It's a very exciting time for me - "Idiots and Angels" is out there getting distribution, making sales all over Europe (although we still don't have a U.S. distributor) and my "Dog Days" DVD is a big success - selling like the proverbial hotcakes.
But the most exciting news is that I've started on my new animated feature film. And so far, it looks great. I've shown the pencil tests of the opening 10 minutes to a number of test audiences, and they all love it. The working title is now "Cheatin'" and you can now see clips on YouTube, just search on "Bill Plympton" and "Cheatin'".
But let's start this edition of the scrapbook back in July, when I went to the Animator Festival in Poznan, Poland. I'd heard about this festival for a while - in fact, a year earlier, my wonderful producer, Biljana Labovic, went to present "Idiots and Angels" there, and she raved about the event. So, I decided to attend this year.
It's a very well-run festival, with packed houses, which I always enjoy, and it's in a beautiful historic city. I did my Master Class and screened a number of my features, including "The Tune", "Hair High" and "Mutant Aliens".
The programming was very adventurous, lots of abstract and avant-garde films, and even live-action films. They had a special retrospective on Roland Topor (he's my hero), showing some of his shorts like "The Snail" and his feature "Fantastic Planet", then the live-action feature "The Tenant", based on Topor's novel and directed by, and starring Roman Polanski.
Also included in the animation program were old friends David Ehrlich, Emily Hubley and Piotra Dumalo. They also presented a special display of historic magic lanterns and their projections. To top it off, at the entrance to their concert stage, they had a Mohammed-like statue hanging from a large hang-glider that looked to be an oversized brassiere. I highly recommend this festival - it has great and varied programming, musical parties every night, and the city and people were wonderful.
I just learned of the death of one of my heroes, Heinz Edelmann - he was an artist who was very publicity-shy, yet he happened to have designed one of my all-time favorite films, "Yellow Submarine."
His life is an amazing story. He was a magazine illustrator who was thrust into the hurry-up job of designing characters for the famous 1968 film starring the Beatles. Milton Glaser, the famed N.Y. illustrator had originally been commissioned to design the film, but his schedule was too busy, so he recommended Heinz.
I've seen the film a number of times and I'm always blown away by the charming and colorful designs of the characters and landscapes. I met the Stuttgart-based designer when he came to the School of Visual Arts a few years ago. In fact, I also met another of my heroes that night - the guy who invited Heinz to New York, Milton Glaser.
Mr. Edelmann was a shy and kind guy, with no attitude at all. He was standing by himself at the gallery reception, like no one knew who he was. So I was able to have a nice long talk with him. I asked him why he never went into the cartoon business, and he said that he hated animation, and that he preferred illustration and design. The tight deadlines and all-night design sessions for "Yellow Submarine" must have burnt him out.
It's strange that whenever I mention his name, few people recognize it or are aware of his contribution to animation history. Most people believe that Peter Max created "Yellow Submarine" - a fact that Mr. Max never denies.
It's also strange how the month of July had such a rush of celebrity deaths - Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon, and Walter Cronkite. Since I was a caricature artist in the earlier days of my career, I was able to locate several of these drawings and put them up for sale on the internet. In fact, the first book I ever published, "Tube Strips" (Smyrna Press, 1978) had my caricature of Walter Cronkite on the cover, and he and his wife and daughter came to my book party.
Another death that affected me strongly was David Carradine's. Apparently there are some gruesome photos of his death on the web - I'm really not interested in seeing how he died.
But through my beautiful and talented cousin, Martha Plimpton (the star of Broadway), David, her uncle, was kind enough to do a starring voice in my wonderful film "Hair High." He came to a voice studio in L.A. and I only had one hour with each actor, since there were 10 actors and a very limited budget. He arrived right on time, but went straight to the bathroom - and as the precious minutes ticked away, and he failed to emerge, I started to get nervous. What was he doing in there? Finally, with only 15 minutes left in the session, out he came - he stumbled and then fell to the floor. I helped him up and escorted him to the microphone - he was ready to read, yay!
