Toon Town

Criterion Channel Highlights the Work of a Portland Animator

Bill Plympton, the “King of Indie Animation,” now has 22 of his short films on the streaming service.

By Conner Reed September 3, 2020

Plympton drawing Guard Dog at AFI Fest in 2008

Attention, PDX cinephiles: that Criterion Channel subscription has come home to roost.

The streaming service, spun off from Criterion’s home video label and launched after boutique streamer Filmstruck went belly-up in late 2018, introduced a new collection to its formidable lineup this week—“The Films of Bill Plympton,” the Oscar-nominated Portland animator known for his surreal 2-D hand-drawn work. It includes 22 short films the self-proclaimed “King of Indie Animation” produced between 1987 and 2016, including Guard Dog, his most famous, and Your Face, which earned him his first Oscar nod in 1988.

Plympton is one of Portland’s many legendary animators, including stop-motion pioneer Will Vinton and Simpsons creator Matt Groening. His work has appeared everywhere from the New York Times to Cannes to music videos for Kanye West and Weird Al, and whole swaths of his decades-long career are housed at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ film archive. (One of his Times cartoons, which depicts Trump and Putin as a couple, came under fire for its perceived homophobia after it ran in 2018.)

If you pick your way through Criterion’s Plympton catalog and it hasn’t quite satisfied your hunger for work from Portland auteurs, fear not: the channel is also currently streaming Gus Van Sant's Old Town–set feature debut Mala Noche and Kelly Reichardt's 2006 classic (to me?) Old Joy.

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