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Lauren Davis

Lauren Davis is a Berkeley-based freelance writer and editor of The Comic Book Guide to the Mission. She lives with her four-year-old Boxer, Skoda, who doesn't mind playing guinea pig as long as there are treats involved.

Dog's Life: Humane
Q&A with the Inmate Trainers of Freedom Tails
Prison inmates train dogs behind bars.
Freedom Tails Graduation

Freedom Tails is a joint program with the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Wash., and the animal rescue group North Beach PAWS. It partners rescued dogs with SCCC inmates who train and care for the dogs to prepare them for life in their adoptive homes. We feature Freedom Tails in the April/May 2011 issue of The Bark, along with two leather collars made by the SCCC K9 Club to support Freedom Tails (see “Kit’s Corner”).

We spoke with SCCC Corrections Unit Supervisor Dennis Cherry, who heads up the program on the corrections end, as well as Program Assistant Karen Diehm, who writes the program’s monthly newsletters, and Carl Corcoran and Robert Wrinkle, two of the inmate trainers. They explain how the program got started and how it has dramatically changed life inside the prison.

Bark: What made you specifically want to try a dog program at SCCC?

Cherry: We heard how successful it was for bringing violence down in the units and how it was helping the offenders cope with being in prison and helping them when they get out. It gives them a self worth, like they’re helping the community. And it helps them to progress in their lives once they get out. It gives them some responsibility while they’re in here. They have to take care of a dog and they’re totally responsible for it. And it seems to be working pretty well.

Bark: Trainer Corcoran, what made you decide to participate in the program?

Corcoran: It gives me something to look forward to every day. I have something to care for, and it gives me a self-worth. I feel like I’m doing something good for the community and a dog.

Bark: The dogs you’ve been training, are they dogs that have been surrendered and have been in shelters?

Corcoran: My first dog that I had was a Terrier. Her name was Cookie. I came in just a couple weeks prior to her graduating, and that was the dog that I learned on. Maverick was the first dog that I trained on my own. He was a black Lab. He was an owner surrender. The owner didn’t have time for him, so they just gave him up. Now I have Skeeter.

Diehm: Skeeter’s a special project this time around. His owner has a disability, so we’re training him to help her when he gets back home.

Corcoran: Right now I’m training him to ring a bell. I have started training him to bring me a bag, which is going to have medicine in it. He’s picked that up real well. And he wears a special harness. It’s kind of like he’ll be used for a cane, or if she falls down, she can use him to get back up.

Wrinkle: I trained the first [assistance] dog. We trained her last session, and she was trained for a 17-year-old who has Down syndrome, and she was the first special needs dog we did. That was kind of difficult, because we had to train her to be very gentle with her mouth, no jumping. Everything that a person with Down syndrome needs. And we teach ourselves in some sense on how to train dogs in that way.

Bark: Do you feel like doing this has prepared you for leaving the correctional system?

Wrinkle: It’s helped me. You see, when we first started this, I was kind of a wreck. Not really that much of a sense of responsibility, although I’d been through some college. And it’s like having a two-year-old kid on your shoulder all the time, so you’ve really got to pay attention. You’ve got to feed him, exercise him. You’ve got to bathe him. Everything in your daily life, you have to do with a two-year-old kid more or less. As far as responsibility, I mean we’ve got to give the dog meds, everything to do with this dog we live with him day in and day out for the next eight to 12 weeks. So it’s taught me more responsibility in the 14 or 15 months that I’ve been in the dog program than I’ve learned since I’ve been down. Plus, it’s also taught me that people do care. We get to interact with the community in this program in ways that we never have before.

Bark: When you say “interact with the community,” do you mean specifically with the outside trainers?

Wrinkle: With the trainers and, at graduation, they bring in all of the families that are adopting the dogs, and we go through a dog show, sort of just like on TV. And everybody sits there and watches, and when we’re done, we interact with the public at large. Some of the phrases and some of the comments we get are stuff that we—that I—haven’t seen in over 20 years. I’m just living in an enclosed bubble in here and we don’t get to see a lot of stuff. It kind of brings to light some of the positive aspects of everything we’re doing.

