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A Call From Bakshi

Hans und Fritz

So yesterday, had a phone conversation with Ralph Bakshi. As he always does when he calls, he asked me what I’ve been looking at lately. I told him that I had found a great 1917 collection of Rudolph Dirks “Hans und Fritz” cartoons. Ralph asked why I liked those cartoons and I told him that I loved the energy in the poses. Characters get thrown through the air, but in very specific ways, not the typical static legs up in the air pose… So dynamic the panels almost look like they are moving.

Ralph said he understood exactly what I was talking about. But he wondered aloud… “I know what I see when I look at this stuff. But what do the kids see when they look at your website?”

I told Ralph that 90% of them just see something old that might be vaguely interesting. Ralph sighed, “That’s what I was afraid of.” But I told Ralph, “The reason that Animation Resources exists isn’t for the 90%… it’s for the handful of people who are artists, not just fans of animation. Of the 10% who are artists, 9 out of 10 of them will look at things and not connect how it relates to their own work. To them, it will still just be something old and vaguely interesting. But I hope it acts as a depth charge. Artists aren’t born seeing. Someday when the scales fall off their eyes, they’ll realize what was in front of them and they’ll come rushing back. I can’t make them understand. They have to open their eyes and their mind themselves.”

“But those people *still* aren’t the ones I’m doing this for… I’m sending messages in a bottle out to the one person in a hundred… the artist who is open and ready to learn. The person who looks at this “old stuff” and doesn’t see a quaint antique, but instead sees a valuable prototype for applying the foundational principles of art… line of action, clear silhouettes, composition… all the things that are in the Preston Blair book.”

“I talk to kid artists all the time, and they’ve all read about these things and say they understand. A lot even claim to have mastered these principles, but when you look at their work, the foundation is exactly what is missing.” Ralph said, “You never stop building the foundation.” “Right,” I said… “The 1% of artists who really get what I am talking about, never stop working on strengthening the foundation. Those are the ones who are always experimenting, always learning. They are rare birds, but they’re out there and Animation Resources is like heaven to them.”

Ralph said, “It’s been like that for me for years and years with my own library.” I replied, “You, Andreas Deja, John K… all of you artists who have really accomplished something have libraries and build your work on the foundation of the past. That’s the difference between the 99% and the 1%. I’m looking for the kids that think like successful artists. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them think. I just throw the good stuff out there and wait for the light bulbs to go off.”

“Those kids are lucky to have your website, Stevie. They better appreciate what they’ve got there.” Then I asked Ralph what is up with him…

He said that he has been working hard on his film, “Last Days of Coney Island” and he’s very tired. He said, “It’s hard, Stevie. I’m 70 years old. Whenever I’m down on my film and I’m tired and want to set it aside and rest, I go to Animation Resources and look through the stuff you’ve compiled there. I see wonderful things. Things I could never do myself. I’m just an animator from Terry-Toons. I’m still just an old animator from Terry-Toons. I look at this stuff from the giants of cartooning and it charges me up and gives me ideas. I go back to the film refreshed and ready to go again.”

That was the greatest complement Ralph could have paid me.

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