Heavy Traffic Heavy Traffic

The Ralph Bakshi Book Project

Heavy Traffic

I’ve known about this for a while and am excited that I can finally let everybody know about it. Pals Jon Gibson (of I Am 8-Bit fame) and Chris McDonnell (of Meathaus fame) have begun working on a bio/art coffeetable book about animation legend Ralph Bakshi. The book is slated for July 2008 release by Rizzoli NYC. Most importantly, Ralph Bakshi himself, currently 68 years old, is 100% on board with the project. Bakshi is allowing full access to his archives and granting these guys the opportunity to write an unbiased tome about his life and career. Here’s more about the project from Jon and Chris:

Since Ralph has worked with such an absurd amount of people in his 40+ years in the industry, we thought the best way to go about doing our research is to open the floodgates. To start things off, we’ve opened a production blog that will chronicle the making-of our book called Ralph’s Spot named after the legend’s own studio from back in the day. Rizzoli NYC, a great publisher that has printed many masterful art books in the past, has given us hundreds of pages and extra-large dimensions to truly exploit all the amazing art and stories that a book about Bakshi should not be without.

We’d absolutely LOVE to here from any Brew readers that have worked with Bakshi, have some Bakshi-relevant artwork to share, or just have some tales (because, as we’ve learned over the last year of getting this book going, pretty much everyone knows a least one Bakshi yarn, whether they’ve met him or not). Seriously, no matter how insignificant someone may think the story is—or if it’s only one drawing—we want it!

Knowing Jon and Chris, I have no doubt they’ll deliver one of the must-have animation books of 2008. So spread the word that they’re looking for Bakshi stories and art, and if you can deliver the goods, get in touch with them at jon [at] jonmgibson.com and chris [at] meathaus.com.

  • This is awesome.

  • It’s about time. Bakshi has influenced animation more than anyone can say in few words. His work has all but been ignored in this new era of slick films, but it’s a book that I look forward to buying.

  • I love “Heavy Traffic”…Even its failures are heroic..I used to think that it could compare very well with “On the waterfront” in it’s picture of young New Yorkers…The “comics animatic” sequence by Mark Kausler is wonderful. And so is the soundtrack…Billie Holiday singing “Yesterdays” over old photographs send shivers down my spine. I don’t know how much Bakshi was aware that he was creating a great animated film, I doubt it, but result is great.

  • I can’t begin to say how excited I am to hear about a high quality Bakshi book being in the works. When I was sixteen I took Wizards out of the library based on nothing more than the short descrpition that it had on the box. I had no idea who Bakshi was, nor had I ever heard of the film before.

    I was completely blown away by how much great texture resulted from the way that he mixed styles and tools. This film then led me to the rest of his work, and specifically Coonskin which is my favorite animated film of all time. His films are great examples of how artist can turn obstacles into strengths with a little ingenuity and passion.

    Bakshi is one of the most important artist that I have ever been exposed to, and I am glad to see anything that celebrates both the man and the work!

  • Bill Field

    All I can say is MIGHTY HEROES– It is the greatest example of the Stupor-Hero Genre, and as influential a series can ever hope to be. I never see enough sketches, cels, drawings, scripts, and storyboards, even the advent of the net hasn’t brought out more artifacts on this terrific early effort of Bakshi. His figural sketches are great to see too– and WIZARD’S artwork would fill in a huge hole in the History of Ralph. I recently read that he is the USA’s most prominent Palestini-American, I knew of his background, but have never heard him discuss his heritage, but what I read said his animated feature output is still second only to Walt, is this still true? It may be a true stat in America, but haven’t some animators in other countries that have surpassed, maybe, both of them? I think Aristocats was the last film in early production when Walt died– it could be Jungle Book, but Walt’s count would end with one of those two.

  • Eddie Mort

    Bakshi is a true maverick. Coonskin alone, makes him my all-time animation hero.

  • c.tower

    My first exposure to Bakshi was the episodes he did of SPIDER-MAN and ROCKET ROBIN HOOD. By all accepted standards, these are bad cartoons- recycled animation, clashing art styles, and jumpy, occasionally incoherent editing. But there was also a real VISION there- the distinctive, psychedelic colours, the FABULOUSLY well-chosen music (I’d love to see his record collection!), and a general WEIRDNESS that didn’t follow the rules for nice, safe Saturday morning cartoons.(No one who has seen Lord Infinata of Dementia-5 will forget him!)Although Bakshi’s output has often fallen frustratingly short of its potential, everything he’s done is worth at least a look- and how many artists can you say THAT about?

  • Bill Field

    Art Davis-AKA “most prolific man in animation history”, wrote a lot of those scripts for RRH, I think I actually have a few of the original scripts– I’d be curious to know what Ralph thought about this great Looney Tunes director, and the great, original tales they told together in this under-rated gem of 60’s TV.

  • Bakshi’s revival of Mighty Mouse in the 1980s is what I remember the most of his work. It’s a complete 180-degree from the original cartoons in that they were so bizarre, but it surely worked and gave a new perspective to a classic character that actually worked (unlike those attempts to bring back the Flinstones).

    They need to put that Mighty Mouse series on DVD sometime. They did it for the Spider-Man series!

  • I hope they speak with the family and friends of cartoonists Vaughn Bodé and Wallace Wood, since their creator-owned materials (CHEECH WIZARD and THE WIZARD KING, respectively) were >ahem!

  • Hey Mr. Bill Field,

    We’d love to get ahold of some of those Rocket Robin Hood scripts by A. Davis you mentioned. Any chance we can convince you to dig through some boxes?

    jon [at] jonmgibson [dot] com

  • Bill Field – You can find model sheets for the Mighty Heroes here.

    Scott Shaw! – Bakshi was going to make a movie with Bode shortly before Bode died, and maybe bits and pieces of that discarded project found their way into Wizards.

  • Diana Green

    I’m glad this book is coming out, but I’m not the fan i was when I wrote an article defending him in the early 80s. I’m troubled by the Bode’ stuff (enough to press suit over and settle out of court, is my understanding, but that’s hearsay so take it for what it’s worth). I also am not mad for some of the later films, Fire and Ice and Cool World. The Bakshi I love is the Bakshi most people don’t seem to care for- Christmas in Tattertown, American Pop, Coonskin. Even Lord of the Rings works for me, wildly uneven though it is.
    Even though it was more John K than Bakshi, New Adventures of Mighty Mouse should be recognized in the book as well.
    As far as what I could contribute, I’m afraid I don’t have much. Just a couple cels from Coonskin and a VHS of Tattertown.

  • It’s about time. Ralph is the most influential modern American animator. Without him, there’s no Simpsons, no South Park, and no Ren and Stimpy. He has a great sense of parody and is best when working in this vein.
    Ralph should also be credited for hiring minority and female artists at a time when few studios would.

  • Steve G

    Good for Ralph. It’s about time! I hope they do him justice and I hope they ignore most of the ‘stories’ from disgruntled employees.

  • Corrado (Anthony)

    His version of Lord of the Rings was campy but highly underrated. Much better than the Rankin/Bass versions. Too bad its forgotten now thanks to the current crop of LOTR movies.

    I just hope nothing is mentioned on Bakshi’s odd appearance on APC years ago.

  • I’m not a fan of Ralph Bakshi or his movies by any stretch, but I would be interested in seeing a well-researched book about him. Pity that it won’t be released for over a year (is that a typo?). I’ll likely have forgotten by then, paying far more attention to Ponyo on a Cliff, so be sure to remind everyone.

  • Oh hell yes ! I will buying this one.

  • someone

    “I hope they speak with the family and friends of cartoonists Vaughn Bodé and Wallace Wood, since their creator-owned materials (CHEECH WIZARD and THE WIZARD KING, respectively) were >ahem!”

    And don’t forget the Wizard of Id!

    (just kiddin’)

  • This is fantastic news, I look forward to buying it.

  • Altercator

    If you’re doing a book on Ralph Bakshi, tell us a bit about what happened between Bakshi & Robert Crumb during the Fritz the Cat fiasco.

    What’s interesting about Bakshi & Crumb is that both are subversive artist in their respective mediums. They could’ve worked together, share anecdotes on the crap that happened with animation & comics and a few laughs, frolic on the fields merrily. Unfortunately Fritz happened, and Crumb might never forgive Bakshi, and thinks him a Hollywood shmo, when Bakshi later on makes some more subversive, non-Hollywood animated stuff….

  • Bill Field

    I’ll dig for the RR scripts, thanks for the Mighty Heroes link– I have NEVER seen character modelsheets for any villian other than The Junker– I’ve never seen any storyboards for it either– rarely any cels show up. So if anyone can direct me towards some-that’d be great.

    Ralph was no doubt influenced by Bode and I’ve never seen any proof that they were in talks when he accidentally died from auto-eroticism, yes-same way as NXS’ Hutchens died. I have heard for decades that Ralph’s intent was originally to do “Cheech Wizard”, but I’ve found no evidence of it.

    On Ralph’s site, there is artwork dated wayyyy before Wizards that looked alot like Bode’s characters, but its long before Bode was drawing in the vein of Cheech Wizard. My thoughts are that Ralph has a style, especially in rough sketches, that is far closer to Bode than has been noted. Bode’s son, Mark, has thoughts on the whole matter — that I read years back, not sure if it’s online.

    Elfquest owes its entire concept and characters to Wizards.
    Wendy and Richard Pini were working on a Wizards comicbook series. When it was cancelled before it was published, Wendy reworked Wizards and came up with Elfquest.

  • c.tower

    I recall an interview with Bode, published just after his death, that had a reference to him having been “in talks with” Bakshi; and a footnote to the interview referred to the two having struck a deal shortly before Vaughn’s death. (Of course, I’m not sure how much we can trust an interview in an old issue of ROCKET’S BLAST COMIC COLLECTOR, but there it was…)

  • Bill Field

    c.tower – I trust Rocket’s Blast — it was the grandfather of all pop culture magazines, and lots of their contributors went on to bigger and better things. There was a Wizards issue of that magazine and Steranko’s MediaScene– I wish I could get ahold of those again, I think they would shed enormous light on the urban legend Wizards has become.

  • Paul Cwick

    I for one am glad & delighted to hear of this project, and I’ll be looking forward to its publication. I’ve been huge fan of Ralph Bakshi’s work nearly all my life (ever since I enjoyed MIGHTY HEROES as a kid!) and it’s about time that he’s getting some of the recognition that he truly deserves. One of the few animators actually willing to go out on a limb & do something DIFFERENT with each project (as opposed to essentially re-making the same movie over & over again, with endless sequels & remakes, the way most animators seem content to do) Bakshi truly stands alone in the field. So this book should be interesting & when it’s published, I’ll definitely be checking it out.

  • Bill Field

    Paul Cwick- You say it all, those are the reasons we love Ralph Bakshi. I remember the surge through my body when I saw Wizards, Lord of the Rings, and American Pop, his movies affected me on a higher plane than any other Animation Director–and I’m really anxious about this project, too.

  • Scott Shaw! I’m happy to say that the book will put to rest these rumors that you are exacerbating through the comment regarding Wood and Bodé above.

    Bodé and Bakshi were friends for years and were developing a feature film together at the time of Bodé’s death. They had a mutual respect and influence on each other as all artists have with their respected peers. Bodé and Bakshi loved each other’s work naturally. They drew similarly and both loved fantasy and infusing their work with political and social commentary. Bakshi’s fantasy drawings dating back to his days at Terrytoons (which will be in the book) illustrate this point.

    Wood was another of Bakshi’s respected peers, and as soon as Bakshi got the chance when running Paramount in the late ’60s, he hired Wood to develop projects with him. Again, Bakshi and Wood had a mutually respectful and influential artistic relationship. At Paramount, they worked together on a project called “Wee Hawk”, which (as illustrated in the book) is a early version of what would become “Wizards”. Bakshi and Wood drawings are side by side in the presentation materials, as they developed this project together. Wood went on to publish elements of the work he developed “for-hire” at Bakshi’s studio in his ‘zine “Witzend” and then later reprinted in “Wizard King”, a year after the Wizards release. Bakshi never pointed a finger at Wood for printing the material because Wood took the story in more of a Tolkien vein, whereas Bakshi’s Wizards also developed closer to his own interests during its production.

    Wendy Pini did indeed work on Wizards for months, left the studio, went home and began publishing Elf Quest. Again, Bakshi never cried foul regarding this.

    Anyone who has worked with Bakshi for even a day would know that the man is a tornado of passion for the cartoon medium, and a finely accomplished cartoonist and artist. To suggest that these and any other relationships with artists were all one-way streets of ideas is ludicrous. Bakshi has never denied being influenced by his peers. They too have been influenced by him. I am pleased to have the opportunity to help retire these distorted rumors that have continued to fester for years, and you will be able to see with your own eyes all of the wonderful art in the book which will be published in about a year.

  • marty

    Looking forward to a comprehensive book on a great artists career!!!!

  • I love Ralph and I worked with him a long time ago. I was the lead vocalist for the group “The LIfe Cycle.” Ralph and the group met at my apartment to rehearse sometimes when I lived on 82nd ST. NYC. We rcorded the “Marvin Digs” and loved the whole experience. I hope you get your book finished. Let me know. Tks, Verna