Now in its twelfth year, the Tromadance Film Festival will return to Asbury Park later this month for two days of independent art on Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23, featuring two days of free film screenings at the ShowRoom on Cookman Avenue, an after-party at the Asbury Lanes on Fourth Avenue and much more.
Among the films screening at this year's Tromadance will be a trio of shorts by acclaimed New York City-based independent animator Bill Plympton: "Flying House,'' "The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger'' and "Guard Dog Global Jam!''
Troma Entertainment president and Tromadance founder Lloyd Kaufman described Plympton, a two-time Academy Award nominee, as "the epitome of independent animation. He's the first animation genius who has gone on his own to distribute independently the way Troma has done. ... (He's) totally self-sufficient and a real artist and he's a perfect special guest, I think, for Tromadance.''
Plympton will provide Tromadance attendees with a unique piece of memorabilia: "Everybody who comes to my show gets a free Bill Plympton drawing. ... If they come by my show I will give them a little sketch on one of my postcards,'' Plympton said. The animator will also take part in a panel discussion titled "Selling Your Movie in the Age of the Digital Revolution.''
Moderated by Kaufman, the panel will also feature his wife, New York State Film Commissioner Pat Kaufman, as well as Fangoria magazine managing editor Michael Gingold, animator John Goras and scream queen Debbie Rochon, co-star of "Tromeo and Juliet'' (1996).
This March, Plympton took some time to speak with Metromix Jersey Shore about Kaufman, his new book and more:
Can you tell me a bit about your involvement in Tromadance and what you'll be doing as part of the festival?
Well, historically I've been a friend of Lloyd's for a long time, I would run into him at many festivals, Cannes I think was the first time I ran into him. They had "Surf Nazis Must Die" (1987), I think it was 1990 or something like that, '89, and that film just blew me away. I thought, "Wow, this is the craziest, most bizarre film I've ever seen," and so I think I met Lloyd then, so that's like 20 years ago. And then of course I would see him at Sundance where they did the Troma festival there (in Park City, Utah) and other festivals, so I've been a close friend of his for a long time, and of course I'm good friends with his wife Pat, so they're almost part of the family now.
So when he invited me to do Tromadance Film Festival down in Asbury Park, I said, "Yeah, that sounds like fun, count me in." So I'm ... (showing) two of my new films, one is "Guard Dog Global Jam!," which is a very interesting film in that it's a remake of a 2005 film that I did that was nominated for an Oscar, and what I decided to do was invite animators from around the world to choose a shot from the film, there's about 70 shots, and they can remake it in their own style but it has to replicate the original. In other words, there's a dog in there, and they have to do the dog in their own style.
And so I think it's never been done before in animation, in other words it's all done through the internet, they just send me the storyboard or the rough drawing and I approve it and then they send the finished animation and we compile it here in my offices, so it's just finished, so I think you're going to have a world premiere at the Tromadance Film Festival.
Oh great, awesome.
Yeah, it's very exciting. We've got artists from Disney animators to a 10-year-old Chinese boy, it's quite bizarre. Yeah, very interesting.
And talking a bit about Lloyd and Troma, what are your thoughts on the role Troma has had in promoting independent art over the years?
Well, I think not only through his films but also through his books he's really championed the role of the independent, someone who doesn't need Hollywood corporations, Hollywood money or grant money. You make a film that appeals to the audience, you don't worry about distributors or advertisers or corporate people, you go straight to the audience and that's a lesson that I've learned through him, that you can be independent, you can make a living doing your own films if you keep the audience happy and you work hard.
It does take a lot of work, you have to promote and distribute yourself, and do the fliers and do the postcards and do the interviews but it's fun, I enjoy it and I'm making a good living as an independent animator, so I guess in a sense I could be the animated version of Lloyd Kaufman.
One thing you and Lloyd have in common is how important the internet is for Troma, specifically the web store on Troma.com and how using the internet to directly connect with your fans, both in sales and general communication, has been a great benefit to independent filmmakers, as I'm sure it has been for you.
Yeah, I think that's the future, I really do. I think that eventually all of our films will be released initially on the internet, I think that's where the audience is going to go to see the new Bill Plympton film or the new Lloyd Kaufman film. Theaters are great and television is great, the DVDs are nice, but I think that eventually the internet will be the 800 pound gorilla that's producing revenue for independent filmmakers like Lloyd and myself.
Another way that he's been able to survive is that he's done films that are a little, how can I say, politically incorrect, and I think that's something that Hollywood is afraid to deal with and to touch, and so like him I make films that are a little transgressive, they're offensive to some people, they're not necessarily for kids, in fact they're definitely not for kids, so that's another influence that Lloyd has had on me in my production career.
And still, even though you're doing stuff outside the studio system that is politically incorrect, you've earned two Oscar nominations for your work over the years.
You're right, yes, things have been going well, I'm not complaining, it is possible to make money doing independent films, especially independent shorts. The shorts are pretty successful, financially, and so I'm actually writing a book like Lloyd did, that won't be out until next year sometime, but that's another way I've followed Lloyd in his career. I must tell you though, I'm not as good a dresser as Lloyd, he's a much better dresser than I am.
I read that at one point in your career, I think it was after the first Oscar nomination (for 1988's "Your Face"), you were offered a job with Disney to work on "Aladdin" (1992) but then you opted to stay the independent route. Can you tell me a bit about that decision?
Well, there were a number of factors that lead to that decision, one is I did have my own studio and I was in the middle of doing a feature film, this was called "The Tune" (1992), so I would have had to shut down my studio and stop work on "The Tune" to move out to L.A., it was a three year deal and so it would have been a serious move from the east coast to the west coast.
Also, I was assuming that I could make my own films on the weekends, my crazy, little, wacky short films and they said yes, I could do that, but they would own the films, so I thought that was a little bit of a, the rights just didn't seem fair, just didn't seem like a fair decision on their part, and then also they never really told me what I would be doing out there, they didn't tell me that it was for "Aladdin," I only heard that later from one of the animators. I mean, I could have been stuck on "DuckTales" or some really insipid television show for all I knew, so those are the reasons I had to say no and I must say, I very reluctantly turned them down because I've been a Disney fan since I can remember and it was my life goal to work on a Disney film, so it was a tough decision.
And as a lifelong Disney fan and someone who's still all about hand-drawn animation, what do you think about Disney's shift to computer animation over the years?
Well, it's definitely natural, I think that's a business move and I think it's a wise business move. I loved "Tangled" (2010), I thought "Tangled" was a wonderful film. I love all the digital stuff, "How to Train Your Dragon" (2010) is a masterpiece, it's gorgeous, "Toy Story 3" (2010) is brilliant, so I don't have any jealousies or problems with computer animation, they're very successful and they do great stuff, but it's not for me, it's not my kind of look, it's not my kind of storytelling, I want to do stuff for adults, I want to do stuff that's raw, that's edgy, that's like I say, transgressive, so I think there's room for both kinds of film-making.
So what's next for you Bill, what projects are you working on now?
Well, I do have a big book that's coming out next month actually, it's called "Independently Animated," it's by Rizzoli Books and people can get it online and we're going to try and set up a signing while I'm there in Asbury Park. And I'm working on a new music video for "Weird Al" Yankovic, I can't tell you the title because it's done but it hasn't been released yet, so when it's released you'll hear about it and that should be out this summer, I think, so those are the two big projects I'm working on.