So I Created A Strange Film: An Animated Bill Plympton
by Joshua Moss
A sudden downpour hit Manhattan as I headed up Sixth Ave. to the
studio/home of animator Bill Plympton. Arriving at Mr. Plympton's
apartment drenched like a wet Chihuahua, I cut a less than impressive
figure, but the wacky animator famous for his twisted cartoons like "25
Ways to Quit Smoking" and "Your Face" didn't seem to mind. He was
cordial, friendly and enthusiastic as he answered questions about his
new feature film, "I Married A Strange Person," which premiered last
weekend at a special retrospective of the animator's work at the
American Museum of the Moving Image, in Astoria, Queens, and gets its
theatrical release from Lion's Gate Films this Friday, August 28th in LA
and New York.
"I Married A Strange Person" debuted at this year's Sundance Film
Festival, the only animated feature ever to screen in the esteemed
Dramatic Competition. The film follows Grant, a newly married man, who
discovers he has the power to make his every wish or thought come to
life. Kinky sex, tortured in-laws, singing blades of grass, bullets
turned to hamburgers -- very little it left to the imagination in the
strange world of Bill Plympton.
indieWIRE: I understand you just got back from San Diego where you were
promoting your new film, "I Married a Strange Person". What's in San
Bill Plympton: I was attending Comicon (an annual Comic Convention),
where I showed a clip from "Strange Person," some of my shorts...talked
about the film, handed out flyers, and generally tried to spread the
word about the film.
iW: Now I understand you did the film entirely by yourself?
Plympton: Well, I was the only animator. I did thirty thousand
drawings, it took about a year to animate, and it had taken a year to
script, then about six to nine months of post-production, you know,
editing the sound, that kind of stuff, where I had help.
iW: (disbelieving) And you did every drawing?
Plympton: Yup. (pointing around the room) There are boxes up
there,...boxes over there... Drawings everywhere!
iW: So what's the distribution plan?
Plympton: Well, it all depends on the press and the numbers we get.
Right now it's just New York and LA. But if we get some good numbers on
the first weekend, more theaters will jump in. Lion's Gate's been
handling it, so far so good. A lot of press, and you know,...we'll see!
iW: Now the lead character, the "strange person" -- who is this based
Plympton: Well, for lack of a better person, me. Although I'm not
married, I've dated some strange people! (laughing) But I think the
concept, being an animator, is creating worlds out of nothing but
imagination. And that's sort of what this character does. So I guess
the character is me, sort of, but I've added a lot of side trips. Like
this mega-corporation called "Smile Corp", which is kind of a
Disney-esque paramilitary corporation controlling the entertainment of
iW: You had a bad Disney experience, right?
Plympton: Yeah, but I'm not a Disney hater. I love the Disney product,
and am always on line to see a new Disney film. They've shown me a lot
of ways of merchandising, and they really are pioneers in a lot of that
stuff...I'm just making fun of that more than being anti-Disney.
iW: So are there any animator groupies out there?
Plympton: (laughing) I don't know about that... I just came back from this
comic convention and it's mostly guys. They just want to know what type
of pencils I use, stuff like that. What bugs the shit out of me is they
keep asking me what computers I use. That really irritates me. If I
used computers it would take forever and cost a fortune. By doing it by
hand it goes so much faster, and is more similar to what I see in my
iW: So who casts the voices for the film?
Plympton: I do. But I did have a co-writer on this, as well as five
assistants to help with cel painting after I completed the drawings.
iW: Do you ever worry about the content of your films limiting the
Plympton: I can't worry about that. The only thing I worry about is
that the audience watches it and enjoys it. I come up with ideas that
are very weird...sometimes they involve sex, sometimes they involve
violence, and if that's what I enjoy doing and that's what audiences
enjoy watching, I can't be concerned with theater owners or
iW: So the film opens at the Angelica here in New York?
Plympton: Yup. In fact I'm going to be there handing out free books
and videotapes to the first twenty or thirty people who show up on
August 28th, 29th, and 30th. The first twenty or thirty people who come
for each show.
iW: Wow, talk about hands-on P.R.!
Plympton: Hopefully we'll get a big turnout!
[Joshua Moss is a screenwriter and filmmaker living in New York. His
1995 short film, "August Roads", played at over 7 film festivals and was
picked up for distribution by Tapestry International. He is currently
at work on his first feature film, "Wankers."]