Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Animator Profile: Bill Plympton

Fig 1: Bill Plympton

American animator, Bill Plympton, was born in 1946 and used his ever-present fondness of animation to turn towards indie film animations. The first thing one would immediately notice is his unique hand-drawn style. Plympton uses a sketchy art style using an abundance of coloured pencils to create almost caricature-esque style characters. The way his animation flows is not smooth, but it each frame flows into the next with a certain charming fluidity. He studied in the New York School of Visual Arts and managed to get his short cartoon strips and images featured in all the major newspapers: Vogue, The New York Times and Vanity Fair, before his style became widely recognised as unique to his own. Plympton painstakingly draws each of his animations by hand one by one and each if them are beautifully crafted works of art in their own right. His style is also very surreal. The man himself talks about the wonders of being an indie animator.

"There's something exhilarating about getting up each morning, going to my drawing board and having the total freedom to draw whatever crazy, bizarre and offensive image that comes to my brain - there's no producer, director, lawyer or agent looking over my shoulder telling me to change the art because it might offend someone or hurt sales." (Plympton, 2000)

The result is years of animated shorts and five feature animated films ranging from "The Tune" (1992), "25 Ways to Quit Smoking" (1989) and "Hair High" (2004). Plympton is renowned globally for his unique animated style seen all over newspapers and televsision. With each of his various shorts, the message trying to be put across to the view is in plain sight and easy to understand, which seems to work to great effect in his animated commercials. 

The rather crudely drawn, yet effective style of his work became widely accepted only after his rise to fame as a significant animator, using the work from other animators to inspire him. Plympton speaks out to one of AWN's interviewers about this.

"It was the time of all the independents--Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch-- that inspired me." In 1987, he garnered an Academy Award nomination for the musical short Your Face. In it, the singer's head goes through myriad transformations--imploding, exploding, melting and breaking out in dozens of miniature faces. "It was a cheapo, throwaway experimental film, I thought. This'll weird a lot of people out; they won't get it, but they did." (Segall, 1996)

The animators work bears a significant resemblance to the stereotypical and the surreal, portraying society as a dream-like world where almost anything can happen. His characters are strong and his urge to exaggerate them personalised. The bold colours only enhancing their charming yet uncanny appearance to the types of real life personalities we are all familiar with.

During his childhood, Plympton dreamed about the world of animation. He was so fond of it, in fact, that he sent a letter to Disney when he was 12 with the hopes of helping them work on their newest animated feature at the yie: sleeping beauty. He was turned down. The irony is that the company later then turned around once he was a success and offered him a check for one million dollars. He refused as he thought that Disney would limit his creativity.

The work of Plympton is gradually growing and evolving with each generation and shows no sign of ceasing to improve. The animator is one of the true legends which keep the tradition of 2D animation alive even until this day while CG animation slowly takes over the industry.


Plympton, Bill, (2000) Survining in the World of Independent Film & Video
http://www.awn.com/plympton/survive.html (Accessed 17/04/2012)

Segall, Mark, (1996) Plympton's Metamorphoses http://www.awn.com/mag/issue1.3/articles/segall1.3.html (Accessed 17/04/2012)

Figure 1.Bill Plympton. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3e/Plympton_BW.jpg (Accessed 17/04/2012) 

1 comment:

  1. Great to see you getting your animator profiles up, but please don't be doing this at the expense of posting your actual drawn animation! - I notice you have not actually posted anything drawn yet, apart from your initial character idea....