"Mutant Aliens," which had its world premiere at Park City, UT in the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2001, is a creation of veteran animator Bill Plympton, who was born in Portland in 1946, but moved to New York in the late Sixties. Plympton, who previously made waves with his feature films "The Tune" and "I Married a Strange Person!," is known for his flair for the outrageous and grotesque in colorful, explicitly drawn animated features. While he is unrivaled in maximizing rude and crude humor for gut-busting laughs, it is the combination of gratuitous bad taste and light, imaginative moments that keeps his audience in their seats. Although his hysterical animated shorts, such as "25 Ways to Quit Smoking," have been a marketplace success, his feature length films have had a tougher time establishing their place. Plympton was inspired to do this film after seeing a picture of Laika, the Russian Cosmonaut dog. In Plympton's own words: "My mind wandered, as it usually does when I feel an idea coming - whatever happened to Laika? Is he still up there? He must be mad as hell! And there are probably lots of other experimental animals up there, circling the earth - monkeys, mice, etc. What would happen if they banded together and plotted revenge on earthlings?" To help defray production costs and also promote the film, he produced a 188-page black-and-white graphic novel which serves as the storyboard. In addition, Plympton produced a 50-part video diary for students and fans of animation which documents the film's creation.
The film starts out when square-jawed U.S. astronaut Earl Jensen bids his little girl farewell and launches into space, but after reaching orbit, his spacecraft suffers a catastrophic fuel loss, sentencing him to a lonely death marooned in outer space. The evil head of the space agency, Dr. Frubar, blames Earl's cute, little daughter Josie for this event, who reacts by biting off his finger in a rage. However, he's really the one caused the disaster because he hopes to generate public support for a pet project, the Adship, by appealing to America for more money so that honorable men like Earl may not be wasted in space again. The Adship is a giant and costly billboard in space, with a screen the size of Oregon, that would beam down advertising to a captive human audience. Now we fast-forward twenty years. A grown-up Josie is working as an astronomer, when she detects her father's long lost spaceship returning to Earth. He is followed by another ship containing adorable but deadly creatures, which saved Earl's life. While they appear to be aliens, they are actually laboratory pets exposed to radiation who have been trained over the years to hate Frubar and have uniquely obscene methods for dispatching an enemy. Earl and his motley crew of mutant allies begin a war of revenge, helped out by Josie and her over-sexed fiancÚ Darby, against the evil Dr. Frubar.
Perhaps the funniest scenes are the ones which make this an adult cartoon. For example, Josie is accosted in the observatory by Darby, her horny boyfriend. At first she resists and two sides of her ego appear on her shoulders. The nun on the left argues with the tart on the right, until the tart, grabbing hold of Josie's hair, flips around to knock the nun off her perch. But as they get hot and heavy, Josie spots something strange on her screen and dashes outside, while Darby hops along behind, his trousers still down around his ankles. Sex gets a little weirder in space, where Earl makes love to an enormous nose. During a fight between the nose aliens and the evil eyes, lips, fingers and tongues, Earl literally gets a tongue-lashing. Things on Earth get pretty funky too, as Frubar makes love to his Adship as salivating advertsing men leer on. Even a sweet, little receptionist is sex-obsessed, pretending her hands are a horny couple. While the film has its moments, it lacks a crisp, quick-paced plot that ties up the loose ends and the slapstick gore can become tedious towards the end. Finally, despite Plympton's reputation, the audience may find the film a bit tame. While intended to be a biting social commentary, one can likely find more cutting edge cartoons airing on any given Saturday morning.