Jon Waterhouse wrote:Forget The Simpsons, Family Guy and all of the edgy stuff on Adult Swim. Without groundbreaking animation director Ralph Bakshi, the world of adult animation may not be what it is today.
Bakshi, who appeared at DragonCon in Atlanta this weekend, changed the landscape of feature animation with the release of Fritz the Cat in 1972. A trail of nine other animated films followed including “Lord of the Rings” and “Wizards.” His collaborations proved to be as colorful as his animation cells. Bakshi has had the opportunity to work with other fellow legends including Dr. Seuss, Frank Frazetta, Stan Lee and the Rolling Stones. And according to Bakshi, it seems as if more may be on the way.
He recently put down the pen to talk about his legendary career and its future.
MTV Geek: When you made Fritz the Cat in 1972, what made you think the world was ready for an adult-themed animated film?
Ralph Bakshi: There’s a lot of talk today about was the world ready? What’s the hottest property? What do I do to make a million? That wasn’t my concern. We grew up in the ’50s, a lot of us artists. And the artists who grew up in the ’50s were much more concerned with what turned them on. I mean, money wasn’t an issue, not there’s anything wrong with money...Money wasn’t the reason guys were doing comic books, because it was the worst paying job in the world. Money wasn’t the reason I was animating, I just loved to animate. So when I read the Fritz the Cat book and lots of underground stuff, I loved it and I wanted to do it. There wasn’t any consideration if the word was ready for it. Who cared? That’s an issue now, and it’s still my position. If you run around wondering what the world cares about, there are very little breakthroughs that are going to happen. The world was not ready for Fritz the Cat. I got the hell beat out of me, including [Fritz the Cat comic book creator] Robert Crumb, who beat the hell out of me. I took a lot of heat. It has since made a hundred million, billion dollars...What I’m saying is, if you’re an artist and you’re going to wonder what the world cares about, you’re going to have to do something you don’t care about.
MTV Geek: You basically created adult-oriented animation. What do you think about being regarded as an icon in that way?
Ralph Bakshi: First of all, I wasn’t trying to break ground. The fact that my pictures are playing to new generations of kids has stunned me...All of these kids continue to watch my movies and find them. I keep getting emails from kids who are 20, 21. I can’t believe I did this. Everything is brand new to them. I’m very, very appreciative of the whole thing. It made me feel like I had done something. I went back to try and sell a movie to Hollywood. Recently I felt like doing an animated movie. I had been painting and drawing, but I felt like doing a movie. I got very nostalgic. So I went to Hollywood to sell a movie. It’s called New American Blues, which discusses who we are today. I went to two companies and they both threw me out. They both said they didn’t want the movie, it’s too adult, nobody would like it, and there’s no merchandising. My mouth dropped open. These are major animation companies making major films today. I was kind of stunned. Then I went to one company that does children’s films; big company, I’m not going to mention the name. I told them I wanted to do Wizards 2 and Wizards 3, because it was always was done as a trilogy. They got excited, because they had heard about Wizards and all the animators love that movie...They go in and screen the movie. They tell me it’s too dark. I said, “What are you talking about too dark? I got lots of laughs in that film. Of course it’s dark. It’s about where our world is today.” Our glaciers are receding, the oceans are screwed up, there are terrorists everywhere, which is what Wizards was all about. I thought I nailed it. I said, “You’re telling me it’s too dark, but the world is that way today.” They said people don’t want to see that. So I left with my hat in my hands. This is the icon and idol going back. You’d think I would walk in and they’d jump all over me. They didn’t even buy me lunch...So I am now raising money with my son for New American Blues. And I have spoken, believe it or not, to Peter Jackson, who did the live action Lord of the Rings, about doing Wizards as an animated feature. ...To answer your question, I don’t feel much like an icon [Laughs].
MTV Geek: Long before Peter Jackson, you were the first to tackle Lord of the Rings. How challenging was it taking on something as beloved as Lord of the Rings?
Ralph Bakshi: I did it for two reasons. First of all, I personally love Tolkien. He’s the greatest fantasy writer who ever lived. I wanted to do something that would stop the controversy. In other words, I was very tired, very beat up. It was very hard trying to keep the studio afloat. Paying the animators was hard. All of this was on my back. I owned my own company. So I wanted to do something that would allow me to take what I believed would be a rest. It was someone else’s work: Tolkien. Plus I loved Tolkien, so I wouldn’t have been selling out. And everyone said it would be impossible to make. But I had this idea of rotoscope --this is before computers-- that would give me the chance to make it...It turned out to be an extraordinarily hard film to make physically, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s probably the reason I’m not animating today. I had to go to Spain and shoot an entire live action movie, which was my idea. The actors were all in costume. And that was as difficult as shooting any movie. Then I was sending stuff back to Hollywood to be animated and rotoscoped. I went to England to record the voices...So the physicality was enormous. Then there was the deadline, which was too tight. They forced me to make the deadline, which I think hurt the edit. The whole thing was physically exhausting. Shooting in Spain, recording in England and animating in L.A. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back with me.
To learn more about Ralph Bakshi, go to www.ralphbakshi.com.
Andy Khouri wrote:The late painter Thomas Kinkade, who died suddenly a few days ago of as yet undetermined causes, was a polarizing figure in the art world. Both celebrated and loathed for his ubiquitous paintings of idyllic landscapes and scenes from the Bible, which he successfully mass-marketed in shopping malls, television commercials and licensed products, Kinkade claimed to be America's most collected artist and called himself a "painter of light" whose art agent was God himself.
But the memory of Kinkade has found itself an unexpected defender: animator Ralph Bakshi, the author of subversive films including Fritz the Cat and Cool World, who mentored Kinkade when the painter worked as a background artist on Fire and Ice, the fantasy film Bakshi created with comic book and illustration legend Frank Frazetta. In a statement released over the weekend, Bakshi said that critics missed "the true brilliance that is Kinkade," whom the animator suggested was undermining the Tea Party and the religious right by selling their distorted visions of nostalgia back to them.
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