Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Epic Sketchbook: Stefan Zsaitsits...

Austrian artist Stefan Zsaitsits draws primarily in pencil, and focuses on the idea of transforming the head.  Both Bill and I are big fans of head transformations and morphing, so it's natural that I gravitated toward Stefan's sketch work.  Enjoy, I find these images totally hypnotizing..

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lou Reed ink sketches..

Here's a quick design sketch I did of Lou Reed for the Blank on Blank series.  I always use ink in my sketchbook, it's a trick I use to keep my drawings quick, and build a habit of committing to your lines. I wrote an entry about using ink a while ago here. Lou was fun to draw because of the curious lines in his face.. and his floppy ears. His leather jacket collar created a nice framing element for his under bite jaw.  I love the first stage of production, when I can just sit with my sketchbook, draw designs and come up with ideas for shots.  Since we wrap each episode in about a week, this part of the process only lasts a half day or so.
And here's the final episode from PBS Digital, it was published a few months ago, and is possibly my favorite of the last dozen or so that we've produced.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Epic Sketchbook: Régis Loisel

I bought a hardcover sketchbook called "Peter Pan" when I was in France years ago, it's by comic artist Régis Loisel, who is legendary, even though I didn't know who he was at the time.  The book is filled with wonderfully raw renderings of his interpretations of the Peter Pan characters. He goes from pencil to ink, to marker.. the notes give each page a beautiful sense of construction, illustrating a remarkable thought process. Enjoy.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Inspiration: Albert Dorne..

As an animator, you are most likely very familiar with Albert Dorne.  His effortless illustration style is intoxicating. Enjoy.  Here's a collection of Flcker that does justice to his wide variety of commercial illustration, way more depth than I can add on this blog.

Albert Dorne is a true artist success story.  he was born in the slums of NYC, and had miserable health problems. He dropped out of school to support his family with jobs such as managing a news stand and being as an office boy, as well as a short boxing career. Then he began drawing for the advertising industry. His illustrations started appearing in such magazines as Life, Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post and was very famous in the field of advertising by 1943.

In 1948 Dorne conceived the idea of a correspondence school for art, and recruited eleven other well-known artists and illustrators, including Norman Rockwell, to found the Famous Artists School.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What's Up this Summer

My new short failed to get into Annecy's competition program (although it is being screened in Panorama) so I decided not to go to Annecy, after 15 years straight of attending.  Signe Baumane is going to represent me at the famed Annecy Plus event - the screening is on Friday, June 17 at 7:30 pm, and you can get more information about it here:

So, my summer is very open this year, which is fine - now I have time to work on my other films.  Each day I get up at 5:30 to animate "Revengeance" - it's going very fast.   I can do about a page of the storyboard every day, I'm now on page 95 and the storyboard has 240 pages - so you can see, I still have a lot of animation to do.  I hope to finish some time around New Year's. 

After numerous complaints about the length and redundancy of "Hitler's Folly", I've decided to go back and re-edit the mockumentary.  It stood at 90 minutes, and I liked it - I thought all of the jokes were pretty funny, but everyone I showed it to said that it got boring in the middle.  So, snip, snip, snip!  But don't worry, fans, when it comes out on DVD, I'll include the deleted scenes so you can judge for yourself.

                          Bet you didn't know that Adolf Hitler ran an animation studio, did you?

I may have some exciting news about "Hitler's Folly" coming real soon - so please stay tuned.

We've got some more screenings of CHEATIN' coming up in late July and early August, in Washington DC, Philadelphia and Cincinnati - we'll post more details soon both here and on Facebook.

The other big event of the summer is the San Diego Comic-Con - we're planning to show off some great new projects at my panel (date and time to be posted here very soon).  We'll have a sneak peek at my short "The Loneliest Stoplight", the new trailer from "Revengeance", an excerpt from "Hitler's Folly" and also the world premiere of a brand new short.

One of the coolest things we'll be offering at our booth is a special release of my animated feature CHEATIN' on BluRay.  I've never done a BluRay release before, so we're really excited. 

                          We won't be doing "Revengeance" tattoos at the booth (or, will we?)

So, tell your friends to come and see us at Booth 1537, in what we call "Animation Alley" at San Diego Comic Con, July 8-12.  I'll be signing DVDs and drawing caricatures of fans, time permitting.  See you there!

                    Here's how to find us at SDCC - this is the view from the mezzanine, facing north.
                        (The main entrances to the large convention floor are at the back of the photo)

--Bill Plympton

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ayn Rand Animated Interview for PBS..

Mike Wallace interviews Ayn Rand about Love and Happiness.

