Bill Plympton appeals to better 'Angels'

Animator drops by Dubai film festival for first time

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DUBAI -- Award-winning U.S. animator Bill Plympton -- in Dubai for the first time, with his feature-length toon "Idiots and Angels" -- said Saturday that he doubts the feature will be distributed in the Arab world.

"It's an adult film," said Plympton who grew up in liberal Portland, Ore., and has a five-person studio in New York City. "There's some nudity in there."

However, Plympton said he sensed a lot of open-mindedness in Dubai.

"I did not expect to see Christmas trees everywhere," he said. "So I think some places here are open to cultural diversity and I think that's healthy."

"Angels" is about a bad man, Angel, who sprouts wings and must decide whether or not to live up to his new image.

"Everybody has invisible wings on their back," he said, admitting he'd made some mistakes of his own in his life. "They just have to discover them and use them, exercise them and develop them."

Plympton didn't do any homework on his way to the Middle East. "I should have," he said. "But I basically came here to get out of the cold weather in New York, relax and see some films."

Asked if he'd rather fly like "Angel" or have the power to be invisible, Plympton is unequivocal. "Fly, definitely. I love the human race and love to interact with people."

But, at 62, he is still his own man. When Plympton was 14 he wrote a letter to Disney offering his drawings and his services as a pen for hire. The studio politely declined. Thirty years later, when he did "Your Face," which won him an Oscar in 1987, Disney wrote to him with an offer of $1 million.

Tempted, figuring he could do his own work on the weekends, Plympton eventually turned Disney down because the studio wanted to own his every idea.

"I think I would have been fired in a couple of weeks anyway," he said.

As he gets older, he's often asked about the health of his drawing hand -- he's a righty. His hand is as steady as ever. "I think it's therapeutic to draw all day. Sometimes I'll get up at six in the morning and draw 'til 8 or 10 at night," said Plympton, sitting in the sun in shorts, a golf shirt and hotel slippers. "Afterwards, I feel great and refreshed."

And his mind is open to new ideas. After illustrating a music video for rapper Kanye West -- who he'd "barely" heard of (Plympton is a country and western fan) -- they're now working together on a book. "I think he's a genius in terms of visual ideas. If you've seen his show, it's like an opera."

Close to signing a deal for U.S. distribution of "Angels," Plympton said he is pleased that longtime friend and fan, director and fellow animator Terry Gilliam agreed to "present" the film on Saturday night, promoting it however he can. It will release first in France on Jan. 18 with ED Distribution, the company that puts out Guy Madden's films.
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