The Animated Films Of Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi worked his way up from Brooklyn and became an animation legend. Born on October 29, 1938, in Haifa, Palestine, Bakshi grew up in Brownsville after his family came to New York to escape World War II. Bakshi attended the Thomas Jefferson High School and was later transferred to the High School of Industrial Arts and graduated with an award in cartooning in 1957. He has animated numerous shorts and worked on several cartoon series most notably ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Mighty Mouse’. Below is an overview of his feature length animated works...

Cool World (1992)
Jack Deebs is a cartoonist who is due to be released from jail. His comic book "Cool World" describes a zany world populated by "doodles" (cartoon characters) and "noids" (humanoids). What Jack didn't realise is that Cool World really does exist, and a "doodle" scientist has just perfected a machine which links Cool World with our world. Intrigued at seeing his creating come to life, Jack is nonetheless wary as he knows that not everything in Cool World is exactly friendly.

Hound Town (1989)
In a suburban community, Rusty, a small put-upon mutt, gets a new neighbour with a gorgeous poodle who is recently retired from the movie business. Unfortunately, the more macho dogs approach her first for a date and Rusty accepts the inevitable. That night, the head dog's drunken advances severely offend her and she runs off after clobbering him. Rusty finds the inconsolable poodle, and he charms her with his witty nature and honest efforts to show her to a good time to cheer her up. It suddenly seems things are looking up for them, provided if Rusty can get back home before his guardians find out.

Christmas In Tattertown (1988)
Christmas in Tattertown was originally the pilot for a proposed series called Tattertown created by Ralph Bakshi for Nickelodeon. It follows the adventures of a little girl and her two dolls: a dog and a girl. With her imagination, the girl and the dolls wind up in Tattertown, a place where all the lost items wind up. If you've never heard of Christmas in Tattertown, that's because it only aired during the holiday seasons of 1988-1992 on Nickelodeon. The special has never been released on VHS or DVD.

Fire And Ice (1983)
In this animated tale, a tiny village is destroyed by a surging glacier, which serves as the deadly domain for the evil Ice Lord, Nekron. The only survivor is a young warrior, Larn, who vows to avenge this act of destruction. The evil continues, however, as Nekron's palace of ice heads straight towards Fire Keep, the great fortress ruled by the good King Jarol. When Jarol's beautiful daughter, Teegra, is abducted by Nekron's sub-human ape-like creatures, Larn begins a daring search for her. What results is a tense battle between good and evil, surrounded by the mystical elements of the ancient past. To be perfectly honest this is probably the last decent work Bakshi did, it gets a bit crap from this point on in his career.

Hey Good Lookin’ (1982)
A middle-aged woman meets a strange man on the streets at night who shows her the remains of a leather jacket. He takes her back to Brooklyn of 1953, and tells her about Vinnie, his gang, the Stompers, his girl Roz, his friend Crazy Shapiro, and the all-out rumble with the black rival gang, the Chaplins.

American Pop (1981)
‘American Pop’ is the animated story of a very talented and troubled family starting with 19th century Russia and moving through several generations of musicians. The film covers American music from the pre-jazz age through soul, '50s rock, drug-laden psychadelia, and punk, finally ending with the onset of new wave in the early 1980s.

Lord Of The Rings (1978)
Everyone knows the Lord of the Rings story, either from the Tolkien books or Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, so I’m not going to bore you here. What I will say is Bakshi created a wonderful animation adaptation of the first half of the Lord Of The Rings story, It’s just a shame it wasn’t better received at the time and a sequel, to finish the story, might have been realised. It would have been great to see Bakshi’s take on Shelob, The Cracks of Doom or The Path of the Dead. Bakshi was heavily criticised for his use of rotoscoping (a technique in which animators trace over live action footage frame by frame.) I think Bakshi used this technique to great effect giving the animation a distinct quality that only adds to the overall style and enjoyment of the film.

Wizards (1977)
In a post apocalyptic future that appears as a blend of World War II Europe and J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, a pint-size wizard named Avatar must save the world from a band of fascist mutants controlled by his evil twin brother, Blackwolf, who likes to confuse enemy armies by projecting films of Adolf Hitler speeches during attacks. Painted live-action footage of advancing Nazi armies contrasts with Saturday-morning-cartoon-style animation of fairies and elves as Avatar travels through various magical and radioactive realms on his quest. Aiding him are a sexually promiscuous fairy queen, a hot-blooded warrior elf and Peace, a misunderstood robot rebelling against his Blackwolf-controlled programming. A bizarre and psychedelic meditation on magic vs. Technology.

Coonskin (1975)
A multi-layered satire of race relations in America. Live-action sequences of a prison break bracket the animated story of Brother Rabbit, Brother Bear, and Preacher Fox, who rise to the top of the crime ranks in Harlem by going up against a con-man, a racist cop, and the Mafia.

Heavy Traffic (1973)
A white dropout struggles to create comics and animated films, drawing inspiration from the harsh, gritty world around him. Still sharing his run-down apartment with his middle-aged parents, an oafish slob of an Italian father and a ditzy nut-case of a Jewish mother, he is ridiculed and looked down upon by his friends, hypocrites who run with violent gangs and the Italian Mafia, and a shallow Black girl who makes her living downtown with the pimps and pushers. This cartoonist gets a chance to pitch a film idea to a movie mogul, but the story proves too outrageous: a far-future Earth, destroyed by war and pollution, where a mutant antihero challenges and kills God.

Fritz The Cat (1972)
A persiflage on the protest movements of the 60s. Its hero is the bold and sex-obsessed tom-cat Fritz the Cat, as created by the legendary underground artist Robert Crumb. Quitting university Fritz the Cat wanders through the hash, Black Panther and Hell's Angels scenes to find to himself.

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