Bark: What are the dogs like when they arrive at SCCC? Do they mostly need to be resocialized?

Corcoran: Well, some dogs, when they come in, have been chained up in a backyard their whole lives without much contact with humans or animals. So when they get here, some of them don’t know how to react to all these people or another dog. So it takes a lot of time and patience on our part to just adjust this dog slowly, get him to be around more humans and other dogs. Some of these dogs come in not knowing how to be a dog.

Wrinkle: Plus, our lead trainer has actually saved dogs that are on the way to be put down. We had one dog that they found under a boat, named Angel; she was so near death they did not think she was going to make it. We’ve had other dogs come in that are so underweight that they’re about 50% of their actual weight. We’ve had other dogs come in that we’ve actually had to do a hair care session with them because they’re so patched and bald that you would never think that they’d come out of this program the way that they do. It’s just really amazing.

Bark: Do you see parallels between your life in prison and the lives of all these surrendered dogs?

Wrinkle: Yeah, I do. It’s actually put life back into my life. I don’t know how else to say it. It’s given me back a lot of stuff that I’ve lost over the years. And it’s not just for me, but for my family. It’s helped me re-interact with my family as far as how they’re feeling. That’s a topic of conversation every single time I talk with my family. They want to know what’s going on with training, just about everything about it.

Bark: Is it that you have something in common to talk about, or is there more?

Wrinkle: That’s a big part of it, that it’s something to talk about. But there’s more to it—like almost every single member of my family wants me to train their dog now.

Bark: What has surprised you most about Freedom Tails?

Wrinkle: The calm in the unit. When the first dog walked into this unit... Within a week, it was like the tension level dropped to about 50%. And the stress level. It was almost as if everybody had new conversation. I don’t know how else to say it. It just was a drastic change. You can even see when there’s no dogs in the unit, in the two-week span when we don’t have dogs sometimes, you can actually see the difference between the stress level and attitudes and everything.

Bark: Having dogs around gives you a common connection.

Wrinkle: Yes, definitely.

Cherry: Yeah, you can see it in their faces. Guys who aren’t involved in the program, when they can pet the dogs when they see a green or yellow collar. And when they’re petting the dogs, you can see the smiles on their faces instead of frowns. It’s pretty amazing, really.

Bark: Do you see other correctional facilities interested in starting dog training programs as a result of Freedom Tails?

Cherry: We have. From our program, there’s probably four others that have started in our prisons across Washington. Walla Walla has one now, Munroe has one, Cedar Creek has one, Olympic Corrections Center has one. They modeled it off our program, pretty much.

Bark: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the program?

Wrinkle: The only thing I can really say is this has made a drastic change in my life and everything in it has been for the better. I know it’s going to help me when I release.

Cherry: I’d like to make one point, that the whole purpose of our program was to save dogs that might not have a life. If a dog ends up in a kennel, he’s facing death sometimes. And we’re actually taking these dogs and we’re re-training them and adopting them to good families, so we’re saving these dogs in the community. Some guys even relate it to their situation. Some guys are never getting out of prison. They see that and they think, “That’s cool. They’re out there giving that dog a second chance. You know, I wish someone would give me a second chance.” Maybe it gives them some hope. Maybe it doesn’t. But at least it gives them some appreciation of what we’re doing.

Corcoran: Yeah instead of doing something negative for the community, we’re doing actually something positive. And it feels good.

To learn more about Freedom Tails, visit North Beach PAWS. The SCCC K9 Club makes leather collars, leashes and keychains that are available for sale. All proceeds are collected by North Beach PAWS and go to support Freedom Tails.

Culture: Reviews
Dog Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend
Avery Publishing, 320 pp., 2010; $26.00

After the birth of Snuppy, the world’s first cloned dog, a handful of biotech entrepreneurs envisioned a thriving business that would provide grieving dog lovers with genetically identical clones of their deceased pets. In Dog Inc., Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist John Woestendiek exposes the grave folly behind those science-fiction dreams.

