Friday, January 19, 2018

Live-action Films

Early in my career, back in the early 1990's, after I had a modest success with my first animated feature film "The Tune", I was feeling like I could do anything.  My ambitions were flying high (and my animating hand was tired) so I decided to make a live-action feature film.  After all, hadn't Frank Tashlin, the great Warner Brothers writer, successfully moved from animation into directing some of the funniest Jerry Lewis films, like "The Geisha Boy" and "The Disorderly Orderly"?  Didn't Tim Burton move from being a Disney animator to a very successful live-action director?  Also, didn't David Lynch start out as an animator?  Well, if they could do it, why couldn't I?  Also, this was around the time of low-budget DIY films like "Clerks" and "El Mariachi".

I had what I thought was a great idea for a live-action film, and proceeded to create a feature film named "J. Lyle", it was a moral fable about a lawyer who owned a building and was trying to evict all of the tenants so he could make more money by turning the property into a toxic waste dump.  Only he fell in love with the attractive last tenant, while a magical talking dog tried to show him the error of his ways by "zapping" his soul into the bodies of the people he was mistreating.  Despite an incident during the shoot where I got attacked by a naked transvestite in the street, I finished the film and took it on the festival circuit with very little success.  However, it's still one of my favorite films, it's very weird.  (There is SOME animation in it, a little stop-motion and a dog with a "cartoon mouth"...)

I was not to be denied, and my next idea was a surefire, can't miss winner - it was a mockumentary about the making of a fictional Western film, sort of a cross between "Blazing Saddles" and "This Is Spinal Tap".  It was shot mostly on my folks' place on the Clackamas River in Oregon, which saved a lot of money, and it was called "Guns on the Clackamas".  This film did a little better, I actually made some money on it, but, alas, not enough to pay off my investment in it.  You'd probably love it, it's a crazy film, part of the inspiration came from a film titled "Saratoga" that had to be completed after one of its stars, Jean Harlow, died.  So they hired a stand-in and shot her only from the back or with her face covered.  (see also: Ed Wood finishing "Plan Nine From Outer Space" with a stand-in after Bela Lugosi died)

At this point, my savings were starting to run low, so I decided to make one last stab at a live-action feature film.  I had a buddy from Oregon, Walt Curtis, who was a crazy, brilliant poet.  I thought it would be funny to follow him around Portland with a camera and make a documentary about his memories, feelings and poems.  I know it might sound incredibly boring, but it's not - Walt has a sense of humor very similar to mine, which is surreal, provocative, and outrageous.  This 70-minute film is called "Walt Curtis, Peckerneck Poet".  And this film actually showed a profit, because after Walt became known as the writer of "Mala Noche", which became Gus Van Sant's first film, then a DVD company bought the rights to my documentary to include it on a special DVD release of that film. 

Walt Curtis reading poetry in front of a painted flag, in the summer of 1995
You may ask why I'm talking about all of my old live-action films.  Well, the situation is that moved my studio to a smaller space last year, and I'm finding that I have boxes of DVDs that I'd love to sell to make more room for new items.  Plus I'm finally going through all of my master tapes after the move and getting these films out on DVD has been on my to-do list for quite some time.  So it's great news for any of my fans that want to complete their set of Bill Plympton films! 

I've decided that once we get copies of "J. Lyle" and "Walt Curtis, Peckerneck Poet" available on DVD, I'm going to sell all of my live-action films at a tremendous discount, just $5 each!!  Can you believe it?  Four Bill Plympton features for only $5 each? 

Here are all the films that will be available from my web-site store for 5 bucks:
"J. Lyle" (1994) - coming soon
"Guns on the Clackamas" (1995) - available now
"Walt Curtis, Peckerneck Poet" (1997) - coming soon
"The Flying House" (2011) - available now

That last one is a documentary I made about the world's greatest animator, Winsor McCay, in which I also update his famous silent animated short "The Flying House" with spoken dialogue, music and color. 

So for all you "completists", here's your chance to get every feature film from the King of Indie Animation, even the ones made in live-action.  Tell your friends, it's an amazing offer.  Check my web-site next week for the "new" items and the updated prices.



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