Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bette Davis Animated Interview.. PBS's Blank on Blank series..

We're starting our third season of Blank on Blank, and this weeks animation features Bette Davis. This was a particularly interesting one to draw mostly because of the black and white old cinema feel.  I loved drawing her heavy eyes and aloof attitude.  Also, her words were filled with visual imagery opportunities. These episodes go a lot smoother when the subject speaks in a way that can be illustrated graphically.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Penthouse magazine

For those of you who have read my books or my biography, you probably know about my illustration history.  But for those of you who haven't, I got my illustration career started by drawing cartoons for men's magazines.

I started with Screw and worked my way up through Knave, Adelina, Hustler, Penthouse Letters and Penthouse Forum, and finally Playboy and Penthouse.  Of course, once I moved into making films, I ended my career as a porn cartoonist.

Recently I was asked by Penthouse magazine to direct a nude photo spread called "Pop Shots", where they invite well-known artistic celebrities to create a sexy section in the magazine.  The other contributors are famous tattoo artists, musicians, actors, etc.

Since I've created many sexy stories for my cartoons, I used the scenario of a woman who goes on a date to a drive-in cinema, and gleefully takes on numerous men, including actors from the movie - only instead of real male porn actors, I used some of my own cartoon characters, who would appear to be having sex with a live female model.

They asked me to supervise the shoot in L.A. on their large film studio (they also shoot films in these facilities).  So I made my selection from a group of local L.A. models.  I wanted a "va-va-voom" type actress, like a Jayne Mansfield or Jessica Rabbit type, however, the ones they initially showed me weren't exaggerated enough.

My first pick couldn't do it because she got married and found religion - too bad, because she had enormous breasts.  So I went with my second choice, who was blonde and looked great!

I flew out there in late August, and met the model.  A couple of problems popped up, she looked a lot older than the photos I'd seen, also she had more tattoos than I remembered from the photos.  I became very nervous, plus it was taking hours for her to get ready.  Damn, was this whole project a big mistake?  Had it become a failed wet dream?

After the first few shots, I saw how perfect she was, and my fears happily disappeared.  The shoot was a big success and a great learning experience for me.  In fact, this was one of my boyhood fantasies come true.

I've just received the finished shots, and now I have to fill in the cartoon drawings for this "backseat fuck fest".  It should appear in the December issue of Penthouse - so check your local newstand in a month or two.

The editors wanted to try something different for the magazine to attract younger readers - and I think my photo spread is definitely very different.  If you like it, be sure to let the editors of Penthouse know - then I may do a sequel!


Bill Plympton

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Boxtrolls

Laika Studios and I go way back - as you may know, they started out as Will Vinton Studios, and Will got forced out by Phil Knight in a hostile takeover.  Phil's talented son Travis is now the head of the studio and they've made some fantastic films - like "Coraline" and "Paranorman". 

Their new film, "The Boxtrolls", is adapted from a children's book called "Here Be Monsters" by Alan Snow.  I was invited to a special screening of the film, with the directors, Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, and also Travis Knight in attendance. 

First of all, I loved the look and the animation - a lot of the character designs were done by the legendary Mike Smith.  And the stop-motion animation, led by Travis, was a knockout.

My only complaint was the story.  I really didn't feel the love for the Boxtrolls, underground midget creatures who scavenged for their creature comforts.  Unlike Disney's "Snow White", which brought a lot of personality and humor to the dwarfs, with "The Boxtrolls" I felt no real empathy or passion for these subterranean characters.

It's too bad, because the villains were really quite marvelous and enjoyable.  I especially liked the henchmen for the evil Boxtroll catcher, who were always justifying their evil deeds with questions like "We're really doing good here, aren't we?" or "We're really beneficial to society, aren't we?"  I've never seen ambiguous bad guys like these before - and it was very refreshing and humorous.

I don't know how much they spent on the film, but I do know they're spending a ton on publicity, because Laika needs this film to be a hit.  Although "Coraline" and "Paranorman" were critical successes, those films never made huge profits. 

The Variety review by Peter DeBruge was very critical, and I hope people find the cool stuff in the film - because I would love for it to be a success.  We need stop-motion animation, and another animation studio to give Pixar, Dreamworks and Blue Sky some competition. 

I give "The Boxtrolls" a B-.

Bill Plympton

Friday, September 12, 2014

Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival

One of the undiscovered gems on the film festival circuit is the Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival.  As I write this blog posting (September 8), I'm returning from the festival with a nice, sunny glow and sand in my shorts.

                                                      Bill + Lucas in Martha's Vineyard

I've been going to this festival for about 8 years and I've always enjoyed it.  But this year was the best!

Each year, the festival's charismatic executive director, Richard Paradise, invites me to put together a program of my favorite animated films of the year.  This year was the first time I appeared in his brand-new Martha's Vineyard Film Center, a glorious venue for foreign and independent films.

Even though it wasn't a sell-out audience, there was a very enthusiastic crowd - they yelled, clapped, moaned and whistled at all of the films.

                                                                  "The Monkey Rag"

I showed two of my own shorts - the music video "The Deep End", with music by Joe Cartoon, and my new short, "Footprints".  Also included was the wonderful music video "The Monkey Rag" by Joanna Davidovich, and one of my favorites, "Dam Keeper" by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi.  Also, "Car Park", a film about a barking dog in a car, which was the funniest film of the night.

                                                                       "Dam Keeper"

                                                                         "Car Park"

The audience favorite was "My Kingdom", by Debra Solomon, a film about living in a big city when you need your space.  Very wacky! 

                                                                  "My Kingdom"

If you want to go to a festival with beautiful surroundings, great parties, terrific films and a fun atmosphere, definitely check out the Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival, in lovely Vineyard Haven.  And tell them Bill Plympton sent you!

I give the MVIFF an "A"

--Bill Plympton

                                                     Having a great time at the MVIFF!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Rocks in my Pockets" premiere

If you've followed my conversations with Signe Baumane throughout the 3-year production of our feature films (my film "Cheatin'" and her film "Rocks in my Pockets"), then you know the history that's behind our friendly competition.  If not, check out our debates on my Vimeo page - http://vimeo.com/plymptoons - as we chat about our films and find out how we each have our own methods and ideas about making cartoons.

I entered "Cheatin'" in all the festivals I could, while Signe held out for one big festival, Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.  She returned from Europe with rave reviews and two festival prizes, plus her review in Variety was a lot better than mine. 

Signe made a film about a very dark subject, suicide, while mine is more of a romantic comedy.  Her film is chock-a-block with dialogue, while I told my story with visuals alone.

In any case, her feature "Rocks in my Pockets" opened September 3 at the IFC Center, with a rave review from the New York Times and packed houses.  And even though I have some issues with the movie, it's a real tour de force of animation about deep, dark family secrets and I wish her all the luck in the world.

I hope she makes a million, because she deserves it.  She worked her butt off making this film, with almost no budget, and I'd love nothing better than for her to become an animation superstar.

I give the film a "B" - it's playing in New York until September 18, and for screenings in other cities, please visit:


Bill P.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back in the USA..

It's been a long time for me. I'm thankful plympton is such a prolific blogger.. and I'm going to be better about posting now that I'm back in the USA, married, and living in New York.  I wanted to share an episode from my PBS series "Blank on Blank", that was recently ok'd to be released to film festivals.  "Philip Seymour Hoffman on Happiness" will have it's festival premiere at Woodstock Film Festival this October.  Both me and David Gerlach (executive producer) will be there.  Last week, Vimeo gave it a staff pick, click on the image and let me know what you think!
The third season of Blank on Blank begins next week!