Bill Plympton's The Tune
New Video // Unrated // $26.95 // July 27, 2004
Review by John Sinnott | posted July 31, 2004
Highly Recommended
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Graphical Version
The Movie:

Bill Plympton has created some of the most humorous and odd animation ever to be put to film.  He is best known for his award winning shorts especially Your Face, 25 Ways Stop Smoking, How to Kiss, and the decidedly bizarre One of Those DaysThe Tune is Plympton's first feature length feature, a movie that he produced and animated by himself, drawing a reported 30,000 images.  Though this is longer than the work that he'd previoulsy done, The Tune is chocked full of Plympton's surrealistic humor and skewed look at life.

Poor Del is a song writer, and he just can't come up with a new song.  He boss, Mr. Mega, gives him 47 minutes to come up with the greatest song ever or he's fired.  His job at stake, Del hops in his car and rushes over to Mr. Mega's office, but takes the wrong exit and ends up in the town of Flooby Nooby.  This town is quite unlike anything Del's ever seen before.  It is an odd musical village where pillow sing you to sleep at night and the mailmen back flip down the street.  The mayor of Flooby Nooby escorts the young song writer on a tour of the town where Del finds many strange characters along with different types of music; country and western, 50's rock, surf music, and blues among others.  But will all of this musical inspiration allow Del to create a hit song in the time remaining?

This movie is really a series of music videos that are strung together.  Bill Plympton's original idea was to animate a song, release it as a short, then use funds generated from that to animate the next one.  Luckily he was hired to do a series of TV commercials, and the money he made from those paid for the entire feature.  Even so, this movie feels like separate parts strung together by a linking device rather than a single movie.  That's not bad necessarily since all of the individual songs are pretty interesting by themselves.  Plympton's trademark of having people and objects morph from one thing to another is present throughout most of the songs, as is his surrealistic sense of humor.  The strangeness knob was certainly turned up to 10 when he was writhing this feature.  Among other things there is a hotel that features the "fat falling pig suite," and the "laugh yourself to death suite," a dog does an Elvis impersonation, and people change size and shape while they do the tango.  Near the end of the film is a hilarious argument between to business men who settle their differences by trading various tortures.

This movie is just as entertaining as Plympton's shorts.  Each song has wildly creative visuals to accompany the music, and much of it is very humorous.  But the humor isn't all visual.  Plympton fills the movie with strange jokes and puns.  For example, after seeing the local sage Del complains that he didn't understand a word that was said.  "Of course not," his guide replies, "he's the wise one, not you."

Some of the scenes in this movie are laugh out loud funny, and others are just amusingly odd, but the entire film is visually entertaining.  Plympton is one of the most creative and funny people working in animation today, and this is a great example of his eminently enjoyable work.

The DVD:


This DVD has a stereo soundtrack without subtitles.  The movie sounds good but I was hoping for a little more dynamic soundtrack, especially during the many songs.   The songs are clear with the dialog comes through clearly, but it just doesn't have a lot of punch to it.  There was just a slight amount of distortion in a couple of instances, and the last song comes across a little muddled.  Still, this DVD sounds adequate.


The full frame video looks very good, especially for an independent production.  The lines were tight and the colors bright.  There was excellent detail and definition.  A fine looking disk.


This DVD is packed with extras, much more content that I was expecting from an independent feature.  The disc has a great commentary from Bill Plympton and composer Maureen McElheron.  They discuss the making of the film and the sources of inspiration for all of the different songs.  They manage to talk through the while film without ever becoming boring or dull.  They do a good job.

There is also an excellent documentary included on this disc: Twisted Toons: The Warped Animation of Bill Plympton.  This hour long featurette looks at Bill's surrealistic animation but focuses on The Tune.  There are interviews with several of Plympton's friends including Simpson's creator Matt Groening.  Bill himself talks about the making fo the film and how he came up with the money to make a feature film all by himself.  This documentary is very interesting and informative, something fans of Plympton's work should make a point of seeing.

In additon there are audio tracks for the two original songs in the tune; Isn't if Good Again and Flooby Nooby.  Two photo galleries are included, one containing Bill Plymton's family photos and another with storyboard illustrations used to make the movie.  Lastly there is a trailer for Hair High, as well as a text biography

Final Thoughts:

Bill Plympton makes wonderfully surreal cartoons that are both entertaining and interesting to watch.  The Tune is no exception, being an amusing and funny trip through a strange musical land.  I wasn't sure if Plypmton's humor could carry a feature length film, but it did so easily.  Plympton fans won't be disappointed.  In addition to the great movie, the disc is jam packed with extras, making this a disc that animation fans should be sure to pick up.  Highly Recommended.

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