Jul 252014
Bill Plimpton discusses his current work, 'Cheatin' at a panel at Comic Con 2014. Photo by Zoe Simsay.

Bill Plimpton discusses his current work, ‘Cheatin’ at a panel at Comic Con 2014. Photo by Zoe Simsay.

by Aly Runke, contributing writer

Krypton radio DJ, Willow Leafstorm has been able to catch some amazing interviews this weekend at SDCC, including animator Bill Plympton on Thursday afternoon. Plympton is a big advocate for breaking animation out of being a exclusively a kid’s genre.

He was born in Portland Oregon on April 30, 1946. He blames the rainy weather of his hometown for helping to nourish his love of drawing. Early in his career, his cartoons were featured in magazines and newspapers such as The New York Times, Vogue, Rolling Stones, Vanity Fair, and he even did his own political cartoon for a few year, published countrywide. Despite success in the illustrating field Plympton always wanted to be an animator and had such heroes as Walt Disney. He worked on the animated film Boomtown first but, he told Leafstorm, it was his film Your Face that made him “able to quit print…[and] go full time into animation.” Your Face even got an Oscar Nomination.

Plympton also spoke with Leafstorm about his new film, Cheatin, which comes out in L.A. on August 15, 2014. Plympton says it will be a dark, almost noir, romantic animated feature, a “typical Bill Plympton film,” he adds good-naturedly. Cheatin will premiere at the Downtown L.A. Independent Cinema and everyone who attends will get the chance to have Plympton draw them a quick sketch so go quickly and mark your calendars. Plympton also expects that Cheatin “will break the stereotype that animation is only for kids.”

This seems to be a campaign in which Plympton has much at stake. He is one animator fighting to show distributors that not every animated feature needs to be targeted at children, and he gets offended when distributors are offended by his films. He tells Leafstorm with a tired and exasperated tone, “I loved animation when I was a kid, why can’t I love animation as an adult and see adult ideas, adult topics, adult passion portrayed in animation? And that ‘s what I want to do with Cheatin.”

Cheatin isn’t his only project; Plympton has also started work on a film called Revengeance with Jim Lujan. He didn’t reveal much but he did say that the characterization was finished and that he would be working on storyboards and animating soon.

After hearing about Plympton’s work on Cheatin, it’s obvious that he is a very passionate man who loves his work and Leafstorm delved deeper into this love. What other films or cartoons does he love? Plympton listed off several movies, including some our younger generation will be familiar with: Tangled, How to Train your Dragon, Dumbo, and SpongeBob Squarepants, as well as some more projects geared toward adults, such as Yellow Submarine and Archer. These are pretty big compliments from a guy who has worked on 40 animated projects and three live feature films, as well as 14 episodes of America’s much-loved show, The Simpsons.

Of course after learning more about what Plympton was working on and about his favorites, Leafstorm asked about his animation process. Plympton said that he tends to be able to work on animation rather quickly, getting five to six shots done in a day. That adds up to about a minute of animation completed in a week, which seems insane to most of us. At the end of the day, animation is a time-consuming art, whether it’s done digitally or with pencil and paper. As to Plympton’s animation preferences, he says he’s done it all. He started with pencil and then dabbled a bit form there. His favorite method is more old-fashioned, right where he started with pencil and paper.

The animated feature, The Tune, was Plympton’s first full-length feature, but which is his favorite? Plympton said that working on Cheatin was fun and exciting but his favorite was I Married a Stranger, which came out in 1997. In all seriousness, he told Leafstorm that I Married a Stranger was his favorite for three reasons: “It’s very bizarre and violent and [has] lots of sex.” It would seem that I Married a Stranger goes right up there with Plympton’s other films made to break the animation is for children mold.

Plympton ended by saying he hopes to see everyone at the viewing of Cheatin, and he’s ready for a full weekend at San Diego Comic-Con.

What do you think about animated film and television built around adult themes? Sound off in comments or on our Facebook page!


Jul 162014

by Michael Brown, staff writer JUL120594_1Marvel Comics and parent company Disney have released the first full-length trailer for their first collaborative animated film, Big Hero 6. The Marvel comic-turned-film takes place in the fictional city of San Fransokyo, and centers around a young robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada and his robot Baymax who stumble onto a criminal plot, and assemble a team of fledgling crimefighters, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, GoGo Tomago, and Fred, to help thwart the criminals. The film, which will be Disney’s 54th animated film, will be the first to feature Marvel characters since Disney’s acquisition of Marvel back in 2009. Big Hero 6 will be produced entirely under the banner of Walt Disney Animation Studios, but will employ a number of Marvel Comics staffers for creative assistance, including Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer.

