Animation is anything but an improvisatory medium. Every frame is painstakingly created by hand, hundreds of artists contribute to a single film, and the animators time the action down to a 24th of a second. Only the very best animators are able to overcome the constraints of frame by frame filmmaking and imbue their work with a feeling of spontaneity. Chief among these rarified breed of animators is Ralph Bakshi. I’ve written about him several times before, but it’s not just because he’s my pal. It’s because he is so unique. Ralph’s first three pictures, Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic and Coonskin are intensely personal- just like Lester Young’s sax solos. He accomplishes his results in the same way- by constructing his films as a real-time performance with virtuoso animators. Scenes are animated and laid down and another scene takes its place. The result might not be as polished as other animated films, and the narrative can become quite fragmented, but it’s a hundred times more honest than talking dogs and princesses.
“Jammin’ The Blues” 1944
“Jammin’ the Blues” may just be the most beautiful film about Jazz ever made. I don’t need to say anything more than that. You can find this short on a DVD titled Norman Granz: Improvisation.
This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Adventures in Music.