Then he pulled out a cigarette and lit up. The sound engineer freaked out, "What are you doing? Do you want to bring the fire marshall here?" So they escorted David out to the parking lot to finish his cigarette, and I was getting really nervous. I joined him outside and encouraged him to douse the cigarette, but he began to tell me stories of his famous father, John Carradine, and John "Duke" Wayne and John Ford. They were great stories, but by this time the next actor had shown up and was anxious to start.
So, David finally finished his smoke, and addressed the microphone with 5 minutes to go. He nailed 5 pages of dialogue in one take, and it was the best take of the day. That man was truly an inspired professional.
In July, I flew out to San Diego for my annual Comic-Con appearance. The convention center was packed, as usual. We shared the Plymptoons booth with Alexia Anastasia and Kevin Sean Michaels, who are making a documentary about me. They also have a wonderful line of genre movies that they've produced, so check out their stuff.
In any case, we brought a large number of the new "Dog Days" DVDs to sell, and they were extremely popular, which was a very pleasant surprise. I also hosted a panel, to a packed house - and they loved the pencil test clip of my new feature "Cheatin'", and of course my short film "Santa, the Fascist Years."
Tom Sito, the famed animator, invited me to the Disney party. Wow, I was so excited, I got to meet all the great Disney talent and hang out with the creme de la creme of animation. So I entered the party and introduced myself, and everyone says, "Wow, Bill Plympton is here!" and soon they all wanted to meet me! What the hell, who am I? I'm just a small indie animator trying to get by - and these guys show their films in thousands of cinemas all over the world, making billions of dollars. I'm lucky if I can get my film into 10 cinemas in the U.S. - it doesn't make sense.
In any case, I had a great time hanging out with Eric Goldberg and Tom Kenny, and all the other great artists there. Some of the other people I got to chat with at Comic-Con were Peter DeSeve, Kevin Eastman, Mike Richardson, Matt Groening, and Lloyd Kaufman. And then as I was packing up to leave, the great John Landis, director of "National Lampoon's Animal House" walked by with his entourage. We intercepted him and dragged him to our booth to give him a "Dog Days" DVD - he said he was a big fan of my work, he posed for a picture and we talked about animation - what a great guy!
From San Diego, I flew to Portland for a week of family stuff - but while I was there, I was able to get a tour of the huge facilities at Laika Studios. At one time, they had 30 camera set-ups while they were working on the film "Coraline." I met with the head of the studio and pitched a couple of project ideas, but no luck - I don't really understand why I have such a hard time with Hollywood - I love Hollywood films, I believe my films could be very commercial. My favorite director is Frank Capra!
But for whatever reason, the Hollywood people all stay away from me. Do they think I'm a sex fiend? That I'm hard to work with? I'm too old? I don't get it - I've made over 30 very successful shorts, received 2 Oscar nominations, and made 6 animated features. What I've done in the last 20 years has never been equalled, ever! So why is Hollywood afraid of me?
We're now in the depths of a recession, and I'm feeling the money crunch just like everyone else - I haven't had a commercial job in over a year and a half, all my income is derived from sales of "Idiots and Angels" overseas, and DVD sales of my shorts - so we decided in August to have a fund-raising party to celebrate the release of my "Dog Days" DVD. It was a big success, since people love the new DVD collection - we had a packed house and almost sold out of our first print run of "Dog Days".
In fact, dear reader, if you'd like to get a copy, please go to the Merchandise section of Plymptoons.com - you'll love the DVD, it's got all the best films I've made in the last 5 years, including "The Fan and the Flower", "Shuteye Hotel", "Santa, the Fascist Years", all my "Dog" films, and my music video for Kanye West's "Heard 'em Say."
Speaking of Kanye West, he recently caused a furor with his appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards, interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech. Now people are talking about boycotting his work.
