I'm here in New York City with Victoria to answer your questions.

My latest movie is called Cheatin' and it's in theaters on April 3rd, on Vimeo on demand (https://vimeo.com/ondemand) nationwide April 21. It's a comedy in my signature style. And my ENTIRE back catalogue of animations will be released in April on iTunes Shorts International.

And you can follow us on Twitter @plymptoons


photo proof: http://imgur.com/MllcLgE

Update I wanna thank everybody for those fantastic questions! It's the first time I've ever done reddit, and it's a great experience. I wanna thank my typist here, Victoria, right, for doing such a great job. And encourage people go to see CHEATIN' at your nearby cinema, and support independent animation!

Comments: 92 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

colebrax14 karma

Hey Bill,

I can’t ask questions more than once than every 7 min so I wanted to break this down into a few parts:

-will you ever draw a graphic novel and if so who would you want to write it? -do you ever just spend time drawing just for practice or is your drawing time always work-related? -who is your favorite contemporary animator? -what is the greatest animated film ever made? -which live-action filmmaker working today impresses you the most?

If you can’t answer all of these, no problem. Best of luck with Cheatin’.


Bill_Plympton24 karma

MMMMM! I would love to do a graphic novel with Patton Oswalt.

I'm meeting with him next month to talk about this very subject.

And maybe it would turn into a film. Who knows?

More and more, my drawing time is work-related. But I still like to draw in front of the TV, draw the characters from movies, especially the ones I like, and on airplanes, and subways, I like to bring out the sketchbook and do sketches of strange-looking people. I think it's very important to keep the hand moving, and keep my sketching skills up to date.

Oooooooh. Oh, that's a tough one. There's so many great animators out there. I like Signe Baumane. I like Joanna Quinn. I like Peter Chung. I like Mike Smith.

I have an answer to that. It is MIND GAME. Which I think is the CITIZEN KANE of animation. By Masaaki Yuasa. But then also I loved HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, 1 and 2. I loved DUMBO. YELLOW SUBMARINE. I mean, there's so many great films... TOY STORY 3... I can come back to that one later too!

I can't leave it at one filmmaker. But certainly Quentin Tarantino is really, I love his stuff. The Coen Brothers, I love their work. Steve Soderbergh. James Cameron is a big hero of mine. Those are sort of the top ones, I think, that really turn me on. Terry Gilliam.

dayofthedead20410 karma

Hi Bill,

Thanks for doing this AMA! I have a few questions for you:

I heard you were once offered a job as an animator at Disney but you turned it down. Can you tell us why you said no to them and did Disney ever try to offer you the position again?

What do you think about the works of Ralph Bakshi? What’s your favorite Bakshi film?

Thanks Bill!

Bill_Plympton16 karma

Yes. Back in 1990, Disney sent a lawyer to my studio, and offered me a million dollars to join their company.

People say that negotiating with Disney is not so much "good cop / bad cop," but "Bad cop / Anti-Christ." And there's a certain truth to that.

For example, I asked if I could make my own short films on the weekends. They said "yes, that would be fine, but they would own the film."

I said "What if I told someone a funny story?"

Well, Disney owns that.

"What if I had a dream?"

Well, that's Disney's.

So it seemed like they wanted to control my soul, haha! So I reluctantly said no. And I say "reluctantly" because it was my boyhood dream to be a Disney animator. And they never told me what I was to work on. And I only found out LATER that they wanted me to animate the Genie in Aladdin.

It woulda been nice.

So I said no. But it was at this time that I was working on "The Tune," and I would've had to end production, and let go of my employees, and move out to Los Angeles. PLUS, I probably would've started drawing little naughty bits in the animation from boredom, after a couple of months.

So it's just as well that I stayed in New York.

No one's offered me a position. I don't know if it's because I keep telling the story, or they're just afraid I'm just some psycho-sexual wacko. I've never been offered another job in Hollywood.

Well, Ralph Bakshi is my godfather, because he pioneered so much of the grown-up animation that I'm doing today.