Woestendiek travels between the United States and South Korea, following the companies looking to cash in on cloning technology, and their clients, who hope cloning really will approximate resurrection.

Although much of the book focuses on the salacious story of Bernann McKinney, a woman obsessed with cloning her Pit Bull, the strength of Dog Inc. is in Woestendiek’s ability to lay out the science and laboratory politics in a way that’s both accessible and engaging. Readers will understand the X-inactivation process that made the first cloned cat so physically distinct from her progenitor — and, consequently, such a public relations failure — as well as the allegations of scientific fraud levied against Woo Suk Hwang, one of the pioneers of canine cloning.

Woestendiek never outright condemns canine cloning, but the details leave little question as to where he falls in the debate. He shines light on the poor treatment of the laboratory dogs used in cloning, the cloned puppies who do not survive the process and the heartbreaking fate of Snuppy himself. As for the actual clones, Dog Inc. tracks kittens, puppies and even a bull cloned at great financial and biological cost, only to prove physically and behaviorally distinct from their genetic parents.

The book serves as a valuable reminder that, like people, our pets are far more than the sum of their DNA.

News: Guest Posts
App Review: Pet Sitter
Can an app really stop your dog’s barking while you’re away?

The Pet Sitter app makes some big promises for its $1.99 price tag. Well, maybe not promises, but strong suggestions. The Pet Sitter assures you that it will keep your dog (or cat or bird) company while you’re home and that it will email you if your dog won’t stop barking. What it very strongly suggests is that it can distract your dog from barking using a simple mobile device.

So, does it work? Maybe. Sometimes. In certain situations. For certain dogs.

A quick word on the basic application, which works on iPhone, iPad and iPod: When I discussed this application with fellow dog owners, their response, invariably, was “When am I going to leave my phone at home?” Yes, this application is really only useful for people who have a mobile device they plan to leave at home, such as an iPod, iPad or old phone.

Fortunately, I have an Apple device I could leave at home, and decided to test drive the application on Skoda, my four-year-old Boxer. Skoda is an ideal test dog for this application, since he barks every single time any person comes to the door. I just needed to turn on the application before I left the house, knock on the door when I came home and listen to Skoda’s reaction.

When you first fire up the Pet Sitter application, you are prompted to select a series of sounds that will play whenever your dog barks. There is a nice selection to choose from, from doors creaking to squeaky toys to chirping birds. You can select the sounds most likely to distract your particular pooch, and steer clear of any sounds he finds particularly upsetting. The idea is to choose a variety of sounds, so if the giggling baby doesn’t capture his attention, the ringing telephone might. You can also select a noise threshold, so the Pet Sitter app can go off when your dog makes or peep or not until he’s barking to high heaven. Then you make sure you hit “Start” before you leave the house.

The first few times I tested the application on Skoda, I left the device near the door, the most likely place he’d start barking. Then, after leaving the house for a few hours, I tried knocking on the door. Sure enough, Skoda came scrambling to the top of the stairs, barking with great enthusiasm. I listened to the Pet Sitter chirp and buzz and hiccup, and watched through the window as Skoda gave it the full Boxer head tilt…and went right on barking. Rinse. Repeat.

In fact, I was about to write off the application (at least where my fellow is concerned), until one day I came home, knocked on the door and heard Skoda stop barking when the application went off. I’ll admit it: I was pretty impressed.

So the application might work if you have a dog who tends to stop barking when he’s distracted, and you can reliably plan where to leave your pet-sitting device. But you also might need to be diligent about switching up the sounds so that your pup doesn’t become inured to them.

One of the handier promises Pet Sitter makes is that it will email you if it fails to dissuade your dog’s barking. That way, you’ll know if your dog is actually barking as often as the neighbors claim—and if something is regularly upsetting him while you’re gone. It won’t tattle if your dog merely yips at the mailman, only if he cycles through several levels of distractions without simmering down. Personally, that’s a feature I’d like to customize, but it’s better than nothing.

