lot of
that, we get to hear
how he turned down a seven figure salary from Disney when they wanted
animate the Genie in Aladdin, how one
of his earliest shorts was nominated for an Academy Award, and how he
inspired to create some of his cartoons.
Even more though, we get to see The Toxic Avenger director and
grand poohbah Lloyd Kaufman sing a song about nasal hair with Bill, David Silverman who directed The Simpsons Movie plays
a song on
the tuba, and Ed Begley Jr. is really excited about the project until
it's a documentary about Bill Plympton, not Bill Clinton.
It's this odd, funny, quirky, style
that makes the film so much fun to watch.
The fact that there's a lot of footage of Bill talking about how
became an animator, some of the struggles he's had to face, and what he
about his job is just icing on the cake.
The documentary is also sprinkled with clips from Plympton's
which are always enjoyable.
The one critique I have is that it's
almost universally positive. There is
one film critic who slams Plympton's work, but it's not a real critic
Plympton himself playing his alter ego, W. P. Murton. I would have like to have seen some of the
abstract animators who were offended by Spiral interviewed to give a
feel to the film. It's a minor critique
though, and one that doesn't significantly mar the final product.
The stereo audio track is fine. It's a
documentary after all and most of the
time it's just people talking to the camera, so there's no real need
for a more
enveloping multi-speaker track.
The 16:9 anamorphic image looks good. A
lot of the people being interviewed are in
front of green screens with stills from Plympton's work put in as
post productions and it wasn't always a flawless insertion. Aside from that the picture is fairly sharp
and the colors are decent.
The disc also includes a few extras. There
is a theatrical trailer, a short pitch
for Plympton's book Make Toons that Sell
by the man himself, a quick look at his next feature, Cheatin',
and an overly-long look at Bill Plympton Day that was
hosted in Portland
Oregon. The best bonus
item was easily the
short, The Toonist, which tells how
Bill was on the Lusitania
with Windsor McKay when it sank and how the former survived. It's very amusing.
Fans of Bill Plympton should see this, as should animation
fans in general. If you've never run
across one of the man's decidedly odd cartoons, this would be a good
introduction to his work too. A very
enjoyable work that gets a strong recommendation.