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October 29, 2010 7:08 AM   Subscribe

"...I heard animators critique the animation in my films as being 'too ruff'. Well, we didn't like it all either - but we LOVED what we were making..."

Ralph Bakshi is the closest thing animation has ever had to a punk rocker. In a medium he saw plagued with cliche, imitation and self-censorship, Bakshi preferred the grittier themes of his Brooklyn roots: sex, drugs and race. As a result, his films have made him more enemies than friends. R. Crumb disowned Bakshi's adaptation of Fritz the Cat. The Reverend Al Sharpton organized a protest of the 1975 film Coonskin. Bakshi's revival of Mighty Mouse attracted outrage over a scene in which the title character snorts a powdered flower. (Not to mention the strong opinions folks will have if you adapt the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy into a single film not much longer than two hours.)

Bakshi turns 72 today, and hopes young animators will draw on their own terms.

Heavy Traffic (1973) trailer
The Rolling Stones - Harlem Shuffle (directed by Bakshi and animated by his protege, John Kricfalusi)
posted by overeducated_alligator (21 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Happy Birthday Ralph! The scene where Fritz tries to seduce the co-eds in Washington Square Park with his horrible guitar playing made me grin ear-to-ear when I first saw it. The man is brilliant and I respect few living animators as I do Bakshi.
posted by griphus at 7:17 AM on October 29, 2010


I saw Wizards when I was 15 or 16. I didn't like it, but I knew immediately that I would never be able to forget it. I still know most of the closing song by heart ("Time renews tomorrow…").

By today's standards (I don't know what 1977's standards were), it breaks so many rules of animated storytelling that there's nothing else like it. It's schlocky, sleazy, shambling, psychedelic, and contains processed footage of Nazi heavy artillery. I'm not sure I can get even half of those in another cartoon today.
posted by Nomyte at 7:19 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Uhm. He didn't adapt the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy into one movie. He made a movie, which kind of just ended halfway through the story.

There was originally supposed to be a second part, but it never got made.
posted by schmod at 7:21 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This will earn me flames-a-plenty, but I think Bakshi is probably the most overrated "big name" animator/director. I've never found any of his films even remotely watchable. The Mighty Mouse revival was passable, at least (though I suspect that had far more to do with John K's involvement). Breaking the rules (whatever they supposedly were) ≠ groundbreaking.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:33 AM on October 29, 2010


American Pop not watchable? I couldn't stop watching it.

Wizards, though, is one of those childhood memories you think might have just been a fever dream.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:36 AM on October 29, 2010


See also: Fire & Ice (a collaboration with Frank Frazetta), Also worth mentioning is Rock & Rule, not a Bakshi creation but certainly so inspired.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:36 AM on October 29, 2010


People have a lot of animosity for Bakshi as a result of his Fritz the Cat movie, which R. Crumb hated. But, you know, Stephen King hated Kubrick's The Shining.

It helps to think of Bakshi as an underground, punk rock filmmaker -- a sort of Kuchar Brothers of animated film. He worked fast and cheap with a miscroscopic budget and his focus was on created works that were defined by creativity and imagination and saying fuck you to the man. Even when what he produced was not great filmmaking, it was rarely less that fascinating.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:43 AM on October 29, 2010


I remember watching one of his Mighty Mouse eps. It started out with M.M. asleep, and he turns over and mumbles "Bakshi finally let me get some sleep!" "Ooo," thought I, "edgy. Breaking that ol' fourth wall and giving yourself a little name-drop cameo." I turned it off.

Wizards seemed to me like a stylistic ripoff of Vaughn Bodé. I also rather liked David Brin's take on it, which has been linked a million times but oddly I can't find now. Overall I think Bakshi's career seemed to consist of doing really shit reinterpretations of other people's work.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:55 AM on October 29, 2010


Lady Gaga probably loves what she's doing too... doesn't mean it's good.
posted by ReeMonster at 7:58 AM on October 29, 2010


This will earn me flames-a-plenty, but I think Bakshi is probably the most overrated "big name" animator/director. I've never found any of his films even remotely watchable.

