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Review: 'Adventures in Plymptoons,' at Valley Film Festival

Our reviewer's pick for best ticket of the festival screens at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.

Film lovers in the Valley will want to catch Saturday's Valley Film Festival screening of Adventures in Plymptoons, showing at 3:30 p.m. at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. The documentary on Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton is a highlight of the local festival and an inside look at a filmmaker for movie buffs.

The documentary is a totally professional job. Director Alexia Anastasio got interviews with big-name commentators like Terry Gilliam, Weird Al Yankovich and Ed Begely Jr. Plympton himself and the people in his life (including animation legends Ralph Bakshi and Tom Kenney) paint a portrait of his beginning and development as an artist. If you’ve never heard of Bill Plympton before, there are plenty of clips from his ‘toons to give you an idea of his style.

Plympton is considered an edgy, sexual animator. The story of his life begins with Plympton getting in trouble for his suggestive art in his school days. Of course they’re pretty mild by today’s standards. They get racier as he matures as an artist and a man. The film is pretty racy too, especially in an interview with Ron Jeremy, so be warned if you’re sensitive to adult material.

Anastasio strikes the perfect balance of talking heads with enough archival material to show us Plympton’s art. The interviews have a sense of humor with puns and sarcasm. Just seeing Plympton show his artworks on camera creates a portfolio that would make anyone want to check out the full body of his work.

Plympton’s animation has a wavy style that feels a bit more handmade than the familiar, polished style of Disney movies. His images are mighty surreal too, with heads crushing or peeling apart, women’s breasts chopping off men's hands, pencils turning into women, etc. It’s freaky in a Salvador Dali kind of way, not a disturbing one.

If it’s not your taste, the film also includes critics of Plympton’s work. It’s a full artistic portrait of the man, covering all aspects of aesthetic analysis. Plympton’s fellow animators articulate the hard work it takes to create his work. He seems to be such a character that even stories about his travels become funny anecdotes. You can enjoy the stories even if you never see his movies.

From an industry perspective, the film covers his Oscar nomination, feature films, how he almost drew the genie in Aladdin, his work for MTV and his role in the evolution of animation exhibition. If you enjoy watching shorts online, thank Plympton for contributing to the wealth of creative shorts that needed forums in which to exhibit.

I’d give it at least 3 stars. For tickets, go to tix.com/Event.asp?Event=410773.

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