DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Bill Plympton’s Dogs & Cows (2013)

A fun survey of some of the DIY animator's recent shorts, if you don't mind some of the rather crude violence.

Published on September 27, 2013

Bill Plympton’s Dogs & Cows (2013)

Bill Plympton’s Dogs & Cows (2013)

Studio: Microcinema [9/24/13]
All regions
Video: 4:3 & 16:9 color
Audio: PCM stereo
Program: The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger, Gary Guitar, Waiting for Her Sailor, Summer Bummer, The Flying House (Winsor McCay’s 1921 cartoon), Tiffany the Whale, Drunker Than a Skunk, Horn Dog, Guard Dog Global Jam, TMZ, Eurostar, Catalyst, AccounTemps 2010 & 11, Bonnaroo, eDIT, Excerpts from FUGLY, Anncey OFF, Filmbox title, various oddities
Extras: Music videos, commercials, TV interviews animatics, pencil tests, trailers, filmmaker commentary
Length: 130 minutes
Rating: ****

Bill Plympton is an American animator who is known is the King of Independent Animation. He is one of the few leading animators who does most of his animation all by himself, and is known for his 1987 Oscar-nominated short Your Face and his series of shorts on his Guard Dog. He was brought up in Portland, OR and used the blood from the ground beef his mother had purchased for burgers to color his chopped-off heads and other violence in his early teenaged animations.

This is his fifth collection of shorts and includes lots of different animals besides dogs and cows in these shorts from 2006 thru 2013. In his video bio in his New York studio Plympton says that some really crazy-acting animators do very ordinary films, but the best sort are the ones who are perfectly normal on the outside but turn out crazed, violent and sexy animation, as he does. I frankly don’t think he’s ever equaled the hilariousness of his original Your Face, or the anti-smokers animation which he made to cause his mother to stop smoking (she did). Many of the shorts seem to be created for Spike & Mike’s Sick & Twisted animation series.  I couldn’t get into some of the shorts here, such as Tiffany the Whale, TMZ, or Drunker than a Skunk, and his Horn Dog is a bit over the top. The Fugly bits made no sense to me. However, the first short, The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger, is a great bit in a rather new visual style which has more depth to its images, and with a strong anti-red-meat message. The credits at the end reveal it was partly done by vegetarians. In this case the rather primitive Plympton animation perfectly fits the story.

The nine or ten animations under the category “Commissioned” have less of the violence which characterizes much of Plympton’s work since those commissioning it didn’t want that.  Catalyst, for a women’s rights organization, is superbly done to get across the strong message. A wonderful animated resuscitation is his re-do of Winsor McCay’s (Gertie the Dinosaur) 1921 animated film titled The Flying House. Plympton and his staff cleaned up the early animation, added color and music, a new soundtrack with various voices including Patricia Clarkson, and created a superb updating of this early gem.

—John Sunier

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