Saturday, 14 April 2012

Animator Profile : Bill Plympton

Fig. 1
Bill Plympton (1946-present) is an American cartoonist, animator, director, screenwriter and producer. His style of sketchy colouring pencils is engaging and there’s something so wonderful to about the flow of his work, not smooth, yet fluid. Plympton’s love for animation began in 1968, where he majored in cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Magazines and Newspapers such as The New York Times, Vogue, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair etc have all featured Plympton’s illustrations and cartoon creations. His style became distinctive and recognisable to the public. Plympton’s love for his animation and pride in his ability earned him the first animator in history of animation to hand-draw every frame by himself for his feature film, The Tune (1992). By 2006 Plympton had created a staggering 26 animated shorts and 5 animated features.

Fig. 2
Plympton's fascination for animation was always present, even as a child he dreamed of becoming a successful animator. Robert Khor states, "All his life, Bill Plympton has been fascinated by animation. When he was fourteen, he sent Disney some of his cartoons and offered up his services as animator. They wrote back and told him that while his drawings showed promise, he was too young. It wasn't until 1983 that he was approached to animate a film. The Android Sister Valeria Wasilewski asked Plympton to direct and animate a film she was producing of Jules Feiffer's song, "Boomtown." Connie D'Antuono, another of the film's producers, "sort of held my hand through the whole process," Plympton says. "It was a great way to learn to make a film."" (Khor 2003) Khor states and observes Plympton's background in animation. He discusses his early attempts to break into the business and states where he started when he first began to animate. The fact he started of wanting to work for Disney, but then thrived as an individual proves how strong his talent and style has been.
Fig. 3
The majority of his animated shorts are humorous and prove effective within the 'layout' of narrative and the voice overs used. His work is very playful in the way he experiments with angles and the breaking away of features, for example in My Face the way the character on screen appears to be singing constantly, even though his face rotates and folds in etc is pure amazement. Paul Brenner argues, "As far as animation films go, Disney is good, Pixar is better, and Miyazaki is best for folks hankering for that big, monolithic feature fix. And nothing can beat it, much like a six pack of ice cold beer on a hot summer day. But those bulky monoliths are nothing compared to the mellow, full-bodied savoring of a short, sweet, and slightly askew independent animated short. And one of the best and most consistent brands of this heady brew is the work of animator Bill Plympton, whose Plymptoons are a signature bit of pure, edgy fun." (Brenner 2009) Brenner emphasises his admiration for Plympton by comparing him to two of the greatest animation pioneers and stating his work is substantially on par if not better. Brenner's bold statement gives his audience a pre-perception of what this animators work could be perceived as.

Fig. 4
Plympton's work Richard Harrington observes, "The majority of the film features Plympton's familiarly spare, fluid color-pencil and charcoal caricatures, though a few of the segments find him stretching in new directions. What's also familiar is what Plympton does within the segments: Too often they're reduced to rapid-fire variations on transformation themes, or one-punch-line blackouts. Sometimes these work in wonderful and mysterious ways, but the process wears out its welcome long before the 70-minute movie is over." (Harrington 1992) Harrington sums up Plympton's style beautifully, expressing how his colour pencil animations captivate the audience and bring them into his world. The Tune although another one of Plympton's visual masterpieces just lacks in narrative and feels prolonged. However, the imagery is so pleasing that the majority will forgive this.

List of illustrations

Figure 1.Bill Plympton. At: (Accessed on:2/4/12)

Figure 2. Plympton, Bill (1989) 25 Ways to Quit Smoking. At: (Accessed on:2/4/12)

Figure 3. Plympton, Bill (1989) How To Kiss. At: (Accessed on:2/4/12)

Figure 4. Plympton, Bill (1992) The Tune. At: on:2/4/12)


Robert Khor (2003) Biography. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)

Paul Brenner (2009) Bill Plympton's Dog Days: A Collection of Short Films 2004-2008. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)

Richard Harrington (1992) The Tune. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)

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