Friday, September 22, 2017

Stoner Films

Before I begin this episode of "Scribble Junkies", I have a pop-up quiz for you.  Which denomination of U.S. currency has animation on it?  And what is animated?  The answer will be found at the end of this blog.

So, back to the topic at hand. As a long-time fan of weird, off-beat films, I thought it would be interesting to make a list of the Top 12 "stoner" films.  Now, these aren't films like the ones Cheech and Chong made, that are about stoners.  No, these are the films that give you the feeling or near-experience of being stoned.

So, for better or worse, here is my list of the top stoner films, in ascending order:

#12. "Dead Alive", 1992, New Zealand, dir. Peter Jackson.  An over-the-top gruesome zombie comedy that just keeps getting weirder and weirder.  I also live the visual style that at times looks like a set made out of toys.

#11. "Crank", 2006, US, dir. Mark Neveldine, starring Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam.  A professional assassin is injected with a poison that will become lethal if his heart-rate drops.  I know it's an absurd premise, but that's what makes it a great stoner film.

#10. "Brazil", 1985, UK, dir. by Terry Gilliam.  A classic paranoid futuristic thriller, also visually delightful (which is a very important aspect for stoner films).  A high point is the plastic surgery facelift scene with Katharine Helmond.

#9. "Being John Malkovich", 1999, US, dir. by Spike Jonze, written by Charlie Kaufman, starring John Malkovich, John Cusack.  One of the most twisted concepts for a feature film, my favorite scene is when we see the POV of Mr. Malkovich selecting his handkerchief.  It takes boredom to new heights of surrealism.

#8. "This Is the End", 2013, US, dir. by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen.  Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco. What's great about this film is that it starts normally enough and then every 10 minutes, the plot makes an extreme twist into a whole new reality (kind of like drugs).

#7. "Yellow Submarine", 1968, UK, dir. by George Dunning.  Starring the Beatles, naturally.  There are two reasons why this is on my Stoner Films list: the amazing Beatles music and the totally trippy colors and designs of the late, great Heinz Edelman.  This is, in my mind, at the top of the list of the greatest animated films ever.
#6. "Koyaanisqatsi", 1982, France, dir. by Godfrey Reggio.  A souped-up documentary about a world gone haywire, and the cinematography is so extreme and amazing that the human brain just naturally goes into psycho-mode.
#5. "Mind Game", 2004, Japan, dir. by Masaaki Yuasa and Koji Morimoto. To my mind, this is the "Citizen Kane" of animation, but this isn't your normal animĂ© film.  This film goes to a whole 'nother level of weirdness, plus the artwork is gorgeous.  Check it out, you'll love this movie!
#4. "The Lost Continent", 1968, US, dir. by Michael Carreras and Leslie Norman.  I first saw this film while in college and it's still stuck in my brain.  It's a story within a story, ad infinitum.  After a while your brain gets so twisted around, it seems like it's going to explode. 

#3. "El Topo", 1970, Mexico, dir. by Alejandro Jodorowsky.  A gunslinger travels across the Old West, with his 7-year-old naked son, killing lots of people - but the film is filled with all sorts of symbols and violent surrealism - a classic!

#2. "Trolls", 2016, US, dir. by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn.  I've written about this film before, but just to remind you - the overly cutesy characters and backgrounds, the retro pop music and the way over-the-top psychedelic colors put this film at #2 on my list of stoner movies.

#1. "Forbidden Zone", 1980, US, dir. by Richard Elfman (Danny Elfman's brother), starring HervĂ© Villechaize, Susan Tyrell.  Probably the craziest low-budget psychotic film ever created.  What if Ed Wood dropped a lot of acid and made films in the 1980's?  You'd get something like this mind-warp masterpiece.

Plus, I've added one more bonus film:

"I Married a Strange Person", 1998, US, dir. by Bill Plympton.  I hate to self-promote, but whenever I appear at a Comic-Con I get dozens of people referring to this film as the weirdest film they've ever seen.  And I actually created the film for that purpose.  So I believe that qualifies this film to be on my Top Stoner Films list.

If you have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them. 

And the answer to my question from the beginning of this post - the right answer is a $100 bill, and the animated object is the Liberty Bell.  Congrats to all those who got it right!  And to all those who didn't, you've got to get your hands on more Benjamins...

--Bill P.

Friday, September 15, 2017

NYC Premiere of "Revengeance"

We've been holding back any public theatrical screenings of "Revengeance" because we didn't want to saturate the market, in case any distribution companies expressed an interest.  But I was asked to screen the film for the animation students at SVA as part of their "After School Special" program.  These New York City students are sort of like the future of the animation industry - so how could I turn that down?

We decided to turn it into an open screening, with free admission - and we advertised it on social media as the NYC premiere, and included a discussion between the film's writer/designer/co-director Jim Lujan and me (via Skype, since Jim's based in L.A.)  So with us discussing the film's background and production it really became something of an educational event, yet I could also invite my friends, people who worked on the film, and some hardcore fans who pay attention to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  So we booked it into the wonderful SVA Theater on 23rd St.

