Cartoonal Knowledge: Plympton's School of Animation
It's Jan. 18th and the second iteration of Bill Plympton's School of Animation is underway. Under his tutelage and in his studio, 11 students are learning the nuts and bolts of what goes into creating a cartoon -- and how to make sure money comes out of them.
Speaking of which, what motivated Plympton to offer the course? "Money -- I was really broke this summer. I almost had to leave this space," he says, referring to Plymptoons' home, a compact West Side Manhattan loft where the course is taking place. "Everybody [on his staff] complained "about a possible move, "so, I said, 'OK, I'll teach a class.'
"I've been doing lectures, master classes for a long time, I used to do summer animation classes --it didn't pay very well and it was a lot of work. It's more comfortable for me to do it here in my studio and do it at my own pace, my own schedule."
Tuition for the 10-week, two-hour course is $1,200: a hefty-sounding sum, perhaps, but one that works out to $60 an hour -- a pittance to learn from one of the superstars of the independent animation world. "It's the second time I'm teaching the course here. We have some people who were here the last time, so I'm trying to vary it a little bit."
"I heard about the course and I had the knee jerk reaction that I had to do it," explains Dennis Dittrich, the Society's head and an illustration instructor at New Jersey City University. "I figured I'd grab it while I could. Bill is an amazing draftsman and he's a draftsman who can make his work dance. Who's gonna say no thanks?"
Scanner Darkly animator Blue Bliss is hoping "some of Bill's magic rubs off on me. I want to come away from this class conceptualizing short, snappy ideas that end with a bang and really work. My ideas tend to run towards David Lynch and Werner Herzog -- long, grim, deep-meaningful things, so I need to work on my humor."
Skip Wrightson, the New England animation instructor, first studied the medium in 2005 at the Vancouver Film School. Soon afterward, he found himself "lured to Los Angeles by a job at JibJab that, unfortunately, wasn't there by the time I drove from Cape Cod to California. They had shelved a large scale production of a direct to internet Flash-animated feature about a monkey's first day at school.