[ENTERTAINMENT]‘Mutant Aliens’ no Mickey Mouse jobOne of the strangest and most risque animators in the world today is also one of the least-known. Bill Plympton’s crudely drawn films can be found in video stores around the peninsula, but no one would confuse him for Disney or Hayao Miyazaki.
Plympton’s 1997 release “I Married a Strange Person” is perhaps his best-known film, at least in Korea. The story is about a newlywed couple.The man develops a strange lump on his neck that gives him incredible telekinetic abilities, but he is unaware of the gift that is mostly powered by his subconscious. Depending on what he is thinking, he can change people or objects into anything. An errant thought can wreak havoc across his neighborhood, or merely change the size of his wife’s breasts. When the evil corporation Smilecorp discovers his abilities, they send in the military to seize the magic cyst.
His most recent release locally is “Mutant Aliens,” a film that won the grand prize at the Annecy International Animation Festival in 2001. The feature-length cartoon follows the adventures of an astronaut who becomes stranded in space because of the malicious machinations of the government’s Department of Space. While stuck in the great unknown, however, he encounters a wide variety of strange aliens and situations. This being Plympton, violence and sex features heavily in the story.
An affair with some of the space aliens leads to strange and ferocious creatures born from the unions. The space babies are out for vengeance, and together with their astronaut father they return to Earth to lay a path of destruction. For most Koreans, unused to such blatant sex and violence, they would find this film one more addition to the yeopgi fad these days for all things bizarre.
In person, Plympton comes across as exceedingly normal. “I personally think,” he said, “that most human beings are surrounded by sex and violence in their daily lives. Both elements have been dealt with in so many movies. The only thing I do is draw as cartoons the sexual inspirations that we all face.”
Most of his animated films are sprinkled with satire. For example, in “Mutant Aliens,” the astronaut gives a speech near the end of the film, using patriotism to a ridiculous extreme and in a ridiculous situation.
“I always add satire in my films because I like using humor to knock prestigious institutions. I think I have this peculiar habit because I started as an editorial cartoonist.”
After graduating from college, he drew illustrations for the New York Times, Vogue and Rolling Stone, and comics for Penthouse and Playboy. His 1987 film “Your Face” was nominated for an Academy Award for best animated short.
Perhaps the most remarkable part of Plympton’s animation is that he actually does all the drawing, layouts and coloring himself. Compare that to the hundreds of people who made “Shrek.”
“Try to draw within five minutes,” Plympton recommended to aspiring Korean cartoonists, “Try to cut costs and make it funny. All the funny movies make money."
by Ki Sun-min