Plastic Paper Interviews, Previews & Press

From Uptown Magazine April 28, 2011

Adding magic to real life, since 2008
Plastic Paper: Winnipeg’s Festival of Animated, Illustrated + Puppet Film kicks off its eclectic 2011 program next week

Film programmer Kier-La Janisse may no longer reside in the ’Peg but at least one local cinematic event she helped launch isn’t so easily let go.

“I want to see the audience continue being happy,” says the now Montreal-based Janisse, who runs Blue Sunshine, that city’s “psychotronic film centre” (i.e., a small, intimate theatre on the famous Boul. St-Laurent).

That’s why, even from afar, she’s continuing to spearhead the international Plastic Paper: Winnipeg’s Festival of Animated, Illustrated + Puppet Film, founded (in more limited form) in 2008.

Another major initiative of the event — co-ordinated with right-hand local filmmakers Leslie Supnet and Clint Enns — is to combat preconceived notions about animation.

“We have a cartoon party and workshops for kids, but the other content is pretty much aimed at adults,” Janisse says. “There’s also a lot of crossover between animation and other visual arts and pop culture.”

Take this year’s fine arts component, featuring the exhibition The Streets by famed animator Ralph Bakshi, who pushed animation into the realm of adult fare with ’70s films such as Fritz the Cat — inspired by the work of underground, ‘adult’ comics artist Robert Crumb.

(Also featured are giant flipbooks by Canadian artist Robert Pasternak, and a video installation by U.K. and German-based artist Max Hattler.)

Last year’s festival was a banner one for local, adult-oriented puppetry: the appearance of famed puppeteer Heather Henson, daughter of the late Jim Henson, effectively spawned the Winnipeg Puppet Collective.

Plastic Paper set us up on a blind date,” laughs Dan Powell, a collective member. “And it’s turned into an enduring relationship.”

“Heather suggested that we begin having ‘slams’ in order to bring the puppet community closer together,” explains Dan Walechuk, another collective member. That suggestion coalesced into the Winnipeg Puppet Slam, of which there have now been four — all successful, Walechuk adds.

Yet despite such films as Viva the Nam, a stop-motion-animated film using plastic soldier action figures, there is a noticeably conspicuous drop in puppet content this year.

“Our budget means there won’t always be a visiting puppeteer as a guest,” Janisse explains. “And while there are a few puppet shorts this year, I didn’t come across any features.”

There may be no reason to think the puppet dimension will disappear, however.

“We hope to get our act together and get back with Plastic Paper more next year,” Powell says. “I’d hate to see the puppet portion be reconsidered for future festivals.”

The biggest change this year, according to Janisse, is the emphasis on computer animation — in distinct contrast to the heretofore emphasis on traditional, handcrafted methods.

“Clint Enns put together an amazing package of early experimental computer animation,” Janisse says. “Aesthetically, it couldn’t be further removed from today’s cheap-looking 3-D animation — and which was made by obsessive, visionary artists.”

The program, Code in Motion, explores both the mathematical precision and uncontrolled randomness of computer graphics. “Although generated on a computer, the work has a special feel since much of it was shot frame by frame on film,” Enns says.

“Some of the precise, algorithmic-based elements may be lost in the mainstream where the focus is on slicker CGI,” he continues. “However, many artists are still experimenting with and expanding on the techniques developed by the artists in the program.”

(Highlights include a film by Peter Foldes, who made one of the first narrative computer-based films, La Faim, through the National Film Board of Canada.)

The other major, computer-based element is Mathieu Weschler’s The Trashmaster, made using animation from the video game Grand Theft Auto IV; it was the first film booked this year.

“Machinima is, in essence, movies made using video games,” Enns explains. “It’s an entirely new form of found-footage film.”

“Feature-length machinima is uncommon,” Janisse adds. “And it requires not only visual flair and skill, but game strategy as well.”

What also distinguishes Plastic Paper’s crop of 2011, Janisse says, is a recurring blend of live action and animation, in films such as the opening and closing Gravity was Everywhere Back Then and American: The Bill Hicks Story.

“It adds magic to real life,” Janisse says.

One could say that about the fest as a whole.

Plastic Paper: Winnipeg’s Festival of Animated, Illustrated + Puppet Film takes place May 4 to 7 at the Park Theatre; Ralph Bakshi’s The Streets opens May 3 at RAW Gallery, 290 McDermot Ave. For ticket and complete schedule information, visit big-smash.com/plastic-paper.html.

– By Kenton Smith

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From Uptown Magazine April 28, 2011

The three must-sees of Plastic Paper 2011

Rick Trembles
May 5, 9p.m., Park Theatre
$10 (or other combo tickets that include Trembles’ books Motion Picture Purgatory Vols. 1 & 2)

One-of-a-kind Montreal cartoonist artist Rick Trembles presents a multimedia presentation and personal account of his life, art and battles with censors, with special mention of his movie review/comic strip Motion Picture Purgatory from the Montreal Mirror. Called “a genius” by The Guardian and praised by the likes of underground comics giant Robert Crumb, Trembles will also be available to sign books — most enthusiastically if they’re his own.

Ralph Bakshi introduces American Pop
May 6, 7 p.m., Park Theatre
$10 advance/$12 door

Iconoclastic animator and artist Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat) will personally introduce his 1981 film, which tells the intergenerational story of a Russian-Jewish family of musicians that also catalogues the history of 20th century American popular music. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet a true living legend.

American: The Bill Hicks Story
May 7, 9 p.m., Park Theatre
$7

Perhaps the most inspirational comedian of his generation, Bill Hicks’ life was cut tragically short at the age of 32; now, this new documentary uses a mix of live action and animation to present a whole other side of his acerbic, politically-charged wit through previously unseen personal archives. The festival’s closing feature, this is a must-see for comedy fans.

