Bill Plympton  

A unique and distinctive animator whose award-winning works were made famous by MTV, Saturday Night Live, and various animation festivals. His trademarks include hand-drawn cartoons with faces, body parts and objects constantly morphing into grotesque and surreal absurdities or exaggerations, and a twisted, creative and zany sense of humor. Little things like a hug can turn into a rubbery, slimy orgy of intertwining limbs, and a little daydreaming imagination turns into a surreal and twisted fantasy. However, like his animations, his style is constantly evolving, mutating and experimenting over the years, trying out a wide variety of animations and styles: From silly gory cartoons, to surreal artsy irreverent ideas, to grotesque jokes, to exaggerated homages and satires of old styles and fashions, to raunchy humor, or provocative underground cartoons. His visual sense and animation style also varies, proving him a restless and endlessly inventive animator. Like Svankmajer, his output is at its best in the form of shorts (earlier is better), of which he has dozens. Full-lengths are listed here.


Idiots and Angels  
What's this, Plympton growing a conscience from his animating fingers like some Plymptonesque grotesquerie? A jerk of a man who is constantly angry at alarm clocks, birds, drivers and barmaids, starts growing angelic wings thanks to a caterpillar, and the wings force him to perform good deeds and face his lack of humanity. He is also haunted by hallucinations, and constantly attempts to get rid of the wings in gory ways. A barman and doctor, however, develop other evil plans when they see the wings. Plympton's dialogue-free animation is fascinating to look at as always, with inventive segues, trademarked grotesque exaggerations and surreal imagery. It is also by far his darkest creation (relatively) and the closest he has ever come to serious art-house, and the movie is better for it. But he does not neglect his typical humor that involves politically-incorrect jabs, sex, gore and fun but immature flights of fancy and cartoonish behaviour. The result is a mixed bag: The gothic horror, surreal existential hallucinations, and art-house romanticism take getting used to if one expects another typical Plympton outing, but they are actually the strongest aspects of the movie. The simplistic story and lack of thematic depth is a minus. The animation is beautiful and masterful. The music soundtrack is superb and sometimes inspired. The first hour or so is captivating, but, like many of his movies, the last 20 minutes loses its way with cartoon-action and a silly violent plot development. In summary, this is flawed, but it grows on you to a certain extent and it is definitely amongst his best full-length works so far.

I Married a Strange Person!  
A strange, passive man discovers he has super-powers where he can change reality to suit his imagination. His wife and in-laws are horrified; Powerful corporations and the military become greedy and violent. Probably Plympton's best full-length comedy feature, combining the insane comedy of his early years and the sex and gore of his later years. The first half features outrageously funny scenes involving sex, and twisted games with the annoying and resentful in-laws, but the weaker second half gets lost in cartoonish endless violence as the military try to get their hands on his powers with violent, gory and imaginative results. Entertaining and creative.

Of Some Interest

Plympton continues to streamline and perfect his unique, hand-drawn style of animation that blends very exaggerated shapes and forms with wildly surreal flights of fancy. The story and content remains simplistic however, and lacks subtlety and depth, which is why these movies are not becoming classics. The theme is romance, misunderstandings between a couple leading to great emotional upheavals, affairs... and a body-swapping machine. There's a girl, a hero-hunk, bumper cars, deep passion, a broken heart, affairs and desperation. Grotesquely distorted and exaggerated bodies and faces are seen from impossible points of view, falling in love becomes a surreal sequence of hidden tiny hearts behind multiple locked doors and cupids performing surgery, love-making destroys everything in its path, broken hearts lead to physics-defying stunts, and so on. This is really about the eye candy and the way the visuals capture the moments by expressing everything with distortions and surrealisms, squeezing out every ounce, angle, feeling, impression and viewpoint from simple moments, their insides manifesting on the outside. Fun to watch, but it doesn't leave much behind.

Hair High  
An over-the-top twisted homage to movies about 50s high-schools, pompadour hairstyles, jerk jocks, abused nerds and whiny spoiled girls, skeleton ghosts, and love. The plot revolves around Spud who is forced to become the prom queen's slave but the spoiled girl starts falling for him. By far Plymptons weakest full-length movie and the most conventional, resembling a normal cartoon, only with Plympton's entertaining exaggerated visual style, absurdities, and occasional surprising twisted scenes like when the biology teacher coughs up his intestines, or the sidekick goon goes berserk and humps everything in sight while in a chicken costume.

J. Lyle  
Plympton's early, awkward attempt at a live action version of his whimsical, surreal approach to animations. There's amusement to be had here, although parts of it are amateurish and clumsy. Some aspects of his humor simply don't work as live action, but others entertain. It's about a cold-hearted lawyer and landlord who is hassling his tenants to get them to move out so that he can build a toxic waste dump. His clueless assistant has a sexual fetish for rug shampooer machines, there's a bizarre trap in his house every time the tenants open the fridge they get sucked into the electrical system, it has the usual Plympton exuberantly silly musical interludes, including one involving his internal (and one external) organs, and there's a dog that tries to teach him lessons by mutating his organs or sending him into other people's minds. A blend of home-made silly fantasy comedy, surreal animation (stop-motion and drawn), slapstick, and wacky amusing humor.

Mutant Aliens  
Imagine the absorbing, creative magic of a Miyazaki animation only with an emphasis on sex and gore. This is not the typical Plympton of old, boasting a complete story and almost none of the wandering, surreal flights of fancy, but this is not necessarily a good thing. An astronaut and his little daughter are double-crossed by the greedy director of space exploration who leads the astronaut to his death in order to gain sympathy and money for his organization. Years later the astronaut comes back with stories about aliens and plans of revenge, while his daughter and her super-horny boyfriend help. Features, among other things, an extremely bizarre planet where creatures are individual body parts that fight amongst themselves, sex with an alien nose, sex with mutated animals in space, gory massacres by cute and vicious mutant aliens, raunch, twisted humor and bizarre, violent fun. This is amongst the most cartoonish of Plympton's works. I.e. less focused on surreal imagery and much more about the colorful, raunchy, twistedly imaginative and violent entertainment. As such, it is very entertaining, but that's about it.

Tune, The  
A musician is trying to write a tune for the mean, commercial Mr. Mega and is in love with Mega's secretary. While on his way to an important meeting with the unfinished tune, he has a series of crazy adventures that teach him how to write a tune with feeling. Adventures include a singing hamburger, the town of Flooby Nooby where, among other things, objects get smaller as you get closer because they aren't afraid, a wise man whose face metamorphoses and mutates while spouting Eastern aphorisms, two men who take turns mutilating each other's heads in creative ways (MTV used these last two a lot), etc. Features a dozen generic genre tunes with visual montages, some funny, some tedious, and the usual miscellaneous Plympton amusing absurdities, surrealities and grotesqueries. Uneven, somewhat juvenile, and contains way too many musical interludes, but entertaining.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents