I sincerely apologize for my tardiness in keeping up with my Plympton scrapbook - things just got out of hand. I got caught up in too many projects and had no time to write an update, as hopefully you'll understand when you read this installment.
October started out fine, I went to the Woodstock Film Festival - one of the great independent film festivals - I'm intimately involved because Signe Baumane (the diva of animation) and I program the animation section there. The animation screenings were packed, as usual, and the people seemed to love our selections. I was too fatigued for the party at Levon Helms' studio, so I stayed at the cabin/lodge - but it was a very chilly night, and I caught a cough.
The closing night ceremony was excellent - we gave awards to John Dilworth's wonderful film "Life in Transition" and to Andy London's "Back Brace". The party was fun, I got to chat with nice guy Steve Buscemi and the legendary John Sebastian, and Mike Lang, the producer of the famous 1969 Woodstock Festival of Art and Music.
A few days later, I was off to one of my favorite festivals, the Sitges Festival in Spain. It's in a beautiful little fishing village, just south of Barcelona, and the festival specializes in fantasy films. I've been going there since 1995.
Unfortunately, my cough had gotten a lot worse - it was hard for me to sleep, and the weather was uncharacteristically nasty - rain and wind. My schedule as a judge was very busy - we watched 4 or 5 films a day, and then met to discuss the films each night at dinner. I was joined on the jury by the wonderful critic Elvis Mitchell. I went to the "Flightplan" party and ran into my old buddy Quentin Tarantino and his posse. He's like a god in Spain, there are billboards all over the country with him promoting liquor, or cars or whatever. We chatted and caught up on animation gossip - he said he was a fan of my long-ago live-action film "J. Lyle".
We were soon joined by Jodie Foster and her bodyguards. She was there promoting "Flightplan", but as usual I couldn't hang out late because of my busy schedule, and my stupid cough.
I got to chat briefly with the Brothers Quay, they had their beautiful film "Piano Tuners of the Earthquake" - we gave that film a prize for visual effects. But we gave the grand prize to a fantastic film called "Hard Candy" - it's amazing, watch for it when it comes out this winter.
As many of you know, "Yellow Submarine" is one of my all-time favorite films - well, I was very excited when I went to an exhibition of Heinz Edelmann's art at the School of Visual Arts. Rumor was that the reclusive genius Heinz himself might make an appearance - and sure enough, there in the corner, standing by himself, was the master designer of "Yellow Submarine". I introduced myself to him and he actually has a copy of my feature "The Tune", which is like an American version of his classic musical in many ways. I know he hates to talk about his famed feature, and would rather talk about illustration.
Then I spotted the world-famous illustrator Milton Glazer - now this is the man that drew me to New York when I had just graduated from PSU. My goal was to study
with him at SVA, so I moved to New York in 1969. But I found out that I had enrolled in the daytime classes, and he only taught a special nighttime class - damn!
I was so nervous talking to this great master, but he put me at ease and seemed interested in my conversation. I asked him about the whole Peter Max vs. Heinz Edelmann debate, and his version goes something like this: he was contacted by Al Brodax, the producer of "Yellow Submarine", to design the film. He felt he was too busy to spend a year in London, and he recommended Mr. Edelmann (although he never met Heinz until that night at SVA). At the same time, Peter Max was a student intern-type at the famous Pushpin Studios, and was soon to become a famous new-age painter. When the film opened, Peter claimed to have influenced the design of the movie, when in fact he was influenced by Glazer and Edelmann - he's great at self-promotion, and now the whole country thinks Peter Max created "Yellow Submarine".
The day after the exhibition, I got a phone call from Kanye West - I knew he was a very popular hip-hop artist, but other than that I really wasn't aware of how big he was. Anyway, it seemed the video of his new song "Heard 'em Say", done by the famous Michel Gondry, wasn't exactly what Kanye wanted. He remembered seeing my films in those theatrical compilations as a kid, so he called me and asked if I could make him a music video in a week (MTV needed it then) for very little money. Gondry had spent the 1/2 million dollar budget on his version.
I said yes, and delivered Kanye a storyboard of how I visualized the story. He loved it, and we began - I found out all this time he's been traveling around the country performing concerts, he's been watching "I Married a Strange Person" in his spare time. I went to his concert at Madison Square Garden - it was amazing, what a theatrical production. He's a real storyteller with great charisma.
As the deadline neared, Biljana, Lisa and Kerry and I worked through the weekend - then Kanye came by and fine-tuned every piece of art. We just barely made the MTV deadline, and Kanye generously insisted that I put an animated credit with my name at the end of the video. At the release party for the video, he called me "The Michael Jordan of Animation".
Apparently, the video is doing quite well, and getting tons of press and positive reviews - check it out on MTV and BET.
As soon as I finished the music video, I was off to Wales, where I did my show at the Cardiff Screen Festival. The real reason I wanted to go was to visit my wonderful and very talented friend, Joanna Quinn. I did a class at her art school in Newport, and I went to visit her studio offices, where I saw her new short, "Beryl". It's hilarious and beautiful at the same time - I think it's her best film ever.
Unfortunately, I couldn't visit longer in Wales - I had to get right back to New York to view the Oscar screening of the eligible animated shorts. It was a long program, about 6 hours, and most of the films were very long and serious - not a good sign. But, there were a few that stood out for me - "One Man Band" from Pixar (probably the Oscar winner), "Badgered" from England, and "Life in Transition" from John Dilworth. People said my film "The Fan and the Flower" was a popular film, but the rules say I have to leave the screening room during its projection.
My main emphasis now is trying to finish 15 minutes of animation for the History Channel, a program about Shay's Rebellion. It's a really fresh idea, a documentary done primarily in animation, and the look is excellent. I hope it gets a lot of publicity, because graphically it's very strong.
OSCAR UPDATE - I just found out the animated short films that made the Short List for the Oscars - "The Moon and the Sun" by John Canemaker, "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" by Michael Sporn, "Badgered", "One Man Band" by Pixar, "Imago", "Nine" by Shane Acker.
In December, I just barely had time to make a quick visit to the Anchorage Film Festival. I'd never been to Alaska, so I like to use my films to see parts of the world that intrigue me. I was met by Tony Sheppard at the airport after a very long flight. The weather was a balmy 40 degrees, 20 degrees warmer than it was in New York!
Alaska still has a very "frontier" kind of feel - many people have airplanes in their garages, since the mountains and glaciers make roads impossible. Everyone was so nice and gracious, and at the closing ceremonies, I won the prestigious Oosnik, a large polished bone which they said was a walrus penis - my favorite prize.
Last week, I was invited to the Pixar opening at the Museum of Modern Art - they flew almost the entire staff there. It was so great to see all my old friends there - although John Lasseter was there, he seemed to be too busy with his fans and posse.
But, I was able to chat with Peter Doctor ("Monsters Inc.") and his lovely wife, and Brad Bird ("The Incredibles") and his lovely wife, Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo"), Jan Pinkava ("Geri's Game"), Ralph Eggleston ("For the Birds"), and some New York celebs - Chris Wedge, Peter DeSeve (the great illustrator), George Griffin, Patrick McDonnell ("Mutts"). It was a wonderful event - if you get a chance, go see the show at MOMA, because it's very light on the digital animation and very extensive on concept drawings, storyboards and character designs, which is what I love.
The cartoon for this installment is Page 33 from "Sloppy Seconds", called "On the Beach". This is a cliched idea - but during the space race it felt very cogent. I later turned this into a segment in my film "Plymptoons" back in 1989 - it always gets a laugh.