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Animator Bill Plympton creates an enjoyable Tune

The Tune
Directed by Bill Plympton.
Written by Bill Plympton,
Maureen McElheron,
and P. C. Vey.
Featuring the voices of Daniel Neiden, Maureen McElheron, and Marty Nelson.
Coolidge Corner Theater.

By Joshua Andresen
Staff Reporter

Bill Plympton's first full length animated feature, The Tune, is a delightfully enjoyable film. The animation is classic Plympton, and the music is wonderful as well.

The Tune is a musical comedy based on Del (Daniel Neiden), a young, struggling songwriter who is trying to write a song for his boss, Mr. Mega (Marty Nelson), the CEO of Mega Music. Del wants to be able to draw a steady income so he can marry his sweetheart, Didi (Maureen McElheron), who is also Mr. Mega's secretary. Mr. Mega gives Del a deadline: a smash hit in 47 minutes or he's fired.

While driving to Mega Music, Del gets lost and winds up in a quaint town called Flooby Nooby. In Flooby Nooby, Del learns that in order to write good songs, he must feel the inspiration, rather than trying to force it. "Feel the passion. Feel the pain. Feel the pasta," he is told. Del then goes on a tour of Flooby Nooby, encountering an astonishing array of characters along the way, from dancing fast food to a canine Elvis to a psychopathic bellhop. Each time, Del comes up with a song.

By this time, it is past Del's 47 minute deadline. He rushes back to Mega Music, only to get lost in the building's expanse. As he and Didi try to find Mr. Mega, they run into several other odd characters that seem out of place. Eventually, they find Mr. Mega, but he hates all of Del's songs. Downtrodden, Del and Didi sing a forlorn love duet. Mr. Mega overhears this and is so moved, he offers Del anything he wants for his songs and everyone lives happily ever after.

Plympton's animation is the primary reason to see this movie. Winner of many awards from various film and animation festivals, Plympton is perhaps known best for his short subjects such as "25 Ways to Quit Smoking" and "How to Kiss." Plympton animated The Tune entirely by hand with over 30,000 drawings. The Tune is classic Plympton, with his rough sketch-like drawings and famous metamorphosis segments in which one object transforms magically into another.

The music is excellent as well. Each song represents a different type of American popular music. There are songs from the genres of country-western,blues, and rock music la Elvis and the Beach Boys, as well as standard musical fare. Plympton experiments with different styles of animation for each song and succeeds splendidly. For a tune sung by Didi, for example, Plympton switches from animating her whole face to just her eyes, nose, and mouth, which works well in the musical context. And only Plympton could build so much excitement into the climactic rendezvous of a hot dog and a bun.

One glaring problem with The Tune is its use of shorts that Plympton has already released. Several short subjects including "The Wiseman," "Push Comes to Shove," and "Tango Schmango" were incorporated in places that did not mesh well with the rest of the action. None of these shorts involve the main characters and the segues were badly done. The latter two of these are encountered in the search for Mr. Mega at the end of the film. Plympton does admit that they do not really belong, however. After "Push Comes to Shove," for example, Del comments, "Why am I watching this?"

Overall, this is an enjoyable film. Even the re-run shorts are enjoyable to watch again for those who attend animation festivals with regularity. For those new to Bill Plympton, make an effort to get to the Coolidge Corner Theater to see The Tune.