The timing couldn't be worse - last year Kanye and I created a book together, called "Through the Wire". It's a beautiful book, I made 12 large illustrations of Kanye's favorite songs, then he talked about the origin and meaning of the songs.
Kanye is an angel to work with - very smart and visual, and he knows what he wants. It was a great experience to work with him, so I don't understand why gets involved in all these fiascos.
Anyway, the book will be out in November, through Simon and Shuster. So please look for it, and don't boycott Kanye West.
I want to mention a few more festivals I attended, the Martha's Vineyard Film Festival, and the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Martha's Vineyard Film Festival is one of my favorites, it's a well-run festival in a great location, with super audiences and fabulous parties, organized by the ever-popular Richard Paradise. Signe Baumane and I put on an animation gala there every year, and it's become quite popular.
This year, we met a sailor at one of the after-parties, so Lisa Labracio and Aaron Hughes and I went sailing and swimming for an afternoon - it was the highlight of the weekend - that's what great about film festivals.
I just returned from the Sidewalk Festival in Birmingham. I'd heard good things about this festival from a number of people, so I decided to check it out. As you may remember, Birmingham was the center of civil rights protests in the 1960's and 70's - in fact it was the site of a famous church bombing that killed four little girls - and they built a wonderful memorial park dedicated to that horrible time.
But I must say, I've never been in a town or at a film festival where everyone was so polite and friendly. It's a very clean and quiet city, and the festival audiences were huge - every show I went to was sold out.
Some of the highlights for me were "The Best Worst Movie", a documentary about "Troll 2", the worst film ever made - it was hilarious. Then they showed "Troll 2" the next night. Certainly, it's a very badly-made film, but the technical qualities were very good - I still believe that "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is worse.
Then I watched "We Live in Public", a film about the dot-com genius Josh Harris, who made a billion dollars on the internet - then blew it on an experimental urban video commune. He then kicked everyone else out and just lived there with his girlfriend, Tanya Corrin (an old friend of mine) in the loft, with 37 cameras broadcasting their daily lives throughout the world over the web. A very powerful and emotional film.
Another great film I saw - "Dead Snow", a Swedish gore film about Zombie Nazis - it had a great sense of humor, similar to Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive." The audience went nuts for it.
The only complaint I have about the Sidewalk Festival was that because it's so warm in the summertime there, they crank up the air conditioning in the theaters to create meat-locker temperatures, and as a result I caught a nasty cold.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Woodstock Film Festival - they say I was part of the second festival, so I guess I've been attending for nine years now. Signe Baumane and I have been programming and selecting the winning animated shorts for eight years, and we've had a ball. This year the film selection was excellent. The status of the Woodstock Film Festival has been raised so high now due to the wonderful guidance of Meira Blaustein and Laurent Rejto, and the presence of great filmmakers and actor like Ethan Hawke, Vera Farmiga, Richard Linklater, Leon Gast, Barbara Kopple and Lucy Liu.
But the highlight was the amazing panel of women at the promotional Q & A for the film "Motherhood", with the likes of Mira Nair, Katherine Dieckmann, Uma Thurman and Signe Baumane. The conversation was all about feminism and how women are doing everything. Then Signe, who was basically ignored because she makes short animated films, spoke up and said that she likes men and that men are important to her films. Then she started talking about how wearing panties is optional, and she swerved into the controversial topic of pussy juice - that's when the entire panel went berserk. They could never get back on the feminist track after her pussy-juice declaration. Signe was exactly what the panel needed to make it interesting and controversial.
This week's cartoon from "Sloppy Seconds" is page 49 - this was done for one of the sex magazines - Hustler or Screw, I don't remember. Anyway, you can always get big laughs from large breasts, and this cartoon was one of my most popular.
I personally like to sit in the back of the seating area, not because of breast attacks, but because I also like to watch the other customers.
See you next time, Bill!