Fritz the Cat obviously - for all its faults, some of the drawing's not so good, some of the coloring's not so good - was a revolutionary film. And it made a TON of money. I liked the one, AMERICAN POP. Because it had music, it had such a great flavor for music, from my era, from the 60's and 70's. Those are 2 of my favorites. But he did so many great films, it's hard to choose.

Slow-moving-sloth7 karma

Greetings Mr. Plympton – I’ve admired your animated work since the 80s – that song that plays during “Your Face” will haunt me forever.

  1. What career would you have if you weren’t an artist/animator?
  2. Do you smoke? (I always think about this when viewing "25 Ways to Quit Smoking")
  3. Favorite pizza topping?

Bill_Plympton12 karma

1.) Well, I studied pedal-steel guitar for a couple of years. And I LOVE pedal-steel guitar. It's such a cartoon like instrument. It's very sad, a very emotional instrument. But I really didn't have a good ear. And I was too busy drawing to devote more time to music. So I probably wouldn't have been too good at that. But other than that... I have no other real talents.

2.) I never smoked cigarettes... However, my mother smoked. She was a chainsmoker. And when she saw the film, she gave up smoking. And she lived to be 93 years old. So for that reason alone, I'm glad I made "25 Ways to Quit Smoking." By the way, that film was probably the most popular film I did for MTV. Because every country in the world - or almost every country in the world - played that film on MTV. And I was getting royalties for about 4,5 years from that film.

3.) Uh... quite frankly, I don't like pizza. But if I do have pizza, I like pineapple. The Hawaiian pizza.

beernerd6 karma

How has animation changed over the last decade?

Bill_Plympton19 karma

I believe that the digital revolution has changed it immensely.

Speaking for myself, before digital filmmaking, half of my budget went into the technical side of making films. Things like a rostrum camera, film stock, processing, interpositive, internegative, editing, optical soundtrack, etcetera, etcetera... NOW, I only spend 5% of my money for the technical side of filmmaking. SO that means that 45% of the budget extra goes to my art.

Which is how it should be.

PLUS, I don't have to lug around those giant 35 mm film prints. Which was a big pain.

Frajer5 karma

How did you like making the Simpsons couch gag ?

Bill_Plympton11 karma

It was delightful!

I've known Matt when he lived in Portland.

His father, Homer, was a wonderful filmmaker. Very funny. And I met Matt through his father.

And so we run into each other at film festivals, or Comic-Cons, and a couple years ago, he said "Would you like to work for the Simpsons?"

I said "Are you kidding? YASSS."

And so he asked me to do a couch gag. And it was very easy, because it was only 30 seconds long. And it was seen by more people than have seen all my films put together. So it was instant fame! Hahahaha! And I've done 2 more since then, so I've done couch-gags for the Simpsons, and hopefully I'll do more.

There were really great people working on the couch gags - Don Hertzfeldt, Banksy, John Kricfalusi, so it's pretty good company.

coldermilk5 karma

Hi Bill Plympton!

With Cheatin', I see you were able to fund a portion of the film using Kickstarter and will release it directly to your fans using Vimeo on Demand. As an independent film maker who focuses primarily on adult animation, do you feel we are living in a golden age for content creators?

I love the work that indie creators such as Don Hertzfeldt and Signe Bauman have done in terms of opening doors for not just for adult content but in telling very sophisticated stories too. Do you feel we will ever reach a point where major American studios would be interested in using animation to tell stories primarily for adults?

Thanks for making so many great films!

Bill_Plympton6 karma

That's a really great question.

You obviously know your animation.

No, I don't believe the big studios will ever accept adult animation. But I do think that an independent distributor, such as G-Kids, will support it and distribute those films.

I believe the old-time Hollywood studios are stuck on the formula of kiddie-films, done by computer.

And I really can't see them changing their attitudes. So we need some sort of Maverick distributor to come in and champion independent animation.

2DNeil5 karma

Hi Bill! How do you start a character design? Alternatively, what do you think are the most important fundamentals you still keep in mind even after a career that has lasted decades? (i.e. lines of action or gesture drawings? Details or blocking? animation principles? a good premise?)

