You have to give Bill Plympton credit. He is a filmmaker who, despite never gaining the commercial success that Walt Disney, Matt Groening, or Seth MacFarlane has over the years, still has churned out dozens of original animated shorts and a handful of movies. His animation style may seem archaic compared to the 3D animation that is popular today. However, unlike many animation giants, you gain a certain level of respect for Plympton when you learn that he drew more than 90% of the frames for "The Tune" himself. For a 69-minute movie, that's not an easy feat, and unheard of amongst almost all animators.
"The Tune" was not an easy movie to animate, that's for sure, but Plympton's effort to create his first full-length animated feature was well worth it. It tells the story of Del, a struggling songwriter (bearing an amusing, coincidental resemblance to Conan O'Brien) who is under pressure to write a hit single for smug music mogul Mr. Mega in order to make ends meet and win back the love of his girlfriend, Didi, who happens to be Mr. Mega's assistant. That's the plot in a nutshell, which creates a really good conflict in and of itself. The movie gets interesting when Del goes on a bizarre journey to find inspiration for his songs. He encounters along the way a happy-go-lucky mayor of a town called Flooby Nooby, an Elvis- impersonating dog, a wise prophet with strange face-changing techniques, a morose cab-driver without a nose, and other interesting characters.
The story and characters are most definitely outlandish, but not abhorrent, and are often charming and funny. The allure this film exhibits is aided by very memorable and catchy songs that you will be unable to get out of your head once the movie ends. The song "Flooby Nooby" made me laugh, and I also thought the Dolly Parton-esquire country ballad "Good Again" sung by the lonely female bartender was touching and poignant. This remark is coming from a writer who dislikes country music, too. I even thought the reprise of Del's own "My Love For You Is Equal To" brought the song from amateurish to distinguished.
The story was solid, but had its pacing thrown off a bit by some of Plympton's own animated shorts that he tied into the movie. Although I thought his shorts "The Wise Man" (1991) and "Tango Schmango" (1990) became incorporated into the movie surprisingly well, "Push Comes To Shove" (1991) ran on for a bit too long. The latter short, which involves two men standing side by side and doing strange cartoonishly-violent things to each other's faces, was funny, but slowed the pace of the story considerably. The pace picked up, however, when Del asks himself out loud, "Why am I still watching this?"
While "The Tune" has not yet gained the popularity it deserves, Bill Plympton thankfully is still working and gaining credibility for animating full-length movies, shorts, and, more recently, the music video "Heard Em Say" for Kanye West. "The Tune" is still available on DVD, and is a worthy addition to anyone's video library. It's animation may seem crude at first glance, but kids will love it. Fortunately, adults will too. It's original, well-animated, and ahead of its time even though its hand drawn. While films like "Aladdin" (1992) overshadowed "The Tune" upon its release in 1992, "The Tune" still deserves to be watched, not just heard.