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Accomplished animator Bakshi crafts comeback

William Wright, ’Doah Staff Writer
March 26, 2013

'Doah photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

‘Doah photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Everyone has that one favorite singer, actor or writer who you really wish would start a new project, but for whatever reason they just don’t. For me, that’s Ralph Bakshi, who is not just one of my favorite people in animation, but one of my favorite people in filmmaking. Finally he has a new project.

Bakshi has been working in cartoons since 1956. He got his start working on Terrytoons creations like Deputy Dawg, and in the late 1960s he directed the first cartoon adaptation of Marvel superhero, Spiderman.

During this time, Bakshi became increasingly tired of producing content made solely for children. He believed that animation could do more, something others in the industry didn’t necessarily agree with at the time.

He began branching out by doing social satires such as “Fritz the Cat” in 1972, which examined the end of the 1960s. With “Heavy Traffic” and “Coonskin” he explored the issues of race and racial stereotypes in America. “Coonskin” was praised by Hollywood heavyweights Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino.

He dabbled in fantasy with “Wizards,” “Fire and Ice,” and his own take on “The Lord of the Rings.” In 1981, he had made “American Pop,” a historical fiction that deals with music history from 1900 to 1984, and is my favorite of all of his films.
If that is not enough, it is widely known that Theodor Geisel, commonly known as Dr. Seuss, called Bakshi’s adaptation of his work, “The Butter Battle Book,” to be his favorite interpretation ever done. Sadly, Bakshi has not really made anything since 1997.

However, in February of this year, he started a very successful Kickstarter campaign for an independent short he is trying to create called “Last Days of Coney Island.” It is described as being an anthology piece about seedy characters and their lives in the old days of Coney Island. I am in total support of this and really hope it does well.

There are no guarantees that it will be great, that it will be a masterpiece or even that it will ever see the light of day. But it is my hope that it does, not only because I would personally like to see a new Bakshi piece, but it would give his work exposure to a broader audience.

I see him as one of the most important influences of how we see the medium today. He helped push for films to be made that were full of extreme content like sex and violence, and showed how animation can use these elements well and be used to tell great stories. I enjoy that most of his movies do not use standard plotting, yet can still have great narratives that leave the viewer thinking about them long after they stop watching.

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