Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi (born October 29, 1938, in Haifa, Israel) is a director of animation and occasionally live-action films. As the American animation industry fell into decline during the 1960s and 1970s, Bakshi tried to bring change to the industry by creating and directing a number of animated feature films that were aimed at adults instead of children.

Bakshi made a name for himself in animation during the fading days of theatrical studio cartoons. At the Terrytoons studio (best known for the Mighty Mouse cartoons), he produced a series of superhero spoof cartoons called The Mighty Heroes. He then moved to Paramount Studios, where he was placed in charge of the Famous cartoon studio during its final days. He produced several experimental animated short cartoons, though none of them had a major impact with audiences. Paramount closed its cartoon studio for good in 1967. In 1968, he founded a studio, Ralph's Spot, and headed a low-budget but distinctive TV animated series based on the Spider-Man comic book; new episodes appeared up to 1970. After 1970, Bakshi went into full-length animated feature films.

Bakshi's first feature film, an animated version of R. Crumb's Fritz the Cat, was a box-office hit, attracting audiences possibly as much for shock value as for its quality as a movie. It was the first animated feature film to be rated X, and it was unquestionably aimed primarily at adult audiences—something that had been unheard of in the years before its release. The success of Fritz the Cat gave Bakshi the opportunity to produce two more adult-oriented feature films, Heavy Traffic and Coonskin, which revealed Bakshi's interest in black history in America (another subject largely overlooked by Hollywood movie studios). But in spite of the impressive quality of these films (often credited by film critics as his best work), these films offended many viewers and died at the box office.

Bakshi became a self-proclaimed spokesperson for a new direction in animation during the 1970s, and he turned to the process of rotoscoping to cut costs while still trying to produce quality animation. This sparked a new controversy over the use of traced-over live action in his films: animation scholars accused him of not producing "real" animation, but simply training artists to trace over live action. The rotoscoping content of Bakshi's films increased to the point where the movie American Pop consisted entirely of rotoscoping. Critics and animation fans wondered whether it had been necessary to use animation at all, since everything in the movie could just as easily have been filmed in live-action.

Bakshi's most well-known work after Fritz the Cat came in 1978, when he directed an ambitious animated adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. This first attempt to capture Tolkien's vision on screen did not appeal to mass audiences, however, and Bakshi was forced to abandon his plans for a sequel. The movie only portrayed the first half of Tolkien's story (ending halfway through the second book, The Two Towers), and Tolkien's fans were left with a disappointing film legacy for the story for over twenty years, until the story was filmed again in the early 2000s by Peter Jackson.

Bakshi directed two more animated films in the 1980s, but Hollywood had turned its back on animation and Bakshi worked behind the scenes for most of the decade. His biggest success in the 1980s was a TV cartoon series aired in 1986, The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse. Bakshi's series was widely hailed by TV critics, and it is still prized by collectors of TV series today. The series—despite the infamous cocaine scene controversy—did not garner high ratings and was cancelled after two years. (It did, however, give a young and ambitious Canadian named John Kricfalusi his start.)

Bakshi also produced a music video for the Rolling Stones song "Harlem Shuffle" in 1987.

The field of animation entered a new renaissance after Who Framed Roger Rabbit revitalized the industry in 1988. Bakshi returned to the big screen with a more adult-oriented version of the "animated characters interacting with real-world people" in 1992 with Cool World, but the movie was a box office disappointment.

Bakshi has not officially retired, but he has not produced animated feature films since then, having moved to southwestern New Mexico, and made a living painting. A recent resurgence of interest in his work spiked by its availability over the internet resulted in a three-day retrospective at American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California and the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, California in April, 2005, and Bakshi announced plans to produce a low budget animated feature titled "Last Days of Coney Island", financed by himself.

Bakshi produced a short-lived animated TV series called Spicy City in 1997. In 2003 he was the model for and the voice of the eccentric, midget-hating Fire Chief in protégé John K.'s more adult-themed, second-generation Ren and Stimpy cartoons.

Bakshi is usually caricatured on cartoons like Tiny Toon Adventures and The Simpsons as an obese, slovenly, homely figure. He is widely believed to be the inspiration for the character of Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons.


External links

fr:Ralph Bakshi pl:Ralph Bakshi


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