A Chat w/ Bill Plympton about Influences, 'Idiots and Angels'

For those that don’t know, Bill Plympton is somewhat of a legend in the independent animation industry. Though his name may not be as well known in mainstream pop culture as Walt Disney or Tex Avery he is nonetheless just as important a figure in the overall evolution of the genre. Looking back, it was some of Plympton’s earliest work for MTV’s Liquid Television that first made me realize the potential that animation had beyond entertaining children— it could, in fact, be used to convey a deep range of emotion and metaphor-laden storyline.

Beginning with his first solo short film, Your Face, Plympton recalls Liquid Television as being his big break in the industry, but reflects on the American tendency to “departmentalize cartoons as a sacred artfom for children only” as the reason behind the lack of mainstream acceptance for his work within the U.S. Plympton, however, has seen his share fair of accolades in countries such as France, Korea and Spain where animation is more widely accepted as adult-oriented. Much like the late Ralph Bakshi, Plympton has never shied away from sexual content or violence in pursuit of his vision.

Artwork © Bill Plympton

So strong is his vision that he even turned down an estimated $1 million offer to direct Disney’s Aladdin (1992) after discovering that anything he created (jokes, stories, short films) during the process would remain the sole property of the corporation. In fact, it’s some of the same qualities of being “evergreen, timeless properties” that Plympton sees as being reasons for young filmmakers and animators to retain copyrights over their work. For him animation is one of those timeless genres that, like Snow White, could continue to exist in circulation for 20-30 years down the road. “With DVD, Blu-Ray, iTunes and social media all playing an important role in modern society, it becomes important for creators to cash in on their films,” says Plympton.

Other great influence on his work include: early American comic artist A.B. Frost, the debauchery of Robert Crumb, the exploration of pain and death by Charles Addams, Tex Avery, Ralph Bakshi, Tim Burton, Nick Park and Hayao Miyazaki— each of whom can be seen in Plympton’s latest film entitled Idiots and Angels. A morality tale without an overbearing moral lesson, Idiots and Angels is a “dark, sad, scary and selfish” tale of a man named Angel who after doing bad for so long must overcome his wicked ways to find redemption.

Artwork © Bill Plympton

Having been in development since 2005/2006 (Plympton illustrates each film by hand himself), Idiots and Angels first premiered in 2008 on the festival circuit has since garnered numerous awards for everything from Best Feature Film at the New Jersey Film Festival in 2008 to Visual Achievement Award at Atlanta Film Festival in 2009 and many more accolades internationally. Most recently, the film is set to premiere at the IFC Center (New York) starting today, October 6th before making its way to the Laemmle Sunset 5 (Los Angeles) on October 29th. For more information about the film, including upcoming screenings and theatrical premieres, be sure to visit www.idiotsandangels.com and if you’re in the NYC area stop the IFC Center for a slice of Plymptoons as only Bill can deliver it!


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