“The relationship between Hiro and his robot has a very Disney flavor to it…but it’s combined with these Marvel heroic arcs.” Quesada said.

Marvel and Disney agreed to keep Big Hero 6 out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which contains The Avengers, the Iron Man trilogy, Thor, and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, and set it in their own stand-alone universe. In the original Marvel comic, written by veteran X-Men writer Chris Claremont, both Sunfire and Silver Samurai were members of the team, but will not be featured in the film due to Marvel’s contract with Fox Studios, which gives Fox the rights to those characters.

A new, serialized, manga version of Big Hero 6 will be published by Kodansha’s Magazine Special beginning August 10, 2014, with a prologue to be published in Weekly Shonen Magazine August 6. The new series will mark the first time a Disney movie’s story is previewed before its release. Kodansha also publishes the manga version of the award-winning Knights of Sidonia, which is now an anime series on Netflix.

The cast will include Damon Wayans, Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell, and Alan Tudyk. Big Hero 6 will hit theaters November 7, 2014.

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Jul 032014

You often read about how the software used by the visual effects industry has gotten so cheap and so ubiquitous that people can do it at home on their desktop computers.  What most people don’t realize is that desktop computers are precisely what the motion picture industry has been using to do these effects for more than 30 years now, starting very famously with the J. Michael Straczynksi television series Babylon 5, which did all of its visual effects using Lightwave 3D running on computers no more glamorous than a 486.  In the beginning, they weren’t even doing this on Pentium class machines, and those are so ancient now that most users don’t even know what they were.

Today’s offering has resurfaced since the first piece of it made its debut five years ago.  The producers at IGN filled out some more of it and it got posted a year ago, and now it’s making the rounds again – but we’re betting it’s the first time you’ve seen it.  This is too cool and too well done not to spend the two minutes to look at.

From a visual effects standpoint, this is nearly flawless.  Only one or two effects ring hollow, mostly having to do with transporter effects and whales in San Francisco Bay, and one particular explosion at the end fell a bit flat.  However, the quality is certainly well within the boundaries one would expect from a major theatrical motion picture, and the tracking, matchmoving, compositing and lighting on the models inserted into the scenes is as good as you’ll ever, ever see.

Unfortunately, information on exactly who did all this work is a bit on the thin side, which, given the magnitude of the achievement, we find very surprising.

We know that this is a work of fiction though.  Seriously.  The White House turned down the idea of building a real Deathstar, so there won’t be one to blast the Enterprise into smithereens.

We loved watching this.  We know you will too.


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Jun 112014

The Legend of Korra: Book 3 Official Trailer

If you’re like us you’ve been waiting a long time for this.  Nickolodeon Studios has just released the new official trailer for The Legend of Korra: Book 3.  

Book 3 is entitled Changes. From this trailer it looks like there are going to be a lot of them.

There isn’t any dialog in this trailer, but are surprises if you watch for them.  There are new characters, but familiar faces too.  There are excursions into the Spirit world, and strange new creatures in the Physical world.  There are beautiful cities of what looks like glass or metal, and in one quick shot we see Cousin Bumi doing what looks to us like air bending.  There is another shot of Korra doing what is very definitely metal bending, and we think we spotted Zuko!

It’s been agonizing, waiting for the third season to arrive, but this summer it finally will.  We expect the actual air date to be announced at San Diego Comic-Con this July.

The Nickolodeon animated series originally debuted in 2012, and became the most watched animated cable television series of all time. It was created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino as a sequel to their series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which aired on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008.  The role of Korra is voiced by Janet Varney.

Watch and be amazed.

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Jun 052014
Spider-man Bad Days

It’s Spider-Man’s birthday!  In honor of our favorite webhead, we present today’s eye candy, Spider-Man – Bad Days.  It seems that Spidey just can’t catch a break. Though sometimes he has more to fear from Aunt May than any alien symbiote.  We love this.  If Spidey can have a day this bad, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us!

The animation was produced by KLOMPanimation.  You can see the rest of the Marvel Superheroes Bad Days animations at the Stan Lee’s World of Heroes YouTube channel.


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Apr 182014

by Gene Turnbow, station manager

I happened to be in Agra, India in 2008, and, being the huge Superman fan that I am, I had one of my blue shirts with the famous chest shield symbol on it with me. Everywhere I wore it, I noticed something surprising: the locals usually spoke not a word of English, except one:  “Superman.” And they always said it with a huge smile on their faces. Except for Mickey Mouse, no character is better known and more beloved the world over than the Big Blue Boy Scout.

