Five Favorite Films With Animator Bill Plympton

With his new film Idiots and Angels opening, we got the celebrated artist to run down his faves

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Bill Plympton

In a career spanning several decades now, animator Bill Plympton has always done things his own way. The New York-based independent artist, noted for animating every frame of his films himself, has worked across movies, graphic novels, and music video, receiving two Oscar nominations for his short films. He's also famed for his long running cartoon strip, Plympton, and has contributed to The New York Times, Rolling Stone and National Lampoon, to name just a few. His sixth animated feature Idiots and Angels, which opens in New York and Los Angeles this month, is the story of an irascible drunk who wakes up with angels wings -- and features music by the one and only Tom Waits. We spoke to Plympton recently and asked him to share his all-time favorite films.

Mind Game (2004, N/A Tomatometer)
Mind Game

I want to start off with a film you?ve probably seen called Mind Game, by Masaaki Yuasa. It?s a very interesting story. It?s a Japanese film; it?s not anime. It?s very western, actually. It came out in 2005, and critics panned it in Japan, and therefore the producers lost their nerve and shelved the film, which is very sad. I saw it at the Asian Film Festival, and I think you can see it online, but to me, it?s the Citizen Kane of animation. It is such an ambitious and visually unique film. It?s just full of action and full of crazy ideas and surrealism and humor and just beautiful, beautiful craftsmanship.

The Producers (1968, 93% Tomatometer)
The Producers

Number two is The Producers by Mel Brooks, of course. The reason I like this one is that it?s essentially a cartoon with live actors. They?re so over the top and so exaggerated, and of course the Germans, and Hitler and everything. It?s just like a wacky, wacky Warner Bros. cartoon with live actors. And also, the idea is so unique and so fresh and so dark. It?s a very bleak, dark idea, and I love that.

Dead Alive (1992, 85% Tomatometer)
Dead Alive

The next one would be Dead Alive by Peter Jackson. Again, another animated cartoon with live actors, and this is a film that really showed me how you can take a violent, dark situation and make it comic. Lots of blood, lots of decapitation, lots of violence, and yet it?s a comedy. That was a big influence on me when I started doing I Married a Strange Person!. I really referred a lot to Dead Alive.

Pillow Talk (1959, 91% Tomatometer)
Pillow Talk

And then another one called Pillow Talk. That?s a little change of pace here, but it is a film that I always love to watch. I must have seen it 10 times. I don?t remember the director?s name, but I know the writer, Stanley Shapiro, is really great with social satire and the battle of the sexes. For me, it?s a film I continue to laugh at each time I see it. The jokes never get stale.

Baby Doll (1956, 100% Tomatometer)
Baby Doll

I guess lastly is Baby Doll by Elia Kazan, where Karl Malden plays a sexually inexperienced husband, and his wife plays him for a fool, pretending to be a 12-year-old nymphette. Again it?s a very Southern Gothic, surreal, sexual perversion escapade. It?s another film I?ve watched many times and find it very hilarious.

Next, we talk to Bill about his latest project, Idiots and Angels.