Bill Plympton & Heather Henson Interviews

From Uptown Magazine April 22, 2010:

From the hand of a master
Animator Bill Plympton and puppeteer Heather Henson discuss the hands-on nature of their respective art forms

Seeing as how drawing is one of life’s great pleasures, celebrated animator Bill Plympton says he considers himself a hedonist.

“I love being at the drawing board 12 to 14 hours a day,” Plympton says. And he especially likes that the animator’s art is something he can do by himself.

That handcrafted element provides the link between animation and puppetry in Plastic Paper: Winnipeg’s International Festival of Animated, Illustrated and Puppet Film, says festival organizer Kier-La Janisse, of Big Smash! Productions. The festival takes place until Saturday, May 8.

The esteemed out-of-town representative of the puppeteer’s art will be none other than Heather Henson (daughter of Jim Henson), who, for her first Winnipeg appearance, will present Handmade Puppet Dreams, a hand-picked collection of short puppet films, on May 7.

“I think it’s so neat I’m being paired with Bill Plympton this way,” Henson says.

Certainly the crafty nature of Plympton and Henson’s respective work is a natural connector; to use Henson’s words, there is “less distance between the creator and the final object.

“The human touch, the artistry, is more present with puppets,” Henson says. “You’re infusing an inanimate object with human life force.”

While she thinks it’s a magical process for an audience to witness — especially live onstage — she also loves encountering puppetry in a gallery setting, where there is more emphasis on a puppet’s craftsmanship as an object.

What distinguishes puppet film, she continues, is the “compact journey” a (typically) short subject provides. “It’s more like you’re falling into another world,” she says. “This is especially true when the sets and costumes help create that alternate universe.”

Plympton doesn’t think about his art in terribly theoretical terms. “It’s very simple,” he says. “I want to make everybody in the world laugh. That’s my goal in life.”

Plympton will be conducting an animation master class on May 8, during which he will talk about how to make a living from being an independent animator, among other things.

“It’s news to a lot of people — there’s money to made in animated shorts,” Plympton says. “There are a lot of buyers out there.”

As far as feature films are concerned, Plympton is, to his knowledge, the first animator to have personally drawn every frame for one: “This was a function of having no money to hire other animators, so I just did it myself.

“I’d tried collaborating in the past, but there was just too much time eaten up by meetings and pitches,” Plympton continues. “That’s when I decided to stick with the independent approach.”

Perhaps Plympton’s most famous work is the 1987 short Your Face, which was nominated for an Oscar. He will also be presenting the Canadian premiere of his new short, The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger, as well as a work-in-progress reel of his upcoming feature, Cheatin’.

“Animation is, to me, the perfect art form,” Plympton says. “It allows one to recreate perfectly what’s in one’s imagination.”

– Kenton Smith

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~ by cineflyer on May 7, 2010.

One Response to “Bill Plympton & Heather Henson Interviews”

  1. […] support of the Plastic Paper festival, Cineflyer has reprinted a dual interview with master animator Bill Plympton and master puppeteer Heather Henson. Meanwhile, Plympton visits the soon-to-be-demolished home of Windsor […]

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