Well, it would be better than nothing. I tried barking at the application until a message popped up telling me that I was a noisy creature and my parents would be receiving an email. So I eagerly raced to my computer and checked my inbox. Nada. Nothing in my spam filter, either. In fact, I’m still waiting on that email. Perhaps Pet Sitter decided not to rat me out after all.

Pet Sitter isn’t an application I would personally recommend. I suspect that the email feature won’t be reliable until the next version or so, which would make it a more useful application down the line. Still, if you’re willing to bet $1.99 that it might quell your dog’s barking, it could be worth the gamble.

Platforms: iPod, iPad, iPhone

Download the App

News: Guest Posts
App Review: Pet First Aid
A multimedia guide to your dog’s bumps and bruises

No app is ever a good substitute for veterinary care, but your phone is a handy place to store a first aid reference. After all, if your dog is injured while the two of you are out and about, having the number for ASPCA Poison Control or instructions on performing CPR readily available can buy your pup precious time.

Information for the Pet First Aid app comes from PetCPR.com. The app mostly consists of text, laying out everything from what to include in your first aid kit to how to respond to a spinal injury. But Pet First Aid also includes pictures and videos to illustrate the concepts it describes. Pictures show how to identify oxygen deprivation from a dog’s gums and where to apply pressure to slow an injured dog’s bleeding. Videos demonstrate how to take your dog’s pulse, how to wrap an injured paw, how to perform CPR and more. Again, it’s not a substitute for learning these things from a professional, but it’s useful information in an emergency.

And, when you do get your pup to the emergency vet, Pet First Aid doubles as medical records storage. You can record all of your dog’s medications, vaccinations, allergies and medical conditions, as well as her veterinary contacts, right in your phone, so you and the emergency vet don’t waste precious seconds gathering her medical history.

Best of all, the Pet First Aid App doesn’t require an Internet connection; all of the information is stored directly on your device. So if you take your iPod Touch jogging, you’ll have access to all of the first aid information, even if you can’t get a wireless signal.

Price: $3.99

Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch

Get the App

News: Guest Posts
App Review: Fido Factor
Helps you plan your dog’s day out

Yelp has helpfully started to include dog-friendly data in their user-generated reviews, but a quick search for “dog-friendly bar” might well turn up a bar with a friendly staff that happens to serve hot dogs. And when the reviews aren’t written by dog people, they may neglect some key information, such as whether there’s a water bowl outside and if your pup can hang out past 8 p.m.

So Fido Factor steps up to the plate, with reviews of dog-friendly destinations by real live dog owners. The app finds your location and invites you to choose one of ten categories (“Restaurants,” “Shopping,” “Pet Stores,” “Pet Services,” “Lodging”) and then lists all the relevant spots where your dog can tag along.

I can’t vouch for Fido Factor’s accuracy across the board, but I was impressed by its Berkeley, Calif., listings. Why yes, Fellini Coffee Bar does serve dog treats at its walk-up window. I’ve brought my Boxer into Half Price Books with nary a murmur from the staff. Non-service dogs can ride BART in a carrier and MUNI with a muzzle. All the information is right there on the screen. You can designate certain destinations as “favorites” if you’d like to bookmark them for later, and you can always contribute your own reviews.

Fido Factor has a few drawbacks, however. Fido Factor comes in iPhone/iPod only, so if you’re an iPad user, the display is obnoxiously small (or obnoxiously pixellated if you zoom in). The larger issue, however, is that it’s locked to your location. If you and your co-pilot are about to go on vacation, you can’t use the Fido Factor app to research spots at your destination ahead of time. Fortunately, Fido Factor does have a complementary website—FidoFactor.com—where you can find dog-friendly destinations far away.