Bill_Plympton7 karma


The essence of a good character design is to get a nice silhouette. A nice shape. Because you wanna see it on all different angles, and if the shape holds up, and is distinctive, then it's gonna be a good design.

Also, I don't like lots of detail.

Say, fabric patterns. Jewelry. Cigars, cigarettes, mustaches - it's gotta be clean. A simplified design. Oftentimes, I will start an animated feature film, and I'll think i've completed the design, and after 20 or 30 days of animating the character, he starts to evolve and change.

So that's why I recommend you draw the character 100 times AT LEAST before you start the film. That way you will streamline it to its perfect look.

Another thing that bugs the hell out of me about character design - and when I see these things, I know they're an amateur - BIG HANDS, big feet, and big noses.

If I see those in a cartoon, I know they're not really good artists.

fabulousfilmfanatic5 karma

Hi Bill, I'm really excited about your upcoming film CHEATIN'. Can you tell us how the project got started and what inpired you to make the film? Thanks!

Bill_Plympton10 karma

The film was inspired by a relationship I had a number of years ago, and I thought this was a real thing. We moved in together. After 2 months, we were ready to strangle each other, yet we still wanted to have sex.

And I just thought that was curious, that those 2 passions can coexist in the same relationship.

So about 10, 15 years later, I thought Oh, that might be a fun idea for a film.

And I started writing down ideas. I made a little list of scenes, sequences, sort of an outline. And I did a very crude storyboard. About 100 pages.

And then I did a more finished, more polished storyboard, of about 200 pages.

And these drawings were much bigger, more detailed, so I could develop the character design, the fashions, the architecture, the backgrounds, all the little details that go into making an animated feature film.

And once I finished that storyboard, I followed it pretty closely during the whole process of making the animation.

The storyboard, in fact, became my layouts.

So I used the storyboard right on top of my desk to guide me through animation. It was my bible, yeah.

Bill_Plympton3 karma

By the way - Cheatin' is coming out April 3rd at New York's Village East Cinema. It's 76 minutes. And I will be there every night introducing the film, doing Q&A, and giving everybody who comes a free sketch (and if they want, I'll do a high-five).

And then, starting on April 12th, I do a tour across America, hitting (I think) 20 towns promoting the film. And then on the 21st of April, the film is offered on Vimeo on-demand, and I won't be there to give everybody a drawing on that one, haha!

Houston_0024 karma

Hi there! I was just wondering how you got into animating? It seems like a difficult field to be successful in

Bill_Plympton8 karma

It's not actually a difficult field to be successful in. I have what I call "Plympton's Dogma."

And these are 3 rules for success in animation.

1.) Make your film short. Approximately 5 minutes or less. I'm talking about short films here.

2.) Make your films cheap. Under $1,000 a minute will do.

3.) And make your films funny.

This is how you get on YouTube. And if you can follow those 3 rules, everybody will want to show your film, and you'll make your money back!

MBprocast3 karma

How would you define your "signature style?"

Bill_Plympton3 karma

My style... was started back when I was 14, or 15.

I remember my mom gave me a big roll of butcher paper, just regular white paper, and i took a ball-point pen and started scratching around real loosely on it, and really fell in love with the look. So it's kinda an impressionistic scribble-look.

A lot of cross-hatching, and sketchy stuff.

And I've been using that ever since. From "The Dog" films to (obviously) CHEATIN', it gives it a nice artsy flavor, like a Renoir or one of the old classic painters. So it's kinda impressionistic. I love that look. It's kinda appealing to me. And it makes my drawings go FAST, because i get in a zen-like mindset. Almost subconscious. I'm not looking at the detail, but the darks and lights.

It just feels wonderful, very comfortable and relaxed.

ExtraAndroid3 karma

What's the funniest thing that's ever happened while making a film?

Bill_Plympton13 karma

Well, by "making a film," I assume live action is included in that.

