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NYCC: Bill Plympton Presents "Shut-Eye Hotel" and "Idiots & Angels" Excerpts

by on February 24, 2007

The New York Comic Con hosted an hour-long panel with renowned independent animator Bill Plympton on its first day of programming. Plympton spent most of the panel showing clips from a variety of projects. A short-film biography was followed by two music videos from last year: one for “Heard ‘Em Say” by Kanye West and one for “Don’t Download this Song” by Weird Al Yankovic. Plympton noted that it was unusual for him to be doing so many music videos in a year, and also that he ended up doing both under extreme time and budget constraints.

The video for “Heard ‘Em Say” was originally to be done by avant-garde French filmmaker Michel Gondry. However, West didn’t like the results, so the project was handed to Plympton, who had a week to animate the entire video and was paid out of West’s own pocket. The lack of time and money was also why the video is in black-and-white — coloring the animation would have required time and money that simply were not there, although Plympton is quite satisfied with the results. Plympton revealed that the original ending to the music video would have resulted in West turning into a King Kong-like figure rampaging through the city, but West rejected the idea in favor of the more optimistic vision presented in the final cut. The two are currently collaborating again on a book of West’s lyrics to be illustrated by Plympton.

In contrast, Weird Al gave Plympton complete creative control over the video for “Don’t Download this Song.” Plympton chose to animate a hilarious send-up of 1930’s gangster films to illustrate Al’s parody about the perils of music downloading. Plympton noted the irony that Weird Al has since made the video available as a free download.

Plympton went on to show several clips from Idiots and Angels, the feature film he is currently working on. The animation was in rough pencil-test form and included accompanying music. The sequences followed the lead character (described as “kind of a sleazeball,” only in slightly more colorful language) as he endured a hellish commute, fantasized about the beautiful wife of a bar owner, tortured a fellow bar patron, and discovered how to fly using the wings growing out of his back. Although Plympton described it as, “Not your typical Bill Plympton film,” his characteristic warped sense of humor and endlessly creative animated techniques were clearly in evidence.

Plympton then premiered “Shut-Eye Hotel,” a dark, Hitchcockian short film about a series of grisly murders in a hotel being investigated by a pair of police officers. The culprit turns out to be a classic Plympton animated inanimate object, although to reveal much more would spoil the surprise. Plympton did state that “I want to do for sleeping what Jaws did for swimming.” The film is also notable for containing the first 3-D CGI animation in one of his films, but Plympton noted that it would probably be the last. He stated that he didn’t care much for the technique and didn’t feel that it added much to the final product.

Plympton’s films will be featured at the IFC Cinemas in New York City from February to April. He also said that Marv Newland, the creator of “Bambi Meets Godzilla” and Lupo the Butcher, will be appearing on March 2, 2007, at New York’s Two Boots Pioneer Theater.

Toon Zone News’ coverage live from the New York Comic Con will continue throughout the weekend.

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