No, you're not alone, and I've had the same arguments here about John Krikfalusi, one of Bakshi's proteges.

The matter here isn't that they're "overrated" it's that as cartoonists, they're really great artists. The problem is that cartoons also need writing, pacing and timing and quite often their work ignores that because they think that it's awesome just because they can draw squash and stretch really well.

Tex Avery was a brilliant animator. He was also a brilliant writer and director. That is why his work is often held in higher esteem than, you know, Cool World.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:59 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought Wizards was kind of cool when I was a teenager, but I was highly disappointed that the climactic scene involved the good, "magic" wizard killing the bad, "technology" wizard with a gun - y'know, technology. Oh well, the animation was good, though as George_Spiggott pointed out it really did smack of Vaughn Bodé.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:11 AM on October 29, 2010


Ralph has retired to New Mexico to paint...

I guess that wraps it up for Last Days of Coney Island, huh?
posted by nanojath at 8:12 AM on October 29, 2010


I own a copy of Wizards. One of my favorite memories is me and a few friends smoking hash in the theater watching that movie three times in a row. The theater manager coming over with that flashlight. We figure, that's it, game over. And he sits down next to us and breaks out some weed. We roll up hash joints and watch the movie together. Classic early 1970s moment.

I loves me some Bakshi.
posted by Splunge at 8:15 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wizards: the one movie where the showdown at the end made sense (i.e. one wizard just shooting another with a gun).
posted by imneuromancer at 8:16 AM on October 29, 2010


"Wizards seemed to me like a stylistic ripoff of Vaughn Bodé. I also rather liked David Brin's take on it"

Whatever, man.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:57 AM on October 29, 2010


And now you know where Indy learned that move.
posted by Splunge at 8:57 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bodé was a friend of animator Ralph Bakshi, and warned him against working with Robert Crumb on the animated film adaptation of Crumb's strip Fritz the Cat.[3] Bodé has been credited as an influence on Bakshi's films Wizards and The Lord of the Rings.[4][5]

From here.
posted by Splunge at 9:00 AM on October 29, 2010


Bakshi was a friend of Bode. Wizards has many similarities to Bode's work and it's easy to say that it was ripped off, but the other side of the coin says that he was heavily influenced. There's fine line there of course. Vaughn was gone by the time Wizards was in production.
However there is some resentment in the Bode camp to this day about that. I'm a huge fan of both and I love Bode's work as well as Bakshi's.
Bakshi did what he wanted and was truly radical with his material, despite the inconsistencies.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:10 AM on October 29, 2010


Happy birthday, Ralph! I love you, even though you are fucking disgusting.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 9:27 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uhm. He didn't adapt the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy into one movie. He made a movie, which kind of just ended halfway through the story.

I bloody loved that thing as a kid, really wanted more. I strongly suspect that If I sat down and watched it again I'd enjoy it more than the Peter Jackson ones... it'd be over faster, at least.
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on October 29, 2010


I am currently re-reading The Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time. I'm juggling JRRT's story against Jackson's and Bakshi's. While I favor my own interpretation of the text, I can't help but note that Jackson seems to step around Bakshi's film. (His version of the Black Riders' assault at Bree seems derivative to Bakshi's. [Merry's encounter with the Black Rider is absent from Jackson's film.] Strider's musing about the tale of Lúthien Tinúviel, which applies to his own situation, is missed.)

I respect Ralph Bakshi. With enough time and money, he could have done such great things.

Credit to Jackson, though: in the extended edition, I found that Tom Bombadil survived in his film through Treebeard ("Dig deep! Eat earth! And go to sleep!") Say what you will about Jackson, but his LOTR was a work of love.
posted by SPrintF at 12:55 PM on October 30, 2010


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