The first day of J. LYLE, which is a live-action film I did, on this beautiful street in NYC, on a wonderful Sunday morning, I was setting up a shot and this naked transvestite walks on the set - he had nice heels, and a see-through negligee top.

And that was it.

And he claims that we're trespassing on his turf. He jumps in our costume van, and pulls out a long pair of scissors... kicks over the craft-services table, gets hot coffee and donuts all over our actors' costumes (and our actors, haha), and then he rushes towards me with the scissors, I grab a C-stand, I rush towards him, and we're in the middle of this New York street like Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone in a sword fight.

I think he was high on crack.

I don't know why.

Anyway, he stabs me in my elbow, and the cops show up just in time, and they wrestle him to the ground, he stabs one of the cops, and they take him to prison, I think he was there for 2 years for this, and i look around at everybody, and I say "You know, this never happens when I'm drawing a film. I think I should switch back to animation."


At the time it wasn't funny, but now, I laugh at it.

OhNoBees3 karma

Hey Bill,

I've been a fan for a long time. I'm not sure anybody has more postcards with your signature and doggy drawing than I do. When are you and Patrick Smith going to host another Drawn Animation Film Festival in NYC? The last one was a lot of fun and it was super cool that it was free for anyone to attend.

Bill_Plympton7 karma

I'm glad you like the show.

I had a lot of fun at it also.

And amazingly, I just saw Pat 3 days ago. And we talked about that very question!

And even though he's an expectant father, and lives out in Montauk, and is very busy with commercial work... he says he wants to do it this Fall! So watch for his Facebook or my Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bill-Plympton/269976082181?ref=br_rs), and we will alert you on the upcoming 2D Animation Show.

joelschlosberg3 karma

Your Ani-Cam was a very early pioneer in livestreaming video over the Internet, a format which has really exploded in popularity in the last couple years. Will you be reviving the Ani-Cam? What takeaway do you have from the experience that today's livestreamers can learn from?

Bill_Plympton5 karma

Well, technically, I am really out of touch with a lot of the new technologies.

However, the Ani-Cam was a big success for me.

I would get emails from people all over the world, who followed my Ani-Cam. However, now the studio is so busy with so many projects that I spend more time dealing with contracts, and emails, and business - so my drawing board is lying empty, hahaha! I do all my animation at home right now. At 5 in the morning.

So it's not as entertaining as it was when I did - I think it was HAIR HIGH.

I loved the immediacy of the Ani-Cam - that as soon as I did a drawing, people could see it. A lot of people were amazed that I drew so fast. That i made these drawings so quickly. And theoretically, people could take my drawings from the Ani-Cam, and make their own Bill Plympton film. But nobody ever did that, because the lighting wasn't so good. You couldn't really see the detail.

But who knows? Maybe some people made their own Bill Plimpton movie.

Yeah, I don't think I would do it again, simply because my drawing board is too boring right now to show animation.

joelschlosberg3 karma

Do people recognize you from the Academy Awards telecast?

Bill_Plympton5 karma

VERY rarely.

There's been a documentary about me. Called "Adventures in Plymptoons" by Alexia Anastasia.

And I think people recognize me from that.

But that's about it. It's very rare. Once a month maybe. That's the good thing about being an animator. Is that you're somewhat anonymous. Except for maybe Tim Burton.

sp00ked_yuh3 karma

what's your alcoholic beverage of choice?

Bill_Plympton6 karma

OOOH that's a good one. I like Sangria. I like the fruity drinks. I like rum & cokes. And Bailey's.

WrongReel3 karma

Hey Bill,

First and foremost, we’re huge fans at Wrong Reel and we’re very fired up to see that all of your work is finally making its way online. What made you decide to finally go that route? Also what kind of future do you think there is for 35mm film in general and have we seen the end of traditional cel animation?

Many thanks.

Bill_Plympton3 karma

In the past, my films made good money on TV sales.

Mostly in Europe, quite frankly, and if I had released my film on the internet, I would lose all of that money. Now the scales have changed, to leaning towards the internet.

And it feels like there's more money on the internet than there is on television. And also, Shorts International made me an offer I could not refuse. So I decided to take the plunge.

AND for many years, I refused to allow my films on the internet. And John in my office would scan the internet for my work, and insist they take it off.

But unfortunately, because of that, nobody really knows who I am, ahahah! So I decided to make myself known to "the cyberspace." And be discovered by the younger generation.

None. I think maybe museums and archival places, there's a place for that? But I've donated all of my 35mm prints to the Academy of Motion Pictures.... and to George Eastman House.

And yes, I think we have... I think painted cells are gone. And again, I don't bemoan that. I think it's so much quicker, and cheaper, and easier, to color a film on a computer.

NorbitGorbit3 karma

what technological innovation has made your work much more easier or enjoyable to do?

Bill_Plympton4 karma

Digital technology has really made my life so much more bearable.

frank-grimey-grimes3 karma

Hey Bill, what's it like seeing your animation re-imagined by others in the global jams?

Bill_Plympton4 karma

"Guard Dog Global Jam" was an incredible film.

To see other animators re-envision my animation... was shocking, hahahaha! There's one sequence called "The Screaming Girl," I think it's 3 seconds long, and the guy who animated that piece asked 72 other animators from around the world to do ONE FRAME EACH.

And when I saw it, slowed down, frame-by-frame... I was amazed at the great artwork that people came up with for my drawings.

And it was a total delight to make the film.

In fact, I think it's the first time anybody's ever done that?

And I'd like to do it again! In fact, we're doing it again for the film "Your Face!"

PackedInsanity3 karma

Are there any specific resources, including books or other animations, that you think could help people who want to animate learn helpful techniques?

Bill_Plympton6 karma

I'm GLAD you asked that question!

I've done 2 books that I highly recommend.

The first one is a big art book by Rizzoli, called "Independently Animated: Bill Plympton".

And the second one is a "Make Toons That Sell Without Selling Out." and this has all of the tricks of my success in making animation.

Plus a lot of really cool drawings!

smross8182 karma

All time favorite Actor? Director? Also your couch gag was awesome.

Bill_Plympton3 karma


Well, I think Tarantino still surprises me. He still does very different stuff. And I like his sense of dialogue.

Actor, I like Lee Marvin a lot. He's a real Plympton character. In fact, he's very similar to one the characters, "The Hitman," in CHEATIN'. His big jaw, his hairstyle, is very Lee-Marvin-ish.

Also, as for the woman model of CHEATIN', I used Linda Darnell. And she's one of my fantasy lover actresses.

joelschlosberg2 karma

You've used pretty much every distribution medium in existence to disseminate your work, from being one of the very first animators to release on VHS to having your animation included in the Windows 95 CD-ROM. Is there any format you regret missing out on using (or regret using, for that matter)?

Bill_Plympton3 karma


We did do a LaserDisk. So I did do that.

Those are very rare now.

For TRUE collectors.

Um.... you know, off the top of my head, I can't think of any. I've done 16mm.

But I haven't done BetaMax! I never released anything on BetaMax. It's a good system, for its time.

Never did Super 8 either.

realann2 karma

Hi, there... I was just wondering in general how much has creating animations developed over the years? And is it exhausting as a job?

Bill_Plympton2 karma

It's not exhausting simply because for me it's a pleasure?

Sometimes I'll get up at 5 in the morning, go to my drawing board, and draw until 10 at night. And I feel perfectly relaxed, and refreshed after that.

And that's the way it SHOULD be. Your job should be something that makes you happy about life.

And drawing my characters, and having them do crazy sexual things, is a delight.

Well, it's changed a lot, simply because of the digital revolution. And what's really exciting is how people are now starting to make their own animated features. When I first made "The Tune" back in 1991, I had no idea that you can't do that.

However, the film was quite a success. And I continued to make seven animated features. And I'm hoping that that inspired a lot of younger animators to make their films on their own, at home, on their computer.

And what we have now is an independent animated feature revolution.

