Artist of the Day #66: Ralph Bakshi

I have never quite understood this idea that some people have held that cartoons are for children. I mean they can be for sure, but why would anyone think they are for them exclusively? I mean after all, every cartoon you see is made by adults, wouldn’t they want to make something for themselves?  This is not a question that has just come up in the last handful of years with shows like South Park and the slew of mature content found on Adult Swim. Adult themed cartoons have been around since at least the 70’s and perhaps one of the greatest pioneers for the genre was a guy named Ralph Bakshi. Bakshi came from a generation of psychadelic and innovative trouble-makers that helped to change the way people thought about animation. It was not only the content of Bakshi’s work that made people turn their heads, it was his methods.

Ralph aggressively made a name for himself as an animator at a young age. He went from inker to animator at his first job with Terrytoons by claiming an empty desk and asking for things to animate. By 25 he was directing entire shows. He began to push for adult content in his work in 1972 when he adapted Richard Crumb’s Fritz the Cat into a film. It gained him some critical acclaim, which allowed him to take on more projects. One of his most celebrated works was the cult classic Wizards. Wizards conceptually took on heavy subjects like the Nazi regime, and visually tried experimental animation and film techniques like incorporating live footage into traditional animation. This is a method he would continue to experiment with. He went on to make animated versions of The Lord of the Rings series long before Peter Jackson made his big-budget behemoths.

Bakshi went on to direct a handful of other movies such as Hey, Good Looking, American Pop, Fire & Ice, and Coonskin. None of which were huge commercial successes, but all of which caused controversy and introduced new ideas. The biggest in recent enough history was the film Cool World in 1991. Even though doesn’t do much animation these days, he is staying actively creative by painting. He holds a strong population of loyal fans and has influenced a generation of animators. And as long as he is still alive and kicking, he will be looking for ways to surprise us.


Even though I think you should watch the whole film, two minutes is enough to see that way back in 1977, Bakshi was doing something different: