Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton is one of the last of the true independents and yet, despite a long career that’s run both hot and cold commercially, he’s anything but angry.

Since the mid ’70s, the revered NYC based filmmaker has built up a reputation as one of the most innovative and charismatic animators alive, an artist whose edgy, counterculture esthetic is echoed by his simple, jittery, self penciled imagery.

His latest offering is the feature length morality play Idiots and Angels (opening in theatres Friday), a dark, creepy comic fantasy about a miserable corporate stiff who inexplicably sprouts a set of seraphim wings from his back, inspiring him against his otherwise cantankerous will to do good deeds.

“It’s got a spiritual aspect to it,” says Plympton of his latest magnum opus that joins the ranks of such cult Plymptoon hits as Mutant Aliens, Guard Dog and Hair High. “I’m not religious at all, my religion is animation, but the film is getting a great, passionate response. There was actually a riot in Greece when we screened it — people were beating each other up to try to get in!”

The film has a bleak, monochromatic yet strangely beautiful colour palette that in many ways was inspired by his childhood growing up in the foggy, washed out wilds of Oregon.

“A lot of animators come from Oregon,” he says. “Matt Groening (The Simpsons) is one of them, in fact. The weather there is very depressing but also misty and kind of magical, like a fairy tale. I spent a lot of time indoors drawing to amuse myself and that environment definitely helped shape the work.”

Plympton’s films command an international cult following but, no matter what level of mainstream success he achieves, he vehemently refuses to sell out, to alter his identity as a trend bucking maverick.

“I own all my own work and have complete creative control over my projects,” he says. “I really want to stress that you can be­ independent and still be successful. It’s not easy, but you can.”

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