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Plympton’s Answer to the Animation Pimp

Bill Plympton answers the Animation Pimp on the panorama show at Annecy and renegade screenings.

Bill Plympton at this years Annecy festival. Photo credit: Sarah Baisley.

Bill Plympton at this years Annecy festival. Photo credit: Sarah Baisley.

Read this months Animation Pimp column by Chris Robinson which prompted Bill Plympton to pen this reply.

Id like to take this opportunity to address a number of remarks made by Chris Robinson in the last report from The Animation Pimp.

First, Id like to state that Ive known Chris for around 10 years, I like him and consider him a friend. I respect his knowledge of animation and I love his terrific dry sense of humor. I believe the Ottawa festival is an extremely important festival in North America and in the world. I wrote letters to support the festival when it was in danger of losing the funding last year.

However, there are two issues Id like to discuss. First, the issue of panorama. Now I realize that the pre-selection jury in Annecy had a thankless job watching more than 1,000 shorts, plus 22 features in one week. Its not my idea of a vacation in France. If I were a pre-selection judge, my brain would turn to fondue after two days. So I understand how making a clear, rational decision on the merits of any film is extremely difficult. And I respect any juror who can last the week. But, mistakes are made.

Konstantin Bronzit pulled God out of Annecy a few years ago when it was scheduled for panorama. © Melnitsa Studio.

Konstantin Bronzit pulled God out of Annecy a few years ago when it was scheduled for panorama. © Melnitsa Studio.

I, personally, am comfortable about playing one of my films in panorama. In fact, Oscar-nominated Your Face played in panorama in 1987, and my new short, The Fan and the Flower, which has already won numerous prizes, got put in panorama. Yet, a number of filmmakers have pulled their films from panorama Konstantin Bronzit pulled God out of the festival a few years ago. The fact that [John] Dilworth pulled out Life in Translation is not new. But what Chris doesnt realize is that for a filmmaker to spend two to three years of his or her life, thousands of dollars of their money, and then be relegated to panorama, which is shown only in the small half-filled venues, is very tough to accept. The idea is to play in the large theater, to a full audience of 1,000 rowdy people, then stand up on a stage and hear the love of the crowd. Plus, in the audience are all the buyers that hear the great response, they rush up to you after the screening and offer money for the film.

When I showed The Fan and the Flower at the panorama screening, I heard no thunderous applause and no buyer rushed up to me offering distribution. Thats the difference, and its a very important difference. I would never pull a film from panorama, I love Annecy and Im very delighted to show my films there in any way I can. And that is what sparked the Annecy Plus show, which is the second issue I want to discuss.

The idea for the renegade screening was sprawled by Pat Smith. We Signe Baumane, Pat and I were extremely disappointed about having our films rejected from competition and we all vented our outrage. Last year, my Oscar-nominated Guard Dog was totally rejected from the festival, pre-selection juror Rosto said it had nothing new. Pat came up with a brilliant idea of having an out-of-the-festival screenings of our films. I loved the idea, and I talked to other directors whose brilliant films have also likewise been rejected.

We came up with titles such as Anti-Annecy or Slam Annecy, but we didnt want to seem like a bitter angry group. We wanted to celebrate Annecy and animation, so we decided on Annecy plus. I was extremely nervous about how my good friend Serge Bromberg, the artistic director of the festival, would react. I sent him a little letter talking about my concept and he wrote back that the only stipulation is that he must be invited!

What Chris misses is this controversy of the Annecy Plus complemented the whole animation experience during Annecy week. He wasnt there; he didnt experience that wonderful Friday night of animation. He was back in Ottawa. If he had come, he would have seen a beautiful courtyard surrounded by taverns filled with people (including the wife of the mayor of Annecy) and an exciting program of excellent films projected by Jonas Reaber (thank you, Jonas). We had live music provided by the Improper boys, Nik Phelps on clarinet, Rolf on drums and Jasper on guitar. To me (and maybe Im prejudiced) it seemed like a perfect evening watching movies under the stars. The evening was such a success, the bar ran out of beer half way through the screening. And I can say for myself, more people saw my film, The Fan and the Flower, there than they had in the panorama program. Ive been asked to hold the evening again next year by a number of people.

Why Chris has such a problem with the show, I do not know. In fact, it is very similar to his Chez ani screenings in Ottawa. Chris, next year come to Annecy. Ill give you a front seat to the Annecy Plus II screening. Youll love it!

Bill Plympton is an award-winning independent animator based in New York. His feature film Hair High screened at Cannes last May and will be shown at the upcoming Melbourne Film Festival. His last feature, Mutant Aliens, won the Annecy Grand Prix in 2001 and was released in theaters in 2002. He has been nominated twice for an Oscar, most recently for his short, Guard Dog, which was included in the Best Animated Short category for 2005. In addition, his website can be seen in AWNs Animation Village at www.awn.com/plympton.

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