On Tuesday evening, August
12, Bill Plympton gave a presentation and complete screening of his seventh and
newest animated feature, Cheatin’ (75
minutes), for a packed house of ASIFA-Hollywood members, at the DreamWorks
Studios in Glendale. He also
showed his latest short, Footprints,
which will premiere at the HollyShorts Film Festival in Hollywood, CA, August
14-23. All attendees got a quick cartoon
sketch by him.
The presentation was similar
to the one that Plympton gave on July 24 at the Comic-Con International in San
Diego, but that did not include a screening of the entire feature. Cheatin’
premiered at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival in January, but since then it has
been playing primarily at film festivals in Europe, winning more than ten
awards including the Jury Award at the 38th (2014) Annecy International
Animation Film Festival in June.
This presentation was a
preview for the U.S. premiere release of Cheatin’, for one week at the Downtown Independent Cinema, August 15-21. Plympton, the NYC-based “King of Indie
Animation”, will personally attend evening screenings from Friday through
Sunday to give brief Q&As. He said
that this one-week screening is to qualify Cheatin’
for the 2014 Academy Awards, and to give it some visibility for the Annies and
the Golden Globes. Where it may play
after that is not yet known, except that it will be at the 2015 Kansas City
Film Fest, April 15-19.
At the presentation, Plympton
complained about “running into a brick wall of distributors who believe that
his films are just not distributable.”
He cited four strikes against Cheatin’: “(1) It’s an adult comedy with sex &
violence. Most distributors still
believe that animation is for children.
(2) It’s not computer animated.
Most distributers believe that only computer-animation sells today. (3) It doesn’t have a big-name animation
studio behind it. (4) Hollywood still
does not understand animation in general, despite so many animated features
being among the top ten grossers of the past few years.”
opens with a woman, Ella, going to an old-fashioned carny show. You can tell she’s beautiful because all the
men smile lasciviously and their eyes bug out.
An accident at the electric-powered bumper-car ride puts her in danger
of being electrocuted, but she is rescued in the nick of time by Jake. It’s love at first sight – in fact, the
drawings imply that this is the most passionate romance the world has ever
known. Ella and Jake are happily
married, and have eyes only for each other, despite Jake being so sexy that
every woman who stops at his gasoline station throws herself at him. But a scheming rival fakes evidence that Ella
is cheatin’ on him. Heartbroken, Jake
throws himself into a series of tit-for-tat one-night stands – that make Ella
equally jealous when she finds out about them.
She toys with having Jake murdered, but finally decides to get El Merto,
the carny show’s disgraced magician, to use his forbidden “soul machine” to
transfer her mind into Jake’s lovers’ bodies.
But what if the carny owner and the police shut down the soul exchanger
while she is still in another body?
Plympton revealed several
production details at the presentation. Cheatin’ contains over 40,000
drawings. It took three years to make,
stretched over six years due to funding problems partway through. He finally created a Kickstarter campaign to
finish it, raising over $100,000. The
75-minute feature is all in pantomime, partly to emphasize the music and sound
effects, and partly because his exaggerated art style does not go with
dialogue. (Can you imagine trying to
lip-synch to Plympton’s faces?) The
score, by long-time associate Nicole Renaud, is deliberately and noticeably
operatic, with well-known passages of Puccini, Ravel, and others. The artwork is equally referential, with Ella
walking through several famous paintings.
The drawings, which look watercolored, were actually scanned into a
computer and digitally colored.