Bill Plympton, whose imaginative and outrageous short cartoons, including 25 WAYS TO QUIT SMOKING, ONE OF THOSE DAYS and the Oscar-nominated YOUR FACE, have highlighted many an animation festival, makes his feature debut with this delightful musical comedy. While it maintains the wicked
wit and singular personality of Plympton's earlier work, THE TUNE also serves as a showcase for some fine song work by his longtime collaborator Maureen McElheron.
THE TUNE's story, in fact, serves merely as a skeleton on which to hang a number of McElheron's memorable tunes, which in turn serve as a springboard for Plympton's wild creativity. The lead character is Del (voice of Daniel Nieden), a young songwriter who is given an ultimatum by his boss, Mr.
Mega (Marty Nelson) of Mega Music: come up with a surefire hit in 47 minutes, or he's fired. Compounding Del's plight is the fact that losing his job will also mean the loss of his sweetheart, Didi (McElheron), who is Mega's secretary and has been yearning to return to her small hometown.
Going on a drive to seek inspiration, Del winds up in the bucolic village of Flooby Nooby, where the mayor greets him and explains that he has to write songs that come from the heart, not simply string together words that rhyme. For further guidance, the mayor takes Del to see the Wiseone (Chris
Hoffman), who speaks in riddles and whose head transforms into animals and objects. The duo then stop at a diner, where the waitress, Dot (Emily Bindiger), sings a song that inspires the food to amorous activity. Another of the diner's inhabitants, a dog (Ned Reynolds) that impersonates Elvis,
belts out an ode to his hairdo. Suddenly realizing that he's late for his meeting with Mr. Mega and in danger of losing Didi, Del imagines himself at the "Lovesick Hotel," where every suite offers a different manner for the lovelorn to end it all.
Help is on the way, however, in the form of a cabdriver (Jimmy Ceribello), who picks Del up and sings a blues song about the nose he loved and lost. But Del winds up deposited on a desert island, where a couple of surfers demonstrate the unique dances they've come up with to combat boredom. They
then show Del the way to Mega Music, where he encounters Didi and heads into his meeting with Mr. Mega. He offers up the songs he's heard on his travels, as well as one he has just completed himself, but Mr. Mega hates them all and fires Del. Heartbroken, and realizing they are soon to be
separated forever, Del and Didi sing a heartfelt love ballad--and Mr. Mega overhears it. Driven to tears by the song, Mega proclaims it a surefire smash, and Del and Didi face a future of happily ever after.
While the animated features from Disney forever strive for realistic--or at least naturalistic--effects, Plympton's pencil-and-watercolor visuals take the opposite approach. He delights in exploiting the possibilities of animation to manipulate and change familiar forms, and THE TUNE is rife with
anthropomorphism and the distortion of the human anatomy.
The former is most delightfully on display during Dot's "Isn't It Good Again" number, which features romantic tableaux involving such comestible couples as ham and eggs and apple pie and ice cream. In the latter area, the highlight is a hilarious scene in which Del witnesses two men abusing each
other's heads in ever more bizarre ways; this sequence, bearing the title PUSH COMES TO SHOVE, was released as a separate short by Plympton during THE TUNE's production to help raise completion funds.
Though some of THE TUNE's humor has a black streak, it contains nothing unpleasant or really unsuitable for children. The exaggeration and stylization take the edge off the few moments of violence, and Plympton's wonderful eye for detail makes this a treat for audiences of any age. He always looks
for the extra laugh in a scene; when the cabdriver sings the "No Nose Blues" and sees proboscises popping up everywhere he looks, one tree sprouts an eye before being nudged to its correct shape by the nose next to it. There are also plenty of in-jokes for animation buffs; one of the dances
performed by the surfers is "The Pencil-Rough," and a suite in the Lovesick Hotel contains Lupo the Butcher, the title star of Danny Antonucci's cult gore cartoon.
On a budget that was probably a hundredth of ALADDIN or BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Plympton has created an animated feature of equal entertainment value. (Mildly adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: Bill Plympton, whose imaginative and outrageous short cartoons, including 25 WAYS TO QUIT SMOKING, ONE OF THOSE DAYS and the Oscar-nominated YOUR FACE, have highlighted many an animation festival, makes his feature debut with this delightful musical comedy… (more)