Archive for the ‘bakshi’ Category

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Animation: Ralph Bakshi’s Phone Doodles

Ralph Bakshi

Today, I hope you’ll allow me to tell you about someone I have had the honor of working closely with. He’s my hero too. If anyone ever creates a Mount Rushmore of animation, his head should be right up front, grinning with a stub of a cigarette in his mouth– Ralph Bakshi.

Ralph Bakshi

I did a panel discussion with Ralph at the San Diego ComicCon a couple of years ago. You can find it linked in the article, Advice From Ralph Bakshi. The subject of our discussion was what it means to be an artist and cartoonist in today’s world. Whether you’re lucky enough to be able to make a living doodling, or if you still dream of being paid to create, you need to heed Ralph’s advice. He is the real deal.

If you’re an artist working in animation, whether you know it or not, Ralph Bakshi is the reason you’re here. Don’t believe me? Throw your mind back to 1970. Look at what the animation business had turned into… Disney was cranking out Robin Hood, a film without a single new idea. On TV, Filmation was lowering the bar so Hanna Barbera could play “quality limbo” with them. Animation was dying, animators were choosing retirement over flogging the dead carcass of the art form they loved, and it looked like it the situation would never get any better.

Ralph Bakshi

Enter Bakshi. With his first three films, he turned animation upside down. He showed that it wasn’t just a medium for big bears with Phil Harris’s voice and crappy sitcom characters in outer space. His films shocked and terrified people… they were crass and sloppy. They were made on a shoestring, and sometimes it showed. But they had something honest to say, and that got noticed. Ralph showed that animation- the most collaborative art form ever- could be an intensely personal medium.

Ralph Bakshi

Ralph’s first three films- Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Coonskin- came totally out of the blue. They are the animation equivalent of Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives. Great old time animators like Irv Spence, Manny Perez, Ambi Paliwoda and Virgil Ross were offered the opportunity to cut loose and make films that weren’t just cats chasing mice and dogs chasing cats. These films dealt with what it meant to be an artist, the battle of the sexes, race relations, and the unsenimentalized realities of urban life. They were improvisational and had no rules.

Ralph Bakshi

These three films, made in the darkest of the dark ages of animation, offered a glint of hope for what animation could become. If all you’ve seen of Ralph’s work is Lord of the Rings and Fire and Ice you don’t know what I’m talking about here. All of the adult targeted animation you see in the US today has its roots in Ralph’s example in these three films. They stirred up controversy and caused riots at screenings back in the day, but now they seem to us like they could have been made yesterday, not three decades ago- except for the fact that today’s world has trouble accepting brutal honesty when it comes to politically charged topics. Ralph has never been one to pull punches.

Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi

In the 1980s, Ralph did for television animation what he did for theatrical features, blowing the lid off of CBS’s Saturday morning schedule with Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures. Ralph took a chance on the ideas of a kid named John Kricfalusi, and set up the studio after the unit structure model used at Warners. Stories were written with storyboards again. Artists were cut loose to create cartoons. Without Mighty Mouse, there never would have been Ren & Stimpy or The Simpsons. The artists who worked on Mighty Mouse have gone on to lead the TV animation industry.

Ralph Bakshi

Ralph is an absolute genius when it comes to spotting raw talent. He can take a kid straight out of school and turn him into a pro faster than anyone else. Every film had its "graduating class" of kids. Those kids now populate the animation business on every level, from the hotshots at Pixar and Disney to the creative sparks at Warners. I know of Bakshi alumni who are top dogs at Dreamworks and the CGI companies too.

Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi

As a filmmaker, Ralph is one-of-a-kind. He doesn’t make films for executives… he doesn’t even make films for a specific audience. He makes them for himself. You can count the number of animators capable of using this unweildy medium for personal expression on one hand and still have fingers left. Ralph is one of them.

Ralph Bakshi

But Ralph is not only the greatest living animation artist. He is the catylist that has more than once pulled the industry out of a hole so deep people had just about given up on cartoons. For that alone, he deserves the respect of any and all animators, whether they like his work or not.

