Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Making Toons That Sell Without Selling Out"

Arguably the most successful independent animator in America is Bill Plympton. For more than 25 years he has been making a living doing animation through his small, New York studio with a tiny crew (Plympton does all the animation himself) and make a living through it. Not only did he produce over 40 short films, he has also done over 10 feature films himself as well.

So it makes sense that he would write a book about how he does it. And he did.

Making Toons That Sell Without Selling Out is part "How I did it" and part "Self Help" in that Plympton writes about how to make money with personal animation, using his experience as examples. He covers as much as possible, from animation techniques to budgeting to distribution to promotion and more.

Refreshingly, he doesn't talk about not just marketing, but also the art side of animation. He stresses the importance of figure drawing (Plympton claims that he still takes figure drawing classes right now) and drawing from experience, which is a great advice. He also writes on the importance of getting connections with other people in the film world, which helped Plympton out.

And of course, there's the infamous "Plympton Dogma". For those who don't know, the way Plympton makes his cartoons is this three points:

  1. Make the film short
  2. Make the film cheap
  3. Make the film funny
While I can't agree to this all the time, it makes sense to Plympton. My problem with most indie animation is that they try to be taken seriously, with abstract animation and barely-there gags that really drags out most artsy animation festivals. It's refreshing to hear Plympton encouraging artists to be funny.

And speaking of the "cheap" point, Plympton follows the "less is more" school of thought. His animation is drawn in 3s and 4s, often choppy. His arguing is that the audience can't tell the difference, so why bother. It works well with Plympton, making his sketchy style stand out from his contemporaries in the NYC indie animation scene.

So yeah, the book's not cheap (it's $30), but if you want to go into animation, it's worth a look. You can buy it from Amazon here.

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