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PLYMPTOONS

Review by Michael Jacobson

Creator:  Bill Plympton
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  New Video
Features:  See Review
Length:  96 Minutes
Release Date: 
March 28, 2006

“Bill Plympton is God.  Or he sold his soul.  I’m not sure.  One or the other.”Matt Groening

Film ***1/2

Even if you don’t recognize the name, you’re bound to recognize the work.  Bill Plympton is the man who put colored pencils to paper and gave us some of the most hysterically bizarre animated shorts of the last couple of decades.  His style is like Salvador Dali crossed with Marcel Duchamp…absurd and surreal, yet wickedly imaginative and entertaining.

Plymptoons is a superb collection of some the famous and not-so famous works by the Oscar nominated animator.  You’ll see shorts that won awards and others that should have.  You’ll see humble beginnings and wacky conclusions.  You’ll witness ideas that never made it to full fruition, and others that did.  Best of all, you’ll smile from ear to ear with both bemusement and amazement.

The 23 short films included on this disc are in chronological order so that you can experience the evolution of an original artist from his humble college beginnings to his MTV salad days.  From single line drawings and construction paper cut-outs, Bill Plympton eventually emerged as a master of colored pencils on white paper; a signature style that made his works easily recognizable and quickly famous.  “Your Face” is the first shining example of this; an Academy Award nominated short that proves just how much you can do with a few pencil strokes and a human head.

“One of Those Days” is my personal favorite…a unique bit of animation that puts you right in the midst of one of the worst days anybody ever had.  It’s endlessly imaginative and comical…you may never look at buttered toast the same way again.  Other high points are “25 Ways to Quit Smoking”, “How to Kiss”, and the music video for Peter Himmelman’s “245 Days”. 

His most famous pieces, arguably, are his MTV interstitials, which are included in abundance on here, and his commercials for Trivial Pursuit and Sugar Delight.  These are balanced off against lesser known but equally intriguing works such as “Boom Town” and the under-the-camera animation of “Drawing Lesson #2”. 

There is even a film called “Plymptoons”, a series of very short, often strange, but always funny vignettes.  The very last one, “Car Alarm”, always floors me.

Bill Plympton deserves praise for his artistic imagination, his unique vision and style, but mostly, for his ability to create humor out of drawings.  Whether you’re a fan of animation or just comedy in general, Plymptoons is a colorful, jaw-dropping laugh riot from start to finish.

Video **

The short films are extremely watchable, but many show their age and lack of care over the years in the form of some dirt, scratches, and other scars.  “Boom Town” seems to have been taken from a video source, and there are some horizontal lines noticeable on the backgrounds usually associated with tape.  As the works become newer, the video quality improves.  There’s nothing wrong with the picture that I would attribute to the transfer; merely the source material, and again I stress, for the fan, these are far from unwatchable, just not as good as DVD fans have come to expect from animation on disc.

Audio **

Likewise, the sound is serviceable but not meant to be spectacular.  Everything is clear, but dynamic range is minimal, and some of the older film shorts sound as old as they are with a bit of background noise here and there…but nothing I would consider distracting.

Features **

There are two exclusive documentaries on Bill Plympton included on this disc, along with a gallery of sketches and a bio for him.

Summary:

Plymptoons is a must-have for animation buffs, but just as good a selection for people who simply want to laugh.  Bill Plympton with his deceptively simple but imaginatively rich style has been the master of the hysterically surreal cartoon short for better than two decades now, and this disc is a perfect summation of what makes him so.

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