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Unfiltered: The complete Ralph Bakshi

by Roger Ash

I love animation. even when I was in junior high and it wasn’t cool, I eagerly awaited each new feature film from Disney. Over the years, I’ve learned that there are a number of people who have issues with Disney and their films. They want someone to do something different. Something a lot more personal. Something a lot more adult. someone has been doing that considering that the 70s and his name is Ralph Bakshi.

Bakshi’s early occupation in animation included a stint at Terrytunes, the studio that brought us Mighty mouse and Heckle and Jeckle, where he created the bizarre superhero team, the Mighty Heroes. Here’s a look at one of these classic cartoons.

But it was his first feature film that would forever brand him as a rebel. Bakshi adapted Robert Crumb’s character Fritz the cat to the animated film and brought us the first X-Rated cartoon feature. dispute seemed to follow Bakshi’s productions such as heavy Traffic, Coonskin (AKA street Fight), and hi good Lookin’ were criticized for their violence, adult themes, and ethnic stereotypes.  At the same time, a number of fans applauded Bakshi for creating challenging, personal films.

I first became aware of Bakshi’s work when a friend and I saw Wizards at a late night show in high school. The film’s mix of fantasy and social satire was an unbeatable mix for my adolescent brain. and it didn’t hurt that Princess Elinore was pretty damn sexy. I was hooked. I became a Bakshi fan. (As a side note, Wizards was the first film in which Bakshi employed substantial use of rotoscoping which has earned him the ire of some animation fans.)

Bakshi continued to make films including Lord of the Rings, American Pop, and cool World, but it was his return to his roots that garnedred him some of the highest critical acclaim of his career. In 1987, CBS debuted Bakshi’s Mighty Mouse: The new Adventures on Saturday morning. This reworking of Mighty mouse was true to the character, but also fun, irreverent, and featured some of the best animation done for TV in years. but dispute would even follow him here. In the episode The Littlest Tramp, which was directed by John Kricfalusi who would later create Ren & Stimpy, the Rev. Donald Wildmon became convinced that Mighty mouse snorted cocaine and he wasn’t going to stand for that. He informed parents in his watchdog group not to let their children enjoy this “horrible” cartoon. Unfortunately, the series only lasted for a season and a half, but it remains a favorite of mine.

This is but a short into to Bakshi and his work. If you want to know more, I highly suggest getting Unfiltered: The complete Ralph Bakshi by Jon M. Gibson & Chris McDonnell which surveys his entire occupation and features pages of stunning art from his films. It’s a terrific look at one of the rebels of animation.


Unfiltered: The complete Ralph Bakshi

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