Price: Free

Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch

Get the App

News: Guest Posts
App Review: The Google Maps of Dog Parks
Paws up for Dog Park Finder

If you’ve ever had an urge to look up every dog park in a 20-mile radius, then Dog Park Finder is the app for you. It’s a comprehensive list off-leash areas and on-leash dog walks, mapped out for your convenience.

There are plenty of apps that promise you a directory of doggy delights, only to fall far short of their promises. (I spent hours with the My Dog app before deciding its best feature was its travel tips section.) Dog Park Finder puts sparsely populated applications to shame, delivering long lists of parks and walks in just about every zip code. The information all comes from DogGoes.com, a site that reviews pet-friendly and pet-unfriendly places, and it’s amassed an impressive amount of data. Not only does Dog Park Finder map out these spots, it also includes handy information such as park fees, the name of the management organization, whether there are any bathrooms and whether the park area is fenced in, not to mention user reviews so you can decide if it’s the right venue for your dog.

Dog Park Finder also includes a useful feature I have yet to see on other dog directory apps: It tells you which beaches, trails and other areas specifically forbid dogs.

I would highly recommend this app for anyone looking to find a few (or a few dozen) more parks and trails in their area. Or, if you’re like me, you can just spend hours moving the map around and fantasizing about far away dog parks.

Price: Free

Platforms: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Get the App

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Furever Homes: An Animal Rescue Board Game

Can a board game teach your kids about the animal rescue industry? Petsapalooza CEO Carianne Burnley designed Fur- Ever Home: The Animal Rescue Game to increase awareness of the challenges shelters face and dispel some myths about the animals who end up in rescue. Each player runs a shelter in Straytown, where they try to place cats and dogs in their “Fur-Ever Homes.”

Players face many of the same decisions and challenges real shelters deal with every day: hiring staff, fundraising, treating sick animals and overcrowding. Burnley says children who play the game are often surprised to learn that customers sometimes return the pets they’ve adopted. “It’s making children ask questions.”

Just like real shelters, Straytown shelters have a wide array of dogs and cats available. Although some pets are harder to adopt out because of their age, breed or behavior issues, there are plenty of puppies, kittens, purebreds and Canine Good Citizens. Burnley says, “I wanted to help people understand there are great dogs in rescue.”

For each game they sell, Petsapalooza is donating $5 to one of over 70 rescue organizations across the United States.

petsapalooza.com $29.99

Dog's Life: Humane
Prison Training Program Gives Dogs and Inmates a Second Chance
Freedom Tails

Read our interview with the Freedom Tails coordinator and trainers.

Freedom Tails, a prison dog-training program at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Wash., is barely two years old, but already the inmates have seen remarkable benefits. Within a week of the rescued dogs’ first appearance, one inmate reports, “the tension level dropped to about 50 percent.” With animals to focus their attention and energy on, the inmates are less prone to violence.

For inmate trainers, Freedom Tails offers a sense of responsibility that’s hard to come by in prison, as well as precious positive contact with the community. At the end of each eight-week session, the dogs’ adoptive families gather at SCCC for a dog show, where trainers show off each dog’s skills and introduce them to their new, proud parents. As sad as the trainers are to bid the dogs farewell, they bask in the praise they receive.

Freedom Tails has proven so successful that five other Washington prisons have piloted similar programs, meaning better care for Washington’s rescued dogs and a hopefully brighter future for their incarcerated trainers.

To support Freedom Tails, the SCCC K-9 Club makes and decorates leather collars and leashes.

For more on Freedom Tails, visit northbeachpaws.org.

Culture: DogPatch
Q&A with Animator Bill Plympton
Bill Plympton draws upon a universal doggedness—the search for love.
Art from "Guard Dog"

Animator Bill Plympton earned his first Oscar nomination in 1987 with the short film Your Face, but it was his 2004 short Guard Dog (also Oscar-nominated) that gave him a character audiences wanted to see again and again. The Dog, a goofy-looking pooch always on the hunt for love, has gone on to star in three additional shorts, and inspired Plympton to launch Guard Dog Global Jam, inviting animators all over the world to remake two- to four-second segments of Guard Dog, creating one collaborative, multi-style film.

