Monday, January 28, 2008

The Art Of Bakshi Book - PT 1

Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi (The Force Behind Fritz the Cat, Mighty Mouse, Cool World, and The Lord of the Rings)

Wow! An art of animation book that totally gives you what you want! Jon Gibson and Chris McDonnell bring you
The Complete Ralph Bakshi
I think this might be my favorite animation book yet. It's absolutely filled to the borders with great cartoon art from Ralph Bakshi's career.
Ralph has to have the most eclectic and varied cartoon taste of any cartoon producer I have ever known. He is Mr. Anti-formula. There are a ton of great cartoon styles and experiments all through his movies and even more in the developmental stages of his films.

Ralph, although a great artist himself, surrounded himself with formidable talent. Probably more than any other producer, Ralph really admired other cartoonists. A fan as well as an artist.

He discovered and encouraged many unknowns, brought already famous cartoonists from other fields into animation and just did things that he wanted to do, according to his own whims and tastes - with the rest of the industry against him!
There is just enough written history in the book to give you all the interesting things about the Bakshi story, and with some rare fun photos too. Can you figure out which one is Ralph in this Terrytoons crew pic above?

There are lots of early Ralph cartoons and comics too.

Did you know Ralph created some of the very first Saturday Morning cartoons? There is a hilarious story of how that came to be in the book.

Damn. Ralph's own art is so unique and brilliant. I remember always asking him why he didn't use his own designs intact in his cartoons. He seemed humble about his own work and always thought other artists were slicker, but I think we sometimes lost a lot of the intense feeling and knack for varied shapes and composition in Ralph's own art. Luckily there are a ton of his inspirational sketches in the book. Thanks to Chris McDonnell for getting Ralph to share it with us.
These drawings are incredible!
I don't know who did these below. They sort of look like Ralph's characters slightly Disneyfied...really great.
I'll do more posts about the book and tell you some stories from my own experiences with Ralph. I'm just one of many lucky artists that Ralph gave a big break to. Let me tell you, every single day with Ralph was an adventure. There is a force field around Ralph and if you are ever lucky enough to get inside it, you will witness a world that has its own laws of physics that don't work anywhere else.

The guy is a force of nature, an American original, a pioneer and a true legend. One of the most imaginative and feisty animators ever. And he can kill you.


Aggie said...

I loooooooooved Coonskin!!

Bitter Animator said...

Looks fantastic. Of course, you had me at the picture of cartoon boobies but the rest looks great too.

Love the yellow elephant drawing in particular. When you say he can kill us, is he a particularly strong man? Or just well-trained?

PCUnfunny said...

Heavy Traffic is one of the greatest films of all time. I hope Rlah lives for another 100 years. And hopefully some were in that time, THE LAST DAYS OF CONEY ISLAND will be released.

Weirdo said...

Hot Damn, this is the book I've been waiting for. You're right John, Ralph's work is brilliant. You've really made my day with showing some of the stuff in his book. I'm going to have to pre-order this. It looks AWESOME!!

Pat McMicheal said...

John asked: Can you ID Ralph in the early photo?

Yes...The Big Galloot picking his nose!

"Wizards" was very inspirational to me back in 1977!

E said...

I just peed a little.
I love that man. Seeing Coon Skin when I was like... 9? is what helped make me the animation fiend I am today.

E said...

bitter animator - have you never seen him? hes a big loud scary beast of a man ♥

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Ralph is great, no doubt about it! He's that rarity: a producer with the soul and talent of a cartoonist.

Wicks for Candlesticks said...

It's pretty amazing and inspiring to see the different types of techniques he uses in the drawings. They look different, but they all have solid construction. I'll be Standing in line to buy this book, or I'll just be lazy and let Amazon do all the work.

I'm not familiar with the young Bakshi. from the Firedogs drawings I would have to guess it's the guy Second row, all the way to the left.

-David O.

Gabriel said...

Can you figure out which one is Ralph in this Terrytoons crew pic above?

Hmm, I say middle row, the first guy (left to right). Did I get it?

Joseph said...

Was Ralph picking his nose in that Terry Toons photo?