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Rocketed to Earth as an Infant …

To understand why, we need to look at his history. First appearing in Action Comics #1 in June of 1938, the original story of Superman was written by Jerome “Jerry” Siegel and illustrated by Joseph “Joe” Shuster.  Superman was, and is, a seemingly effortless fusion of everything humans aspire to be. He was a symbol that spoke to generations for whom America did no wrong, life was black and white and easy to figure out, and whose heart was bigger than the S on his chest. The origin story involving the planet Krypton, by the way, first appeared in the Superman newspaper strip in 1939 but didn’t appear in the comic books until 1949.

As his popularity grew, a radio series was created in 1940 with Superman as the starring character, and many of the elements in the Superman mythos we take for granted today actually came from the radio show, not the comic books. Jimmy Olson, Kryptonite, Perry White, and the name of the newspaper he worked for, The Daily Planet, all came from the radio program. Many of these episodes were lost, as they were performed live, with no available technology to record them.  Krypton Radio, however, does have an archive of over 1,150 of the episodes, which we play each day.

During the Second World War, Superman and the other superheroes who followed in his wake kept their noses out of the war itself.  This makes sense if you think about it. You can’t have a fictional character turning the tide of war or taking it over, because these are things real men and women must do. He did, however, serve as a source of inspiration for our men and women in battle.

In the post-World War II era, the Ku Klux Klan experienced a huge resurgence. Its membership and political influence were skyrocketing, so a young writer and activist named Stetson Kennedy went undercover to get the goods on the group. He almost sounds like a superhero himself, doesn’t he? With a name like Stetson Kennedy, you’d expect some heroics – and he delivered. He worked his way into the confidences of the KKK, and learned the organization’s deepest secrets. The authorities, however, didn’t seem interested. The Klan had ties to police and the government, and had become so powerful and intimidating that police didn’t want to go anywhere near the situation. That’s when Kennedy went to the writers of the Adventures of Superman radio serial.

With the war over and the Nazis no longer a threat, the producers wanted a new villain for Superman to fight, and the KKK seemed perfect for the role. So, in a 16-episode series called Clan of the Fiery Cross, the writers of the radio serial pitted the Man of Steel against the men in white hoods. As the storyline unfolded, the shows exposed many of the KKK’s most guarded secrets. From code words to rituals, the mystique of the Klan has been completely stripped away. Within two weeks their recruitment had dropped to zero, and their membership started dwindling. The power of the KKK in North America was broken, and we have Superman to thank for it.

Republic Pictures had been making Superman serials for the movie theaters in 1948 starring Kirk Alyn in the title role. The radio series ended in 1951, and Superman would make the leap to television that same year with George Reeves, and the world saw Superman in a new light. More television would follow, including several animated series through the sixties, seventies and eighties, with additional roles various Warner Bros. Animation series from the early 2000′s through the present day, and a variety of live action shows such as Lois and Clark, The Adventures of Superboy and Smallville. Whole new generations had now grown up with Superman as a part of the popular culture, and he had become an iconic hero.

Superman returned to movie theaters in 1978 with director Richard Donner’s Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, which spawned three sequels. In 2006, Bryan Singer directed the feature Superman Returns, and in 2013, director Zack Snyder rebooted the film franchise with Man of Steel, with an expected sequel to feature Batman.

Which brings us to now. Today is the 76th anniversary of the appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1, with that famous cover of the Man of Steel lifting that green sedan, and he’s driving the DC brand forward in the New 52.

Man of Tomorrow

Superman still resonates, despite his long history and his birth in a simpler age. Detractors note that he’s hard to feel sympathy for, because he has the powers of a god, and no enemy can withstand him for very long. Writers respond to this valid criticism by giving him other weaknesses. Under the cape and the blue suit he’s a human being of humble origins, like the rest of us. He loves, he feels, he forms attachments, he forms ideas about the world around him and the way he thinks things should be. It is these that are his greatest weaknesses, but at the same time, his greatest strengths – and we share these with him as he struggles to find personal meaning in a world where black and white just isn’t what it used to be.

And yet, he remains what he was: a boy who called his adoptive parents “ma” and “pa,” a man who walks among us as an equal, not because he needs a secret identity – he doesn’t – but because he thinks of himself as one of us, and wants to take care of the people he cares about and being Clark Kent is the best way he knows of to do that. Because he is one of us, it’s very easy to identify with him. Kal-El of Krypton shows us how it’s done. No one can be super-powerful, but we are sometimes given advantage over others. It’s up to us how we use that advantage. If we were given powers far beyond those of mortal men, what would be in our hearts? Vengeance? Or compassion?

I wish Superman a happy 76th birthday today, and may he have many more. With him around, the path is a little more clear for the rest of us, and a little easier to follow.

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 What does Superman represent for you? Do you have a Superman story to tell? Sound off in comments, share it on our Facebook page or Tumblr, or email us!