Hundreds of animated films are now coming out every year.

MrOns2 karma

Is there a particular story you'd like to animate, or do you prefer writing your own?

Also - 'The Tune' and 'I Married A Strange Person' are some of my favourite films. I remember stumbling across them both late at night when I was channel-hopping, and I couldn't look away. Thanks for making them!

Bill_Plympton3 karma

Hahaha! smiles

Well, thank you, that's awful nice. Those 2 films are 2 of my favorites.

I believe that "I Married A Strange Person" is the craziest film I've ever done. The most outrageous film I ever did. And it was actually the most successful film I've ever done. Except for CHEATIN', I think that CHEATIN' will be a smash hit.

And I really much prefer to write the story myself. Except for Re-Vengeance. For me, it's enjoyable. And I have a peculiar sense of humor, and a peculiar sense of storytelling, in that I rarely use dialogue.

And I like storytelling through visuals and music. To me, it's much more poetic, and oftentimes, more powerful.

WrongReel2 karma

I absolutely love that you tackle adult content occasionally in your films. If you could work with one female model from anytime in history, who would that be?

Bill_Plympton2 karma

Well, Jayne Mansfield was always my ideal for a slutty model (and it's funny - the 1950's curvaceousness was very popular, and that's when I was starting to discover women, so that seems to be my ideal. The Kate Moss character never appealed to me).

So Jayne Mansfield. Anita Eckberg.

DoctorPooPoo2 karma

How much money do you make?

Bill_Plympton4 karma

Well, if you looked at my tax statements, it varies. I barely make enough to get by. But as long as I can make my animated films, I'm a happy guy. I don't want a house in the Hamptons. I just wanna make a feature film every 3 years. And a couple shorts a year.

colebrax2 karma

If you could pick one great novel to adapt into an animated film, what would it be?

Bill_Plympton2 karma


Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.


Well, I'll tell ya, one of my favorite books is FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, but Terry Gilliam made a great film out of that. But that's a book I re-read a lot.

Because animation depends on fantasy. And most great novels are mostly serious stuff - Charles Dickens, even Mark Twain, it doesn't really lend itself to surrealism, and fantasy.

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS been done too many times. But I like Jonathan Swift, actually. I don't think I've seen "A Modest Proposal" animated...

ranjan_zehereela20142 karma

Did you get attach to any of your animated creation as in started considering it more than just your artistic creation?

Bill_Plympton3 karma

Yes, I do get emotionally attached. Especially to the dog. Whose first film was called "Guard Dog."

I've become very protective of him.

And because of that, I've made 6 films with "the dog." Or 5 films, actually. I'm working on the sixth right now. It's called "Cop Dog." And in this one, he works as a... sniffer at an airport. And he discovers a big suitcase full of drugs. And tears it open. Consequently, the whole airport is filled with some sort of psychedelic drug, and everybody starts taking their clothes off, and going crazy. Everybody'll be afraid to fly after that one, haha!

fabulousfilmfanatic1 karma

What is next for you after CHEATIN' opens in April? What are the next film projects you are working on that you can talk about?

Bill_Plympton4 karma

I'm working on 2 feature films right now.

The first one is called "Hitler's Folly" and it's about Adolph Hitler - the side that we don't know. He was a lover of animation. And in fact, he started a studio, an animation studio, called "HitlerToons."

(It's a mockumentary)

And he made numerous animated shorts, and one feature film, called "The Ring Cycle."

And it was Eva Braun, who actually ran the war machine. Hitler had nothing to do with that. He was just a happy-go-lucky guy who wanted to draw all day.

We're going into final sound edit next month, so it should be around the festival circuit sometime in the fall (IF it gets in)!

And the other feature film is called "Re-Vengeance." And it was written and voiced by Jim Lujan. And it's about 1/3 done. I'm doing ALL the animation.

And it concerns the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles - the corrupt politicians, the bikers, the wrestlers, the transvestites, the religious cultists, all these crazy fringe groups in LA. And that should be ready by 2016, at the rate I'm going.