Saturday, July 21, 2012

Animated Short of the Day: "Your Face" (Bill Plympton, 1987)

I imagine I'll feature Bill Plympton's works a number of times in this series, so I'll start out today with one of his best known. Plympton has had a varied and interesting career. In addition to his shorts, Plympton has directed five feature films, doing most or all of the animation by himself. He's also the only person so far to create music videos for both Kanye West and "Weird" Al Yankovic.

"Your Face" consists mostly of a single stationary shot of a man's face while he sings a lovely, haunting song (true fact: I convinced my wife to let me put it our wedding dance.) The song was written and sung by Maureen McElheron. The music was slowed down to sound like a man's voice, ostensibly because Plympton, by his own admission, "was too cheap to hire a male singer." He's selling himself and McElheron short, though. The effect gives the cartoon a bizarre quality that it wouldn't have with a more standard voice.

(For those interested, here's a version of the song sped up 40%. It isn't McElheron's original track, but it's a likely approximation of what it might have sounded like. Big thanks to Guillermo Gomez for modifying that track for me!)

Aside from the music, most of the delight of "Your Face" comes from watching Plympton experiment with all of the ways he can alter this image. For two and a half minutes, things happen to the face. It multiplies, stretches and squashes, it gets crushed, it gets turned inside out, and it's broken down into blocks. It's a three-minute class on animation techniques, and it's also hilarious.

Your Face - Bill Plympton [1987] from SlimGus on Vimeo.

One final note - I didn't mention this yesterday, but I'd really appreciate any suggestions for future shorts. Send me an email or contact me on Twitter.

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