I found this documentary, directed by Neil Berkeley, to be unique and rather fascinating. It covers the work and life of Wayne White, who describes himself as a painter, sculptor, cartoonist, puppeteer, set designer, art director, animator, and illustrator.
There isn't much question in my mind that White was a child artistic prodigy. His parents Willie and Billy June describe him as quite fixated in just sitting and drawing from a very early age.
Born in the rural town of Sand Mountain, Alabama it seemed White had a tough go of it as a kid with his artistic bent. He became very rebellious and was arrested for stealing a mail box at one point. Finally, at Middle Tennessee State College he met some kindred spirits who were into the creative arts and their bonding helped him immensely.
The story of how he met his wife Mimi was fascinating to me. After taking a big culture shock risk and moving to New York City he was ready to pack it in. They met after one of his puppet shows, and there was an instant attraction, love at first sight if you may. Mimi was already a star in the comic world. They have been going strong now for 27 years of marriage, with Mimi being the perfect steadying force for him.
After they began living together, White was selected among 400 applicants to work as a set designer and puppeteer for a new television show to be named Pee-wee's Playhouse. The show, which ran from 1986-1990 gave White the perfect format for his genius and creativeness. The scenes of the set and puppets from the Playhouse were remarkable.
When the show ended, White really struggled with trying to fit into the Hollywood culture and suffered mentally as a result. Amazingly, he transformed his talents into a completely different area. Buying scenic paintings from thrift shops he began to add huge block lettered clever quips and phrases, some of which are very very bawdy. Although, I personally found only some of them to be funny, there are many people who really love them. White placed them first in a local coffee shop and they began to get noticed and sell. In time, he had a major book deal illustrating his work, as well as being shown in art galleries.
This success has led to his appearing at book signings and talks across the country. There were two moving scenes in the film at these appearances. One was his father, who White describes as very stoic, just crying openly at one of Wayne's songs. The other was when he was approached by a woman asking for him to sign her book. When he asked who she wanted the dedication to be addressed to she said his first grade teacher. White was stunned that his teacher was there, whom in the early segments of the movie he had shown in a class picture and mentioned that he had "loved" her and how supportive she was to him.
All in all, I was rather amazed at the talents of White, who could make a sculpture out of just twigs and junk. However, I also found his life's path to be truly interesting and I learned quite a bit as well.
One note of caution: For anyone offended by very raw language this may not be the movie for you. The "f" word and others are spoken or shown countless times throughout the film.
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