I decided to come early to check the Skype and projection systems, when I discovered a long line running down the sidewalk.  I thought, "They must be having another event that starts earlier..." but no, these were students and fans who had heard about "Revengeance" and were determined to get a seat. Well, they were the smart ones, because it was totally sold out, and they had to turn away about 40 people, for fear of violating the fire codes.

                                                                       A packed house!

After the screening, I jumped on stage to tremendous applause, and Jim and I did a 40-minute discussion on how the film was made, followed by a few rounds of Q&A.  The audience fell in love with Jim - he's so entertaining!

Then I sat at the merch table and gave everyone a free sketch of the stars of the film, and as they received their signed postcards people gushed about how much they loved "Revengeance".  Afterwards, I met up with some of my animation buddies at "Trailer Park", a local dive bar, for drinks and a re-cap of the glorious event.  Now, two days later, I'm still receiving glowing e-mail responses.

                             with Mark Osborne, director of "Kung Fu Panda" and "The Little Prince"!

I hope some clever distributor picks up on the great buzz from Wednesday night and offers us a distribution deal - that would be nice!

My thanks to everyone who came out and made the show a success!

Bill P.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Trip to Brazil and Upcoming NYC Screening

I've been to Brazil many times over the years, to festivals in Rio, Sao Paulo and most recently, Porto Allegre.  I just love it in Brazil - the climate, the architecture, the vegetation and especially the young animation fans. 

                                       In front of some of that great Brazilian architecture!

Last week I visited Sao Paulo to be part of a Centennial Celebration of Brazilian Animation at the Itau Cultural Center, sponsored by the Itau Bank.  I showed "Revengeance" and "Cop Dog" to a great response, and I also did a Master Class that was packed with young, eager animators.

Animation seems to be exploding in Brazil, as it is in many parts of the world.  Part of the popularity of animation there is because of a wonderful annual film festival there called Anima Mundi, which has been a wonderful success since the 1990's, and has screened many of my films.

Now, a lot of the animation industry is working on independent feature films, and one of the most successful of these indie animators is Ale Abreu, the writer and director of the very successful 2015 feature "Boy and the World", which was nominated for an Oscar in 2016.  Ale and I had met before, at the Annecy Animation Festival (where "Boy and the World" won TWO awards) but this time we got to hang out and have extended conversations about the Oscars, financing and creative aspects of animation also. 

                                                             With Ale Abreu in Brazil

He also gave me a tour of his studio/home and I must say, I've never seen a cleaner artist's studio.  If  you were to visit my studio in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, you'd see the opposite - boxes everywhere, stacks of paper, folders, art materials, etc.  I often lose important papers in the miasma of artwork that is my studio, which is bad.  However, everything I need is also at my arms' reach, theoretically.

So, if you have an animated film, be sure to enter Anima Mundi - and if you are accepted, be sure to attend, you'll love it.  Brazil is such a paradise....

I also want to remind everyone about our upcoming NYC premiere of "Revengeance", on Wednesday, September 13 at 7:00 pm at the SVA Cinema, 333 West 23rd St.  This will be a rare chance to see this wacky feature, created by Jim Lujan and me, for FREE admission.  It's part of SVA's "After School Special" program, and it's strictly first-come, first-served. 

We like to say, if Tarantino had ever made an animated film, it might look like this...

I'll be there in person, to give everyone who attends a free Bill Plympton sketch!  Also, as an added bonus, co-director Jim Lujan, who lives in L.A., will be Skyped in to join us in the post-screening conversation, and we'll talk about the origins of the film and what it was like working together to make it happen - it will be a most entertaining and illuminating evening. 

Please come, bring your friends and help us spread the word - and it's FREE!  See you there!

--Bill P.

Friday, August 18, 2017

P.C. Vey

Long ago, when I was a student at New York's School of Visual Arts, I met a young cartoonist, Peter Vey.  I loved his surreal sense of humor - in the very early days of home video recording, we created a homemade TV show called "There's Not Much On", also starring his wacky buddy, Chris Hoffman.  We'd get together about once a month in my East Village apartment and record our bizarre TV show skits.  It was terrific fun and I learned a lot about performing humor.  What was so cool was the style that both Peter and Chris demonstrated.  They always dressed in black suits and thin black ties, and this was way before "Reservoir Dogs".  This was at the peak of the 1960's scene, with all its hippy-dippy brightly colored attire - but their humor was also made up of surreal anarchy, which seemed to be very anti-business suit.  (I used to have VHS copies of "There's Not Much On", but I lost them long ago.)

Before long, Peter was working pretty steadily as a cartoonist for all the major publications - New York Times, Playboy, Penthouse, National Lampoon, etc.  (Actually, he worked for a lot of the same magazines that I started out on.)  Unfortunately, over the years many of these magazines either went out of business or stopped buying cartoons.   But that's OK, because P.C. Vey became the star of The New Yorker - it seems like every week he has a cartoon in it.

