Friday, January 22, 2010
Bill Plympton is that very rare thing in animation- the one man studio. His films which include both shorts and features, are drawn completely by himself with only two or three assistants helping with color and cleanup. I've been friendly with Bill for many, many years now and considered myself a pretty knowledgeable fan of his work, but I was a bit surprised the other night while watching a lecture he was giving at the Society of Illustrators, to realize how out of step I've been with him lately. In my defense, Bill is so damned prolific that if you do happen to blink, you've missed another one of his films. At the lecture he showed several shorts including the darkly funny Santa the Fascist Years and the hilarious Hot Dog starring Plymptoon Studios ugly bulldog mascot. In addition, he previewed several minutes from his brilliant new feature,Angels and Idiots, the story of a thug who wakes up one day with a pair of angel wings growing out of his back and his ensuing struggle with his self image. One of my favorites of the evening was "The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger" an alternately touching and grotesque tale described perfectly by it's title. That piece was drawn with a black sharpie and colored on the computer, giving it the most graphic look to date in a Plymptoon. The room was packed full of entranced young illustrators and animators and everyone there was taken to school on the importance of preserving one's own vision and the need for good, solid draftsmanship. I left the place inspired and I must admit, a little chastened.
In this world of ever more highly buffed CG characters (guilty as charged) it was so refreshing to see pure drawing, with all it's smudges and imperfections, flicker unapologetically across the screen and make me laugh as hard as anything I've ever seen in Imax 3D.
It was a sobering reminder of what the art of the humble pencil can achieve.