Bill Plympton is one weird animator and cartoonist. From his “25 ways to Quit Smoking” to his MTV promotional shorts, his scratchy, distinctive style is quite far removed from the Disney mould. He is also almost unique in the animation world. for he draws every frame of his films himself (with the colouring done, as he admitted, by “art students in need of work.”)
His style is abrupt, chaotic, surreal. It is also a very funny, eminently enjoyable form of cartooning. The violence and sexual situations are literally and figuratively stretched and distorted into amusing situations. There is an enormous amount of grotesquely violent and disgusting situations, but they are dealt with in a bizarre and enjoyable way.
In a time where the truly perverse takes the form of a musical-animations about the fall of the Russian monarchy or the whitewashing of the genocide of Aboriginal Americans, Plympton’s animations are far less obscene. Still, it’s probably best that his movie was screened after midnight, viewed by the festival denizens of the night to whom he dedicated this, the world premiere of this film.
“I Married a Strange Person” is about a woman who marries a guy with a boil on the back of his neck, a bump or growth that grants him the ability to “magically” transform or transmogrify any object at whim into a living thing. From the diabolical blade of grass on a power mower, to the inflatable breasts of the wife as they are caressed into poodle balloon shapes, Plympton’s film contains images that I’m pretty sure have never been seen on celluloid before. The film plays like a psychotic episode with good cinematography and sound effects editing, as if Cronenberg and Matt Groening, mixed with a little bit of Tex Avery, John Woo and Walt D. himself, had a group neurosis that spawned its own artistic creation. At the base, the film remains all Plympton, his characteristically abrupt style perfect for the surreality of the situations.
In this feature-length animation, there are some elements that drag slightly. These, however, are only in contrast to the uproariously funny other elements, breathing pauses before Plympton descends to a new level of craziness.
The film is brutally violent without the usual misogynic elements that go along with the genre. It is crazy without being crass, insane without being insulting. The film doesn’t play like a testosterone ride in the way that an Avery short tends to, but instead is a composed, kooky examination of a guy, his wife, his in-laws, his diabolic lawn, a disturbingly Murdoch-like TV executive, Lizard generals, flying caterpillar/lawnmowers, drowning neighbours, and big tanks shooting submarine sandwiches. I could only dream that Plympton’s style was around during the 60’s – “Yellow Submarine” would have been a whole ‘nother flick.
I wholeheartedly recommend Plympton’s film, not only for those who wish to peak at a darker side of animation, but for those who simply want an hour-an-a-half of well crafted, well paced, well told story.