So, we're heading into our 50th episode of PBS's "Blank on Blank," and while it is still a modest production, I think we're getting better. Ayn Rand (scroll down for movie), a fascinating person whether you agree with her radical philosophies or not, is the latest episode, released the other day.  Some characters are more enjoyable to draw than others, depending on characteristics that I like to draw.. Ayn had these great lower teeth, and a nice little curl of hair to work with.  She's also so serious, which is a nice departure from pretty much every other interview.

I also liked working with the propaganda style images she featured on her book covers.

My other favorite was Maya Angelou, for her it was all about nailing the eyes.  Both Maya and Ayn will probably not get a whole lot of traffic (such is the way of our culture.. if we wanted to get traffic we would feature Beiber, or Taylor Swift.  That's the beauty of working with PBS, they're more interested in content and historical importance that getting views.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Inspiration: Egon Schiele..

Sorry for the hiatus everybody! Thanks to Bill for holding down the fort.  On my triumphant return, I wanted to share some Schiele sketches I've been looking at a lot lately for inspiration.  The Austrian Expressionist (who died at the age of 28) , was a master expressive poses and particularly of drawing hands. Once you get into Schiele, there's no going back.  Enjoy.

Monday, June 8, 2015

"Tomorrowland" and "Inside Out" reviews

Both Brad Bird and Pete Docter are heroes of mine - a list of their films would include some of the greatest films of our generation: "The Iron Giant", "Ratatouille", "The Incredibles", "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol", "Monsters, Inc." and "Up". 

They've both released new feature films, within a month of each other, and I thought it would be edifying to review the films side-by-side. 

"Tomorrowland" by Brad Bird, starring George Clooney is a very ambitious, expensive attempt to save the world.  The visuals are magnificent, as is the production.  However, the story is completely confusing.  I'm still not sure what was going on.  Perhaps the producers had hoped that people were so fascinated by the concept that the audience would return multiple times to completely understand the movie.

Or perhaps they didn't test the film before the release.  Maybe Brad Bird was so sure of his storytelling powers that he didn't think he needed to test the film.  If so, that's too bad, because this film had the potential to be a classic -

When I first heard of the concept behind Pete Docter's "Inside Out", I thought, "What a boring idea.  Just a group of humanized emotions arguing with each other, how uncinematic."  However, about 10 minutes into watching the film, I was hooked.  The concept of a little girl's emotions directing her personality is so ripe with ideas and humor that it seemed very personal to me. 

Of course, being a Pixar film, the animation and overall look are stunning.  Also, as usual, the Pixar greatness in storytelling comes through.  It reminds me a lot of "Toy Story 3", where every character had a distinct personality and they go on a long, arduous mission that results in a surprising yet completely satisfying conclusion. 

I believe that "Inside Out" will receive the Oscar next year - and Pete Docter deserves it.  The film is marvelous. 

I give "Tomorrowland" a B- and "Inside Out" an A. 

Bill Plympton

Monday, June 1, 2015

Indie Philosophy

Last week I visited my "Scribble Junkies" partner, Pat Smith, at his palatial estate in Montauk, and as I browsed his animation library, I discovered a book by the director of the Ottawa Animation Festival, Chris Robinson.  It was a very cool book called "Unsung Heroes of Animation" and it listed short biographies of some of the interesting people making films who aren't big names - people like Ryan Larkin, Raimund Krumme, Steve Woloshen, and Ruth Lingford.  Basically, these are filmmakers whose work Chris loves, but he feels they don't get enough credit.

But what struck me was a reference to my films, where he said (and I'm paraphrasing) "Mr. Plympton will test his films at an early stage, and if the audience doesn't like a certain gag, he'll remove it."  And Chris was using this as an example of my lack of artistic integrity. 

This is an issue that goes to the heart of all creative endeavors - am I making films to please myself, or to please an audience?  There's nothing worse for me than sitting through a screening of one of my films and hearing tepid applause at the end.  My purpose in making my films is to get waves of laughter, and maybe a standing ovation.

To me, the audience is the god - not the critics, or the festivals, or producers, or funding organizations.  I make films for people to enjoy, I don't make films just for my own enjoyment.  What fun is that?  As filmmakers, we have an unwritten contract with the audience to entertain them.  If we can't do that, then we should find another occupation. 

One of my heroes is Frank Capra, because he was a populist and he made films that a broad spectrum of the public could enjoy.  That's my goal, to make animated cartoons that everyone can love - not just some critic in an ivory tower, or some academic theoretician or some government/corporate funding organization. 

The true independent filmmaker is someone who, over the years, is able to make money with their films and not rely on Hollywood, corporate or government funding.  That why to me, making films that are popular with the audience is the secret to my success. 

Over the last 30 years, I've created 10 feature films and over 70 shorts, and I've funded them all by myself, and that's simply because I make movies that people want to see.  And that's the independent spirit!

--Bill Plympton