Adventures in Plymptoons!: Meet Cult Animator Bill Plympton

Considered an infomercial for cult animator Bill Plympton, the documentary Adventures in Plymptoons! suffers from two main defects. First, there aren’t enough examples of his work, which includes the Oscar-nominated 1987 short Your Face and recent features Idiots & Angels and Hair High. Second, the rest of the dull, gushy tributes and biographical ephemera would only be interesting if Plympton illustrated them. Keith Carradine, Terry Gilliam, Al Yankovic, Ron Jeremy (!), and others praise Plympton’s perverse prowess with a pencil (honed at Al Goldstein’s porno mag Screw during the ’70s), but away from his easel he’s merely a pleasant, typical baby boomer. We learn of a bucolic youth in Oregon, his hippie years, his service in the National Guard (to avoid Vietnam), and the expansion of his art via acid (big surprise). Yet no one, including the affable draftsman himself, really addresses the source of his rude, physical, transgressive humor. In an untitled short from one of those Spike & Mike “Sick & Twisted” compilations, we see a date from the perspective inside a woman’s mouth: Here comes the popcorn at a movie, wine, dinner, the probing tongue during a kiss, more wine, and finally the big, veiny dick she swallows at the end of the evening. Yet Adventures censors the image from our delicate eyes. And why? Alexia Anastasio’s doc lauds Plympton’s underground cred (which Disney couldn’t purchase!) and hand-drawn responsibility for every frame in his films, but never lifts his genial mask. Adventures is finally closer to Disney than Crumb.