Idiots and Angels by Bill Plympton

Bill Plympton Autograph & Sketch

I went to the Cleve­land Cin­e­math­eque last night to watch Bill Plympton’s most recent ani­mat­ed fea­ture: Idiots and Angels (2008). Mr. Plymp­ton was in atten­dance and was kind enough to do free auto­graphs and sketch­es for those who asked. (I asked.)

Before the fea­ture, Bill intro­duced us to this short he made with stu­dents in an ani­ma­tion class he taught. It’s called The Cow Who Want­ed to be a Ham­burg­er (2010). I’ve always been very impressed at Plympton’s abil­i­ty to tell a sto­ry in great depth, with no dia­logue. This one is no excep­tion. Here’s a clip.

Next up was the fea­ture; Idiots and Angels. The whole thing was drawn in #2 pen­cil, so it has great depth and detail. The artis­tic style and a large chunk of the plot device remind­ed me very much of Koji Yamamura’s Ata­ma Yama (2002). The entire short is avail­able on YouTube, but embed­ding has been dis­abled, so you’ll just have to click through. It is def­i­nite­ly worth it. After you’ve watched it, take a look at the trail­er for Idiots and Angels, right here:

Ata­ma Yama is a sto­ry about a self­ish, anti-social man who has a cher­ry tree grow out of his head. Idiots and Angels is a sto­ry about a self­ish, anti-social man who has wings grow out of his back. That’s pret­ty much where the sim­i­lar­i­ties end. In Ata­ma Yama the anti­so­cial man comes to no good end; the moral being that soci­ety is a greater good than an indi­vid­ual. The oppo­site is the case in Idiots and Angels; where no char­ac­ter is par­tic­u­lar­ly lik­able, the indi­vid­ual ris­es above an (only some­what exag­ger­at­ed) anti­so­cial soci­ety. I found it inter­est­ing to com­pare how two dif­fer­ent cul­tures dif­fer in their expo­si­tion when start­ing out with the same ele­ments.

Idiots and Angels was good, but not great. I felt that the expo­si­tion dragged at some points and that the edit­ing shift at the end derailed the sto­ry for a good 5–10 min­utes. The art, sound design & music was all superb, and Plymp­ton was a com­plete­ly per­son­able and gra­cious guy.