You can also see the Dog bounding throughout Plympton’s new book, Independently Animated: Bill Plympton. We talk to Plympton about his canine inspirations and why audiences empathize with the Dog.

In Guard Dog, we meet the Dog, who imagines that everything he encounters (a girl with a jump rope, a songbird, a flower) is a threat against his owner—with tragic results. What was the inspiration for this film?

There’s a couple of influences for that film. One is, when I was a kid, I used to go to baseball practice, I was like 10 years old or so then. And there was this dog on the road that wouldn’t let me pass. And I was on a country road, so there was no alternative route. And he used to chase me, barking at me all the time and I was frightened by it. I think psychologically, it kind of gave me this obsession with barking dogs. And then it was about six years ago, I was in the park right near where I live—it’s called Madison Square Park—and I saw this dog barking at a little bird. And I wondered, “Why is a dog so afraid of a cute little bird?” And then I went inside the dog’s brain and realized that he was afraid the bird would attack his master and he would lose his companion, his meal ticket, his master. So I thought, “Oh, that’s a funny idea.” And I immediately went home and started writing this storyboard about this dog who was so paranoid about these strange creatures that he imagined that they’re like these fictitious fantasy attacks on his master. And the film was a huge hit. Really, I was amazed how popular this dog was.

So often, we see animated dogs anthropomorphized, but here it seems like you did the opposite and really tried to get at what the Dog was thinking.

Yeah, I don’t like real cutesy talking dogs that take on human form. I like it when they’re actually real animals that you can identify with and it sort of feels like your own dog, like you really know this dog and it’s one of your own dogs. To me, that’s what gives a resonance to this character. That’s why people love him. It’s because they know he’s a real dog and not half-human.

In the later films Guide Dog and Hot Dog, we see the dog take on these more vocational roles—being a seeing-eye dog and a firehouse dog, respectively. Do you see some aspirational quality in dogs?

No, the basic idea for this dog is that he’s searching for love. Everybody’s looking for love and looking for companionship and someone to spend their life with, and that’s what he’s doing. So it’s part of his search to find a caretaker, a master. And he goes to the fire department and he wants to be adopted as a firehouse dog. And then when he’s a guide dog, he wants to help the blind people and he’s hoping a blind person will adopt him as their guide dog. And there’s actually a fourth one...and that is called Horn Dog, and that’s where he falls in love with another dog, a beautiful long-haired Afghan. And that obviously goes very badly, too. So, that’s his life, just getting rejected when he finds a companion, finds someone to take care of him.

So will the Dog ever find love?

No, that would be disaster. That would end the series. You know, he’s sort of become my Mickey Mouse, and he’s been identified with me quite strongly. So as long as I keep making the films, people want to see the dog. I like that, so I need to have him always in constant search for the love of his life.

Why do you think audiences connect so well with the Dog?

I think they empathize with him. They’ve been there. They know that oftentimes they make a fool of themselves trying to gain love or gain acceptance or gain approval and oftentimes it goes bad. And it’s funny. If people loved him, it wouldn’t be funny. It would be a romance. I prefer humor over romance. Well, that’s hard to say. I do other films for romance.

Are there any more Dog films in the works?

I do. I have another one that I’ll just tell you about briefly. It’s called Cop Dog, and this is where he works in an airport, sniffing for smugglers, drug-smugglers. And he finds a valise that’s full of drugs and he tears it open and the whole airport is filled with some sort of aphrodisiac. And everybody starts taking their clothes off and the airplanes start doing loop-de-loops and it’s total, total madness—a little mayhem. So I’ll probably have that one done over the summer.

The way you draw the Dog—his expressions, his walk—is so delightful. Do you spend a lot of time observing dogs?

The park where I first discovered the dog has a wonderful dog run, and so I do go over there occasionally and do sketches of dogs. They’re fun to draw.