– Kenton Smith

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From Uptown Magazine April 28, 2011

‘Fuck Disney!’
In advance of his upcoming appearance at Winnipeg’s Plastic Paper Festival, famed cult animator Ralph Bakshi discusses his landmark career

It was through his wish to express adult sensibilities that Ralph Bakshi found his philosophy of animation.

“Fuck Disney — I wanted to do what I wanted to do!” cackles Bakshi, the famed director of such animated cult classics as Fritz the Cat (1972), Heavy Traffic (1973) and The Lord of the Rings (1978).

The artist and filmmaker, who has concentrated more on painting since the late ’90s, is in town for the first time next week for the international Plastic Paper: Winnipeg’s Festival of Animated, Illustrated + Puppet Film, which runs May 4 to 7.

Bakshi’s fine art exhibition The Streets will open May 3 at RAW Gallery (290 McDermot Ave.).

“My first love is drawing,” Bakshi says. “I see no difference between fine art and animation — it’s all the same discipline.”

Bakshi, 72, first entered animation as an 18-year-old and discovered the art form’s unique magic. “Just learning how to move drawings had a fascination — it made you deliriously happy.”

Bakshi’s earliest professional work was on The Deputy Dawg Show for the Terrytoons cartoon studio; he later briefly lived in Toronto while working on the Canadian-produced animated series Rocket Robin Hood, in the late ’60s.

Perhaps Bakshi’s most widely seen work from this period was for the Spider-Man animated series, which debuted in 1967. It was around this time that Bakshi had his greatest epiphany.

“You wake up one day and ask: ‘What the fuck am I animating? I’m animating shit! This will lead me to a life of drinking!’” (And make no mistake, Bakshi adds, many animators did drink.)

Then Bakshi caught “the spirit of the ’60s,” and everything changed. “I became more interested in having something to say, and in the life of the city.

“Filmmakers like the young Scorsese, who made Mean Streets in the early ’70s, were my influences — and I began to think of myself as a filmmaker, too.”

It’s his work from that decade that Bakshi is most proud of: films that frankly depicted nudity, racism and the hard, unvarnished edges of urban American life.

Coonskin is the best thing I’ve ever done. Those films made a distinctive mark — there’s been nothing like ’em, before or since, and today they’re being discovered by new generations on YouTube. They’ve lasted.

“They’re the films that best reflect me as an artist. I’m proud I snuck ’em by the Hollywood censors.”

Not that Bakshi pines for Hollywood. “It was an intense, horrible experience,” he says. “Being called a pornographer for Fritz the Cat, and all that crap.”

Bakshi, who will also personally introduce his 1981 American Pop in Winnipeg, nonetheless has an undiminished love for animation. “It’s the greatest medium for visualizing things that take people by surprise.”

And he may return to it: he has a script circulating Hollywood right now called Last Days of Coney Island.

“Even though animation is the biggest thing in America now, I’m being told, ‘No one wants to see an R-rated animated film!’” Bakshi chortles. “I’m right back where I started!”

– Kenton Smith

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From The Winnipeg Free Press April 30, 2011

Iconoclastic animator, classic cartoons all part of film festival

One of the more interesting cinematic experiences of my life was watching animator Ralph Bakshi’s hallucinogenic ‘toon feature Heavy Traffic at the Park Theatre back in the ’70s.

Trust renegade film programmer Kier-La Janisse to bring Bakshi to Winnipeg as a guest of her Plastic Paper film festival. Bakshi established his own rebel animator credentials with his controversial film Fritz the Cat. (Marketed as the first X-rated cartoon back in 1972, it was disowned by Fritz creator Robert Crumb.)

Bakshi won’t be screening Heavy Traffic but rather his ambitious animated dissection of the music business, American Pop (1981), next Friday, May 6, at 7 p.m.

It may be the highlight of the third Plastic Paper festival, which Janisse first mounted in 2008 when she was a co-programmer at Cinematheque. Adding to the prestige is an exhibit by Bakshi of his paintings, titled The Streets, May 3-25 at RAW Gallery.

But this is a festival that well and truly mixes the animation medium. The morning after Bakshi’s première comes a cavalcade of junky animation and junk food at the Saturday Morning All You Can Eat Cereal Cartoon Party (starting at 10 a.m. at the Park), which Janisse promises “will take you back to a younger, more innocent and yes, stupider time.”

The Saturday morning cartoon, Janisse says, “is now a tradition that doesn’t exist. Because there are whole networks showing cartoons all the time, kids don’t understand the concept of waiting all week for cartoons.”

Janisse, 38, adds that her own youthful exposure to Scooby-Doo was an experience that nurtured her love for horror/monster movies. “Scooby-Doo was a huge influence on me.”

And why does Janisse come to Winnipeg from Montreal to continue this fest?

“I like to do things where they’re needed,” she says, citing “Winnipeg’s do-it-yourself arts culture” as conducive to animation and puppetry.

“It’s always exciting to program films you can’t see anywhere else.”

Other highlights of the fest:

Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then (Wednesday, May 4, at 8 p.m.): This Brent Green animated doc tells the strange love story of a man who painstakingly built a bizarre house for his wife in the belief it would cure her of terminal cancer.

American: The Bill Hicks Story (Saturday, May 7, at 9 p.m.): Another animated doc about the influential American comedian who addressed issues of politics, religion and social hypocrisy.

For the full program of Plastic Paper, check out http://www.big-smash.com/plastic-paper

– Randall King

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~ by cineflyer on April 28, 2011.

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