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Interviews

‘I Love Animators, I Just Want Them to Wake Up:’ A Birthday Interview With Ralph Bakshi

Legendary animation outsider Ralph Bakshi celebrated his 77th birthday yesterday with a defiant cartoon comeback called Last Days of Coney Island.

Premiering exclusively on Vimeo on Demand, the 25-minute, $3.99 Last Days of Coney Island screens perhaps even too profane for midnight animation distributors like Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim — which arguably wouldn’t exist without Bakshi’s foundational 1972 X-rated feature, Fritz the Cat. That fractured collaboration with underground comics standout Robert Crumb — along with the influential Bakshi’s streetwise follow-ups, Heavy Traffic and Coonskin, as well as his more theatrical crossovers like The Lord of the Rings and American Pop — mainstreamed the mature animation continuum we take for granted today.

Starring an uncompromising cacophony of hustlers, outsiders, and antiheroes, Last Days of Coney Island is something of a throwback to the freewheeling animation styles of Golden Age New York animators like Jim Tyer and Johnny Gentilella, the director told Cartoon Brew in a wide-ranging, hilarious bellow by phone from New Mexico — where he now paints atop a mountain when not making animated films. Taking place in the same politically and socially charged ’60s which destabilized Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Coonskin’s early ’70s hangover, Bakshi’s new short also time-warps through his cartoonish ’80s, spent mentoring upstarts like John Kricfalusi and Bruce Timm, and into our internetworked present — where younger fans can suddenly fund an old animation legend’s next film and reignite his fire.

“I did 98 percent of all of the animation, and all of the backgrounds and in-betweens, which was hard for a 77-year-old guy,” Bakshi explained of his transgressive Last Days of Coney Island. “At my age, I wouldn’t release it if I thought it didn’t work.”

With detours to monoliths like Disney and Pixar as well as painters like Bacon and Pollock, the unabashed Bakshi spoke at length with Cartoon Brew about his crowd-funded comeback, why animators should stand up and fight for their names as well as let go of their work, and why the first rule of cartoons is that there are no rules.

Ralph Bakshi.
Ralph Bakshi.

Cartoon Brew: Welcome back to animation. Should we thank your family and the Internet?

Ralph Bakshi: My youngest son, Edward Bakshi — who produced Last Days of Coney Island and also started an animation course at a university in New Mexico — grew up in an animation household. He’s very much into the Internet, so he told me how much email he’s getting from young people asking about his father. He also told me how we could raise money on Kickstarter to do a five-minute short, which I thought was great. I wanted to do it if he wanted to do it, because I love animation, especially if it can be done without having to hand in scripts.

So we went on Kickstarter and got the money, but when I started to do the five-minute short, the old feeling came over me again, because the story I was trying to tell was bigger than a five-minute short. It kept getting bigger and bigger, so I had to put my own money in, but to keep costs down I decided to do the animation and backgrounds myself. That way I could keep the money for people I did have to pay, for editing, painting and inking cels, and all of the computer work. We made it by hand-drawing, but the whole back end was done on the computer.

It turned out to be the best time I’ve had in my life. A 77-year-old man fully working on animation, in-betweens, backgrounds, layouts, character design, and everything else? That’s the kind of work I did when I first began working at Terrytoons, before I started to direct The Mighty Heroes back in the ’60s. So making Last Days of Coney Island was like going back home as an animator, and I can’t tell you how much I love that. It was a hard thing to do, especially the in-betweens, but luckily I learned from a lot of great animators, like Jim Tyer. I was able to have a conversation with them, though they are gone now, through my drawings. It took two and a half years, but I’m happy it got done.

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Last Days of Coney Island is a hell of a way to come back to animation. It’s the violent and defiant return of a rebellious outsider.

Ralph Bakshi: Let me say a few things. First of all, I don’t set out to startle anyone, or show people how bad I can be. I set out to find out what I’m thinking, to find out what’s bothering me. My films are personal; animation is my art form. On some levels, Last Days of Coney Island is the strangest, funniest, and darkest film I’ve ever done. The combination is brand new, even for me.