My dog is a Pug, I think; the one I use for the model, I think was a Pug. I love drawing dogs and I’ve spent hours there sketching dogs and finding the right animal. I like the Pug. I think he’s a very handsome animal—very emotional, too. You know, the big tongue, the sloppy smile, that stuff.

And now you’re working on Guard Dog Global Jam.

Yes, we just finished it, actually, and we’re sending it out to festivals, and I think it’s going to have its world premier at the South By Southwest Film Festival.

It must be incredible to see that so many people want to reinterpret your work.

It was amazing. We had over 200 submissions and we only had space for about 70 artists. So we had to say no to a lot of people; it was very sad.

From what I’ve seen, the styles are so varied. Did you give people a lot of license?

We told everybody the same thing. We just said, “Reinterpret my artwork in your style.” And so the variety of styles is quite refreshing. I mean, we have one where it’s little bits of dog food, and then someone recommissioned 100 other people to do every frame of fill, which is just mind-blowing. It’s really beautiful. We have one that’s very theatrical; it’s almost puppets. .... It’s really interesting, the variety of different looks and styles. I like that. One’s a 10-year-old Chinese kid who did one, too. We had a Disney animator—a couple Disney animators and then a 10-year-old Chinese kid. So it’s a wide spectrum.

You’ve said that you don’t like anthropomorphized dogs in animation. Are there any animated dogs that are particular favorites?

I’ll tell you what I don’t like is the Hanna-Barbara stuff, like Scooby-Doo and Huckleberry Hound. They just don’t feel real to me, emotional to me. I don’t know; I’m trying to think. Goofy—I remember as a kid I loved Goofy. Pluto was not such a big favorite, but Goofy I liked a lot. I loved his sense of humor. He was an inspiration for a lot of my humor, the Goofy films.

I love how specific the movements in your animation are. Are you working in colored pencil?

Regular colored pencil. Regular, number two, Ticonderoga pencils that you use every day.

It adds so much texture. It’s so amazing to see when so many people are moving away from hand-drawn animation.

Well, that’s my specialty. It’s sort of my trademark. Whenever I say, “Oh a Bill Plympton film,” people always say, “Who’s Bill Plympton?” and I say, “Oh, the colored pencil guy.” And they say, “Oh! That guy!” Everybody knows who I am; they just don’t know what my name is. They know my style. They know my technique. They know my stories.

Why do you hold so firmly to hand-drawn animation?

A lot of reasons. One is hand-drawn is much faster. Computer animation is very slow. Also, it’s a lot cheaper. Computer animation is very expensive. For example, Toy Story 3 cost about $200 million to make, and it’s a beautiful film. I don’t deny it. It’s money well spent. Whereas my films cost about $200,000. So I could make a thousand Bill Plympton films for one Pixar film. That’s why I stay hand-drawn.

Is that true for 2D computer animation as well?

No, 2D is much cheaper, too. Especially with Flash, you can do it for a much cheaper price. But I still think it’s a little bit more—well, it depends on who the artist is. You know, a film like The Illusionist, which is hand-drawn, that was not cheap; that was about a $40 million film. So it depends who’s doing the art and how long the process is and what the market is—whether it’s TV or movie theaters.

It seems like you have a lot more control in hand-drawn animation as well.

I totally agree. There are so many things that you can do in hand-drawn animation. The only limit is really your imagination, and that’s why I love animation. I love drawing it and doing it. I did do a couple live-action films, and they were complete disasters because I couldn’t control the actors 100 percent. They didn’t allow me to sever their heads and have them start flying through the sky. They weren’t into that. So, with animation, I have no problems with that.

Take a peek at some samples from Guard Dog Global Jam:

 

 

Culture: DogPatch
To Clone or Not to Clone?
Dog Inc. author explains the high cost of canine cloning.

Canine cloning businesses like to tout their services as akin to resurrection—but the reality is much more complicated. In our video interview, John Woestendiek, author of the new book Dog Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend, exposes the high cost of canine cloning—for both the people who invest their money and emotions in the procedure, and the laboratory animals used to create the clones.