Ralph Bakshi

If this business needs anything right now, it’s another go round with Bakshi. The era of shi-shi “distressed” animation desks complete with faux wormholes, and middle management producers driving Jaguars paid for by their bonus checks is over. That was great for the people lucky enough to hook up to the gravy train while it lasted. But times have changed. The people left standing will be the ones who REALLY CARE about the medium of animation.

Ralph Bakshi

You can take my word for the fact that no one loves cartoons more than Ralph. Sit down and ask him about Jim Tyer. (Ralph was Tyer’s assistant…) Listen to what he has to say about Spence or Maltese or any of the other old timers he brought in to work on his films. Ralph lives and breathes animation. His drawings are imbued with the whole history of the medium. He announces his retirement every once in a while, and swears off cartoons forever, but it’s in his blood. Just count the days till the bellowing voice out of the blue hollers “BAKSHI’S BACK, YOU BASTUHDS!” over the studio intercom again.

Ralph Bakshi
Ralph Bakshi

It’s time for Ralph to rent a warehouse, fill it full of kids with big dreams, raw talent and lots of ideas and crank out a film. It doesn’t even matter if it turns out fantastic or crappy. It’ll be a shot in the arm to the whole business, and it just might lead to something even better. I know I’d love to be a part of it. –Stephen Worth

Ralph Bakshi
Visit Ralph’s web page… RalphBakshi.com.

Buy Me At AmazonUNFILTERED: The Complete Ralph Bakshi isn’t one of those "art books" with postage stamp sized pictures floating in oceans of tasteful white space and huge text blocks of scholarly blather that crowds out the images. It’s just pictures, pictures and more pictures… along with just enough text to put them in context. The book is organized to show Ralph’s career from his earliest days at Terry-Toons, to his groundbreaking features, to his revolutionary TV work, to his most recent fine art paintings. Even if you think you know all there is to know about Bakshi, this book will grab you by the lapels and shake you and show you things you’ve never seen the likes of before. Click through the link to pick up the Bakshi book at Amazon.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources
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Monday, February 4th, 2013

Bakshi’s Last Days of Coney Island Kickstarter

Ralph Bakshi is conducting a Kickstarter campaign to create a series of shorts called “Last Days of Coney Island”. Check it out!

Bakshi’s Last Days of Coney Island Kickstarter page
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ralphbakshi/last-days-of-coney-island-0
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Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Exhibit: Zim at Judge

ZIM in Judge

All ethnic groups were fair game for caricature in Judge magazine in the 1880s- even white people. "Crackers" referred to the type of boastful "rube" or "hick" who might be found congregating around the cracker barrel at the general store.

ZIM BOOK NEARING COMPLETION

The Animation Resources volunteers and I have been cranking for the past few months on cleaning up and formatting the over 650 pages in Zim’s Correspondence School of Cartooning, Comic Art and Caricature. This is the granddaddy of all cartooning courses, written by the man who was a pioneer in the art of the humorous caricature. I’ve been in touch with the Horseheads Historical Society, the group that operates ZIM’s home as a museum, and have received some valuable biographical information from them for the upcoming book. At this point, the entire cartooning course spans two large hardback volumes. We may release it as four smaller paperbacks or PDF files in the future.

Eugene ZIM Zimmerman

For more on the genius of Eugene "ZIM" Zimmerman, see our Online Exhibit on ZIM.

RALPH LENDS A HAND

Ralph Bakshi has been assembling a collection of ZIMiana for four decades. His collection includes original art, magazine illustrations and books by ZIM. Ralph has agreed to write the forward for our republication of the ZIM course. When he heard that I was looking for examples of ZIM’s watercolor work for the covers and frontispieces, Ralph dug into his collection and came up with some wonderful treasures… enough for another volume of ZIM’s cartooning to follow the cartooning course.

ZIM in Judge

But that wasn’t all… Ralph heard that there was a bound volume of Judge magazines from 1885-1887 for sale at eBay. During this time period, ZIM was the leading cartoonist at Judge, and he was producing the best work of his lifetime. Animation Resources doesn’t have an acquisition budget, so we couldn’t afford to purchase the book. But Ralph felt that we needed it to do ZIM justice, so he dug into his own pocket to make sure we got it.