I believe he's even more prolific than Roz Chast.  It was through Peter that I became friends with a lot of the great cartoonists, like Jack Ziegler, Roz Chast, Felipe Galindo, Bob Mankoff and the great Sam Gross.  And Peter, along with Maureen McElheron, also contributed to the script for my first feature film, "The Tune", which is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its release this year.

In any case, this is a long historical introduction to the photo below, this is me, Maureen McElheron (composer/musician for "Your Face", "The Tune" and "Hair High") and the great P.C. Vey.  I hadn't seen him for many years and this photo is from our recent reunion.  Anyway, check out his work and books, you'll love his stuff.

--Bill Plympton

Monday, August 14, 2017

Punch Everyone..

So I made a film in about two days for a fun little festival in brooklyn called "the dumbest sh!t I ever saw".. trigger warning: you will probably be offended in some way.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Bits and Pieces...

If you read my last installment of the blog, you're aware that I made a trip out to the West Coast for Comic-Con.  Well, after leaving the Con we traveled up north to Oregon to see my family.  But this trip was more than a vacation, it was also a research trip for my newest project, "Slide", which takes place in a lumberjack town, high in the mountains.

As you may know, it's very common for the Disney studio to send concept artists and designers out to far-off locations to do research and preliminary sketches to create a film's environment and mood.  Well, this is what I did - Sandrine and I reserved a 3-night stay in remote Detroit Lake in Oregon, about 40 miles from the state's capital, Salem. 

Although, with a name like Detroit Lake, I expected run-down factories and burnt-out houses - and surprisingly that's close to what I found.  Even though the scenery is gorgeous, with miles and miles of evergreen trees and a crystal-clear lake.  But when I went to one of the few grocery stores, their basic selection consisted of beer, beef jerky and chips - I never knew there were so many choices in chips.  And the customers all looked like refugees from "Twin Peaks".  And sure enough, there were rusted warehouses and burnt-down houses.  What a contradiction between the poverty and the natural beauty of this place. 

In any case, we hiked to a nude hot springs, to sit in a hollowed-out log, and we were so overwhelmed by the beauty of the place.  We got more than enough photos and ideas for the logging village scenes, so much that I can't wait to get started with the backgrounds and storyboards for "Slide".  Here are some photos from the Oregon trip:

A couple of screening notes:

"Cop Dog" is going to screen at the HollyShorts Film Festival in Los Angeles, which runs August 10-19.  Then it's going to have its theatrical premiere in L.A. at the NuArt Theater for one week, starting on August 18. It's going to screen in front of the feature "Lemon", which will help qualify it for the Academy Awards, so we're very excited. 

And then in September, we're going to screen "Revengeance", my new feature co-directed with Jim Lujan, in a FREE sneak preview at the SVA Cinema in New York, on September 13 at 7 pm. 

Watch for more info on these events on my social media channels - and please help us out by forwarding our tweets and Facebook posts - or let your friends know about them via e-mail or even in person.  I won't be at the L.A. screenings but I will be there at the SVA screening in New York to give a seminar in independent animation.  Be there or be trapezoid! 

--Bill P.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Animation 101: Four Reasons to use INK..

You have your daily sketchbook.. you have the habit.. you have the passion for observation, exaggeration, characterization and interpretation.. Try using INK. I use a fine point sharpie.. they are cheap and look great. Here are Four Reasons to use INK:1. Ink teaches you to commit. I've always had trouble committing, in life and in art. When you use ink you simply can't erase or undo. You learn to live with your choices, and more than that, you learn to appreciate your unfiltered choices (which some would call "mistakes"). Your brain is way ahead of your hand, and this is illustrated literally in the form of line. Learn to love these lines that seem to come from your subconscious, those are the lines that are honest, and the more you respect them, the more you will trust them.. next stop, good drawing.
2. Speed. There's nothing more painful than seeing someone slowly carve out a drawing. Most likely that that drawing will not have a shred of energy or motion to it (even if it's rendered well). To achieve motion and force, I believe an artist must capture the image from memory, from an instant. Ink teaches you to throw lines down.. boldly and quickly. When you're a traditional animator faced with the task of drawing thousands of images, this comes in quite handy.
 3. It's clean and lasts forever. Have you ever seen a pencil sketchbook a week after that book has been carried around everywhere? without fixative (that spray that will eventually kill you if you breathe too much of it) those pencil drawings will become smudges. Archivally speaking (making up words ) Your ink lines will look great 20 years later (i know this for a fact).
4. It looks cool. Ink produces often wonderfully unpredictable results, the way ink seeps into different textures of paper is something you can play with. A colleague of mine uses a water based pen and often mixes his saliva with the ink to do tonal work.. it looks great in and out of the crime lab.