Friday, 23 March 2012

Unit 5: Animation - Animator Profile - Bill Plympton 1946 - present

Figure 1. Bill Plympton

Bill Plympton’s style is very expressive showing a classic comic theme in each of his exploits. His humour is daring & very explicit, launching an assault of clichés at the audience nearly knocking them from their feet with exaggerated movement. Plympton’s characters are the most impressive all utilizing unique physical traits which are compatible with their demeanour.

Best known for:

•His distinctive caricature art style
•Political Cartoon Strip “Plympton”
•Animated Short “Your Face”
•Animated Feature “Hair High”

Figure 2. Plympton

Plympton is probably most famous for his style which was been accepted globally from his initial short 1983 entitled “Boomtown”. His style would then be on demand from television shows to short commercials for MTV. When watching Plympton’s work one cannot help but feel each message as clear as day, his work is well produced & really excites on numerous levels. Plymptons crude style has been felt throughout more specifically after he established himself as an animator of note after his initial success. Alyce Wilson of probe observes:
“Animator Bill Plympton first earned distinction through his off-the-wall short animated films, played on MTV, as well as on other channels and on the festival circuit. An artist who began his career as an editorial cartoonist and illustrator, Plympton has since created feature length animated films and even written and directed live action films”. (Wilson: 2005)
Plympton’s work conveys society as a drug trip with people sporting exaggeration associated with their personality (example – the nerd cliché - large glasses & buck teeth). His colour work is strong & very personalised, in some cases contrasting tones that no other would even consider for fear of distracting the viewer. This is probably were Plympton’s work has its biggest downfall where the colours can feel so stylised that they distract from the narrative that his work is trying to convey.

Figure 3. Your Face

This is not to say that Plympton’s narratives are lost in the limelight but more so to say that they can sometimes discredit what is considered to be well driven stories. Regardless, no one can take away from Plympton’s achievements which have transcended & adapted well to contemporary media. Plympton’s work was a high commodity in the past mainly because of its vision & how it conveyed society, more notably of the music scene with MTV’s Liquid Television. Drew Grant of Salon Core observes:
“Plympton’s work on Fox’s “The Edge” and MTV’s “Liquid Television” in the 1980s and ’90s were so ahead of their time it’s amazing the networks allowed it — but he now bemoans the lack of American distribution for adult cartoons. (My personal favorite of his is “25 Ways to Quit Smoking.”) He hates Internet piracy, but loves the international audience it has provided him”. (Drew: 2011)
One can appreciate Plympton’s work on an adult level but that is not to say that his talent could not entertain children. This is what separates his style distinctively from his narratives with both conveying different messages; children would see this as a colourful experience while adults see it as an acid trip compiled of dirty jokes stereotypes. Contemporary animation of today is primarily aimed at children but with the onset of animated series such as Seth MacFarlane’s “Family guy” or Trey Parker & Matt Stones “South Park” it is fair to say that animation is shifting its way to adults, quite possibly because of Plympton’s influence.

Figure 4. Hair High

Animation has been Plympton’s dream since he was a child always aspiring to create films alongside greats such as Walt Disney. Still it is fair to say that Plympton’s style does not ring very true of his former inspiration. In fact it is probably more likely to say that Plympton’s style still roots back to his days as a comic illustrator paying homage to his ability as an artist not so much as an animator. Plymptons exposition & animation hand print has been gifted from his credited roots due to his ability to notice form and express his unique style through it. Robert Kohr of Plymptoon’s observes:
“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”. (Kohr: 2004)
Bill Plympton was inspired from an early age & it is a testament to his talent that Disney liked his early cartoons. To think where the medium could have been now had Disney signed him when he was younger. Still to think what we may have lost out on with Plympton confining himself to innocent child cartoons. Plympton is a wonder & his style has its place in our minds and hearts expressing the very ideals of historical & contemporary cultures. His work is growing with its generation, as Plympton’s skill expands so does the next piece of work.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Bill Plympton. (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Figure 2. Plympton. (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Figure 3. Your Face. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Figure 4. Hair High. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)



Wilson, Alyce. (2007) Probe: Bill Plympton. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Grant, Drew. (2011) The fascinating contradictions of Bill Plympton. At: (Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Kohr, Robert. (2004) Plymptoons Biography. At: (Accessed on: 21/03/12)

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