Bitter Animator said...

>>bitter animator - have you never seen him? hes a big loud scary beast of a man ♥<<

I've only ever seen pics and they rarely had anyone else to compare him to.

Maybe when there's a lull in the lessons, Mr.K could do a 'who would win in a fight' post. Of animators I mean.

Franky said...

John, just what is the connection between Wizards and Vaughn Bode? I read on Wiki that they were friends, but he's not mentioned in the project at all. The characters look like they were lifted right out of Bode's artwork.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

"Can you figure out which one is Ralph in this Terrytoons crew pic above?"


My guess would be the bloke last on the left, second row. The one digging for gold.

Ralph is amazing, and it's good that this book is out, so that we can get a chance to see some of the techniques and styles he didn't use in his films.

If Mel Blanc's the man of a thousand voices, I would elect Ralph to be the animator of a thousand styles.


"There are a ton of great cartoon styles and experiments all through his movies and even more in the developmental stages of his films."

Would it be fair to say that there's even MORE invention and innovation in the developmental stage, John? I wouldn't know for sure, but based on what some modern cartoons look like now versus when they were in the 'development' stage, I would think so.... then the execs come in and chop the balls off the beast.

Check this out:

Man, I want that book!

- trevor.

Anonymous said...

Ralph Bakshi's films were some of the few bright spots of animation during the '70s. Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic in particular were well-done.

As you alluded to in your post, it's interesting to take a look at the animator credits for some of his films and see a lot of familiar names- some who were animating during the golden age, and others who would work on numerous TV series and films in the '80s and '90s.

Matias Casali said...

hey john, i don't know if you would care, but that elephant it's so similar to the mascot of one of the most influential magazines in Argentina, it's called Satiricon.
as you can see here:

hayden the wise said...

huzzah for Nathaniel

Anonymous said...

I've never seen much of Bakshi's work (though I have heard of him), but these drawings are great, especially the comic.

amir avni said...

Wonderful! I'll have to get the book.
I have great respect for Ralph,and I hope I'll meet him someday.

btw the "hapless boy" looks familiar,
I love your drawings from the 80s!

Anonymous said...


I'm still suffering from Post Christmas Bill Syndrome, but I swear the next book I am buying is this!


David Germain said...

Ralph created the toon James Hound at Terrytoons I believe and he cut his teeth in the industry on Deputy Dawg at that same studio too if I'm not mistaken.
Is Mr. Bakshi producing any animation projects right now? I would love to work for him in any capacity. Hell, my current contract ends in less than two weeks, we're all going to be looking for work pretty soon.

Speaking of Bakshi's animation, John, you have GOT to post that Harlem Shuffle video here. That is one of the most brilliant pieces of animation ever done. It does what a good video is SUPPOSED to do: make the song worth listening to. Why you haven't posted so much as a screen shot from that by now is beyond me.

Weirdo said...

"Is Mr. Bakshi producing any animation projects right now?"

Well, he WAS David, until he ran out of funds. He was making a film called THE LAST DAYS OF CONEY ISLAND, as PC had mentioned. I would love to work for him too.

Raff said...

Of the APC cartoons, I like the Fire Dogs 2 the best because I can really relate to the Bakshi story. Being from Montreal, it isn't hard to find one or two people who have any combination of his quirks over there. The smoking, the messy house, getting up in the middle of the night yelling, having a way with women, the "let's move in together" thing, all that.

There's a really cool interview from the 80s with Bakshi on Youtube. My favorite quote:

"I'm just a filmmaker, and animation happens to be my medium. If I worked in puppets, I'd have done 'adult' puppets. I want to discuss real subjects."

And that was the way out of the Disney and UPA traps, at least for a while.

CartoonSteve said...

Hey everybody - I found Coonskin, er, Street Fight:

... and Christmas in Tattertown:

Wouldn't it be great if Eddie would also share some stories about Ralph. Thanks for the book link John!

Mad Taylor said...

Right on! That's Ralph in the second row farthest to the left. Who are some of the other guys in the photo?

I picked up Heavy Traffic at Amoeba a few weeks ago. It's a great film. Think about how praised it would be if that came out now!

It conveys that great night time grit feeling of NYC in the 70s. Not enough grit around in animation these days. Persepolis maybe, but I haven't seen it yet. Heavy Traffic would surely stand out now if it was just being released.

PCUnfunny said...

Oh cartoonsteve just reminded me, Christmas in Tattertown will be coming to DVD. I don't know when but Ralph said so on his website in August.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

Sorry. Lousy link.

- trevor.

Mitch Leeuwe said...

I never knew allot about Bakshi. That book looks really interesting!

I also want to buy "the animator's survival kit", is it a good book to learn animation?

the clownninja said...

I was lucky to be his student for a while, best teacher i ever wanted. The book looks awesome Chris

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

Tattertown's coming out??? SWEET!

Now, all I need is to get Mighty Mouse on DVD, and I'll be set!

Thanks PC!

- trevor.

JohnK said...

>>I also want to buy "the animator's survival kit", is it a good book to learn animation?<<

it's very difficult. The designs are too complicated.

Preston Blair teaches you the same thing in a much clearer way.

Vincent Waller said...

I have what most people consider to be big hands.Ralph's hands make mine look dainty.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Cartoonsteve: I put up a couple of Ralph stories on my blog last year. I'll try to post some more soon. I'm really happy that this book is coming out, and that it's good. It's long overdue>

Titus V. Thomas said...

I saw AMERICAN POP as a kid and never forgot it. He is an influence on all animators, cartoonist, graphic designers and graffitti artists everywhere. I need this book!!!!!

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

"I also want to buy "the animator's survival kit", is it a good book to learn animation?"

John's right, although I love Richard Williams' book because it teaches ALL types of animation, not just the traditional, and it does a better job, in my opinion, of adhering to styles. Doing commercial work, which is the bulk of Williams' experience, he had to learn to adapt to very many different styles, and he remains, to this day, one of the best animators of our time.

Granted, he's no Ralph Bakshi.

Sadly, Richard's masterpiece, THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER, will more than likely, never be seen by the public the way he intended ( short of fan-made restorations online ).

But if you're starting out, the best learning curve ever is Preston Blair's book, because it's easy to understand, big and full of illustrations; like a coloring book only much more fun.

- trevor.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

Guess who animated for 3 weeks on FRITZ THE CAT before getting fired and / or quitting?

None other than Rod Scribner.

Did Ralph have any stories about Scribner, John?

- trevor.

Anonymous said...

I saw Fritz the Cat a few years ago, just saw "Coonskin" and "Hey Good Lookin" this week. If there is one thing I love about Ralph Bakshi's movies, other than the fact that he doesn't work inside "Hollywood's" demands, the urban and dark feel.

The way they drew the houses, and the city in that bird's eye view on an angle. It is beatiful, I would hang a poster of that in my room. They did that in one of the first scenes in Fritz the Cat as well, Washington Square Park. They did it ALOT more in Coonskin and Hey Good Lookin though.

Coonskin specifically, was a great movie. I want to see Wizards next.

Anonymous said...

For anyone who wants to know, Coonskin and Hey Good Lookin' are both on youtube split up into pieces.

If anyone knows where I can see Wizards, I would appreciate it.


Jim Smith said...

Great! It's about f%#@$%$@n time! The art looks fantastic. If Ralph would pay me the money he owes me I'd buy it! Thanks John and Chris and Ralph.

idragosani said...

Huzzah for Bakshi! I've had this book on pre-order from Amazon for a while and am eagerly awaiting it. Been a fan of his since the 70s!

And say what you will about his version of "Lord of the Rings", at least he stuck to the story!

ChrisL said...

My roommate has a thing for American Pop. She says its one of her favorite movies but she gets creeped out by his crazier stuff like Coonskin.

"Creamed corn, candy corn, popcorn, cracker jack! You're the prize in my box!"

Franky said...

I just re-watched American Pop and followed it up with your Adult Party Cartoon interview, intro, and Firedogs 2. My friend Flash really appreciated it. We were rolling with laughter by the time we got to the end of Firedogs 2. Eddie and you are such great storytellers, John.