By Liza Case
Bill Plympton makes the world laugh with the weird and wacky animated films he has been making since the ‘70s. His accomplishments include the films I Married A Strange Person, Mutant Aliens, Hair High, and he has worked with such talented actors as Paul Giamatti, David Caradine, Ed Begley, Jr. and Beverly D’Angelo. Animal Fair caught up with the independent filmmaker at his Chelsea studio to talk about the star of his Oscar-nominated short, Guard Dog and its sequel Guide Dog, a highly animated puppy who tries just a little too hard.
AF: What was your inspiration for the Guard Dog character? Does he have a name?
BP: He doesn’t have a name, but it is the same character in both films. I was running in Madison Square Park and I saw a dog barking at a bird. So, I went inside the dog’s brain and tried to see the world from his perspective. I realized that he was fearful that the bird would hurt his master. Once I got the concept it was huge. So, then with Guide Dog, I see a lot of blind people because there is a school near where I live and politically incorrect me, I thought “what a terrific opportunity”.
AF: And the dog is a metaphor for what we people do, love someone so much that we destroy them.
BP: Although in France they interpreted the film as a statement on George Bush – that he is so overprotective of the American public that he ruins our reputation internationally [laughs].
AF: How do you feel when people misinterpret your work?
BP: Well, there’s nothing you can do about it. I just want them to laugh. Laughter is a great and powerful emotion that can change people’s lives. I think it’s one of the most noble gifts a human can present.
AF: Guard Dog was nominated for an Academy Award.
BP: Yeah. I was surprised at the success of it.
AF: That must have been exciting.
BP: Oh, it was a blast. I’m not used to all the glitz and glamour. They take care of everything. There’s a bit of pressure to promote, maybe do some deals. I met Paul Giamatti and he ended up doing a voice over for me. He did a great voice.
AF: Do you have pets?
BP: I travel too much to have pets now, with all of the festivals. But I love animals. I grew up on a farm in Oregon and we had all kinds of animals – turkeys, chickens and of course, dogs and cats. It gave me a lot of opportunity to observe.
AF: Guard Dog also has a lot of other great animal characters. Why do you think animation uses animals as much as it does?
BP: Animals are easy to project human personalities onto. They can be any age, race, gender. They are an all purpose metaphor for the human condition. And everyone loves dogs! Everyone wants to see the dog.
For more information visit: www.plymptoons.com.