The book hasn’t arrived yet, but check out these photos from the seller…

ZIM in Judge

Judge was the National Lampoon or Mad magazine of its day. Each issue was devoted to making fun of a particular subject. This issue deals with "Jays", a slang term for oblivious and reckless people. The stereotypical "jay" was the ignorant rural farmer who came to the big city and ignored all traffic and safety laws. The term "Jay" is the root of our slang term "jaywalker".

ZIM in Judge

Here, a hobo tries to get a bank to invest in him… ZIM was the first cartoonist to apply the principles of caricature to the whole body, not just the head. Every part of this character, from the hat down to the shoes, exemplifies the type of personality ZIM was trying to convey.

ZIM in Judge

In his boyhood, ZIM worked as a farmhand. The placement of the signature and the familiar profile (see the photo above) indicate that this gag may have been autobiographical. The caption reads…

Mr Rodgers: Who’s that, my young man?
Silas (nervously): B-ben H-harrison, pop.
Mr Rodgers: By Moses! It’s great boy. I’ll have to send ya down to N’ York an’ git ye on a paper.

At the time this was published, Benjamin Harrison was the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

ZIM in Judge

Check out the strange shapes and contrasts in this drawing! Bizzare.

ZIM in Judge

ZIM is largely known today for the racial stereotypes that were the stock-in-trade at Judge and Puck magazines at the time. But although the racial humor may now seem too abstract to translate into today’s world; the caricatures are well-observed and honest. They were undoubtedly based on real people ZIM knew.

ZIM in Judge

New York City was a melting pot in the late 19th century. Just about everyone was an immigrant. The cartoonists of the day found humor in the juxtapositions of culture one experienced walking through the poorer neighborhoods of the big city. ZIM was no exception. He was an immigrant himself. He arrived in America as a child speaking no English, and quickly adapted to life in a totally new world. His aspiration was to become an American through and through.

ZIM in Judge

Wow, what a drawing! This one really resonates with me. We’re looking at two people who were probably born as slaves not only making the transition to becoming a part of society, but depicted as American citizens- note the American flag pants. When I look at this drawing, I can tell how they walk, their personality and temperament… everything. This is as perfect an example of caricature as I have ever seen. Absolutely brilliant.

ZIM in Judge

The Irish are lampooned in this issue.

ZIM in Judge

Here we see a dormer window in a tenement building populated by the faces of all the types of people who made up New York City…

ZIM in Judge

…and here is the common denominator between all of the types of faces in the world- the smile.

ZIM in Judge

ZIM’s eye took in all the details of urban life in the 1880s. He definitely exhibited more of an affinity for the poor immigrants than he did the established well-to-do. This set him apart from most of the othe
r illustrators who drew for Puck, Judge and Life.

ZIM in Judge

Can you see a little bit of Don Martin in this comic? The amazing thing about it is that this comic was drawn when Outcault’s The Yellow Kid was just getting its start. A. B. Frost had just pioneered sequential "time stop" drawings in his book Stuff and Nonsense a few years before. T. S. Sullivant hadn’t even begun his career as a cartoonist yet!

ZIM in Judge

When I saw these images, I was blown away. It’s very difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that these drawings are 120 years old! Before I discovered the genius of ZIM, I had no idea that the art of cartooning was this advanced in the 1880s. That’s why I’m so pleased to be able to bring this material to you.

ZIM in Judge

I hope you will support Animation Resources by buying a copy of ZIM’s Correspondence School of Cartooning, Comic Art and Caricature when it comes out.

But that’s not all! Check out these amazing covers by James Montgomery Flagg!

ZIM in Judge
ZIM in Judge

And how about this cover by Gillam…

ZIM in Judge

Whenever I speak to people interested in the history of cartooning, I find that they have pretty much the same frame of reference as I have… the earliest cartoonists they know about are Sullivant, Outcault and Herriman. A few know a little bit about the most powerful cartoonist who ever lived, Thomas Nast. I’m now discovering that there is a rich history of cartooning between Nast and Sullivant. As I discover more about this exciting period, I’ll share it with you here on the Animation Resources blog.

Many thanks to Ralph Bakshi for making this possible. Make sure to bookmark The Bakshi Blog.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Eugene Zim ZimmermanEugene Zim Zimmerman

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit devoted to Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman.