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Interview: Bill Plympton talks about "Cheatin'" at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con

A tender moment from Bill Plympton's "Cheatin'"
A tender moment from Bill Plympton's "Cheatin'"
"Cheatin'" online press kit

No offense to the late Steve Jobs and Pixar, but there's a beauty to hand-drawn animation that computers can't duplicate. “Cheatin’,” the latest release from Bill Plympton, definitely proves that point. This animated film follows a couple through courtship, marriage, and a misunderstanding that threatens their happiness.

“The essence of the film is very passionate; it’s like an opera,” Plympton explained during a one-on-one interview in his San Diego Comic-Con booth. “So we chose music that we thought was really over the top, very passionate, and operatic. That’s why we chose Nicole Renaud to do the music. I’ve been working with her a long time, almost 10 years.”

Renaud’s music helps tell a story that has no spoken dialogue. Plympton points out that this film is very different from his other projects.

"It still has the sex and violence, but it also has a deeper emotional impact. The characters are a little more finely drawn I think, and it’s the first time I’ve had a woman as the star of the film,” he explained. “But also the look, the style. It’s pencil drawings, and we would scan these on a computer. And with Photoshop, we would color it like a watercolor to give it that watercolor look. It looks like it’s hand-drawn, but it’s actually digitally colored.”

A sketch is worth a thousand words

The inspiration for “Cheatin’” came from a relationship Plympton had 15 years ago with a woman he fell madly in love with.

“We lived together two months—and I wanted to strangle her after two months,” he said. “I thought it was interesting that even though I wanted to strangle her, I wanted to have sex with her. Those two very powerful emotions are side-by-side in the same relationship. I thought that would be an interesting idea to make a film about.”

The artist also expresses a love for pantomime in his work. In “Cheatin’”, the music and sound effects are more important than dialogue: “It’s more of a visual, poetic storytelling. I love that type of filmmaking. I don’t want to be too blunt or apparent. I like more subtlety; it seems more internal. It seems more powerful in some ways.”

A brick wall of distributors

“Cheatin’” starts a week-long run at the Downtown Independent Theater in Los Angeles on August 15, which will make it eligible for Oscar consideration. Plympton also wants to be considered for an Annie, an award given for excellence in animation

“I love the Annie’s. And also the Golden Globes; we are eligible for the Golden Globes. So those are the ‘Big 3’ for animation as far as I am concerned,” he said.

As far as getting the film out there, Plympton talked about running into a “brick wall of distributors” who believe that his films are just not distributable.” He points out four things that make “Cheatin’” hard to distribute:

• It’s not for children; it has adult themes and topics and nudity and violence.
• It’s not computer animated. Distributors feels that only computer-animated films sell.
• It’s not a big studio production. It’s one guy doing 40,000 drawings.
• Hollywood doesn’t under animation; it’s not what they are set up for.

Plympton also has been keeping his works off the Internet, but that’s about to change. “We just signed a deal with ShortsHD, and they are going to broadcast all of my films on the Internet now. I’ve been missing a large part of my audience simply because I’ve avoided the Internet,” he explained.