I’ll be honest, I had no idea who Bill Plympton was before Alexia started Kickstarting the documentary. I should have. He’s got 2 Oscar nominations, after all, and I’m generally pretty in tune with these things.
Which makes Adventures in Plymptoons! the perfect documentary for someone like me. Anastasio’s film operates as a sort of career retrospective for Plympton. It’s a classic structure, and effective for a film like this. Plympton, by all accounts, is a pretty big deal in the world of independent animation and Anastasio is sure to hit all the high points.
It helps when you can start with Terry Gilliam.
Anastasio’s trick is to put all of her interview subjects (well, most of them) in Bill Plympton’s world by having them all appear in front of a green screen. It’s a nice approach, as these are the people who inform just who Plympton is, they make up his world, so it makes perfect sense that they’d appear in his cinematic universe. It’s especially apt for a guy who’s maintained a fierce independence from the studios.
For the most part it works. But there isn’t really a counterpoint to the parade of cheerleaders, which is fine, only the film sets up the expectation that there will be with the title card about dealing with criticism. Only, there isn’t any criticism in the section. Well, there’s some, in the form of his alter ego, his Tony Clifton, but that hardly counts as real criticism. It just, I dunno, feels insincere. But maybe that’s the point.
And it turns out I have seen some of his films. One of which (The Fan and the Flower) I absolutely loved.