Sure, it’s all about the ’60s and done in old-fashioned cartoon animation, which I love, but because of the computer, it’s also slick. Now, Pixar and Disney have done some beautiful, awe-inspiring things with computer animation, but I was able to go against that and make old-school hand-drawn animation that we used to try to make slick, when there were no computers. It allowed me free reign. In other words, I don’t have to be slick now with hand-drawn animation; that’s ridiculous. The computers are slick enough, for everybody. So I was freed up to use different kinds of lines, and approaches to the backgrounds, color changes, and all of the things that used to bother us, and it worked. It wasn’t just done for the sake of doing it.

How about the story, which is stuffed with antiheroic outcasts?

Ralph Bakshi: The story construction was different than anything I’ve done. I put as much information into The Last Days of Coney Island’s 25 minutes as I did in all of Heavy Traffic. I had to find a new way to do that, to compress a feature-length story into a 25-minute short. So I basically got rid of the boring scenes that explain who people are, which take up so much of a movie’s time, because there were tons of characters coming and going. I’m talking as a director now, and telling you stuff I wouldn’t normally talk about to, say, the New York Times. I did away with exposition, certain story structures, and how you handle backgrounds. But I did get an original jazz track from a brilliant musician, Mark Taylor, who lives in Harlem. I got lucky with him. As an animation director, these are the things that I am most proud of.

And I learned so much, that now I’m dying to do a longer movie. Every movie I do is a stepping stone to the next one; I’m not trying to copy what I did on the last one. I could never be the guy who worked for Warner Bros. or MGM that made 300 Bugs Bunny shorts, one right after the other. That’s a recipe for shooting yourself in the head. The thing to do is to keep moving forward. Last year’s stories and techniques belong to last year. Yeah, animation is an art form that people want to use as a commercial medium to make money, but I like to do it all. I think animation is too wonderful to bastardize.

And I love animators! I credited all of the old-timers that taught me, who are all dead now, at the end of Last Days of Coney Island. Every animator who I’ve ever worked with (or worked with me) who is now gone rolls up, because I want to see their names again. For good or bad, everything that I ever did on the screen happened because of what those guys taught me, and I’ll never forget that. The guys who drew my old films, with no pencil tests — Irv Spence, Jim Tyer, Virgil Ross — these guys saved my life. As crude as the animation could be in my films, because I never had any money, these guys drew them without pencil tests, first crack. I love them, and I’m sorry they’re all gone. I miss them.

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Last Days of Coney Island also seems like a throwback to your New York upbringing and time at Terrytoons, as well as your street films from the early ’70s like Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic.

Ralph Bakshi: [Whistles] You nailed it. Last Days of Coney Island has to do with my love of Tyer, Terrytoons, the crazy slapstick of Fleischer’s Popeye, Johnny Gent[ilella], and that great style of old cartooning and characters. But it also warps forward into my sensibility, which those guys never worked with. So it’s exactly what you said: It’s a throwback in animation style and characterization, but it’s also a tremendous rush forward to where Fritz, Traffic, and Coonskin left off.

The combination is unusual, even for me, because Last Days of Coney Island is the funniest and most serious film I’ve ever made. There were moments in Fritz the Cat that approached it, but I’ve never done a pure cartoon animation with such a serious tack. That’s a step forward, for me. I’m not preaching and I’m not selling, I’m just letting people know that those are the things I was trying to do. They have to decide when they see it whether it worked or not.

Are you concerned about Last Days of Coney Island’s reception?

Ralph Bakshi: What I’m doing right now as an animation director is more important to me than how audiences will feel about it. Of course, I want everyone to love it, but that’s not how I approach movies. If this is going to be my last movie, then I better do something that I want to be really honest about. That’s pretty much how I approached most of my movies, except Fire and Ice and Cool World.

You seem more comfortable than ever to challenge audiences, which you don’t see much in today’s marketplace. Your animation demands audiences take a stand, rather than forget it the minute they walk away.

Ralph Bakshi: I am only about the art of animation. I’m not about the art of repeating myself. I don’t do it to show off, I do it because otherwise I’m bored. That’s why I didn’t do the sequel to Fritz the Cat when everyone begged me to. Fritz was enormously successful, and they were throwing millions at me to do Fritz 2. But I wouldn’t do it; I wanted to do Heavy Traffic! You know, what am I learning? That’s just the way I was born, I can’t help it. You grow up poor, you stay poor. What’s the big deal?

You know, I was shocked when all those old hand-drawn animators were let go from Disney. In my day, guys like that would be worth a billion dollars each, how good they were. If I had the kind of money that Disney and Pixar had, I’d keep those guys in a room animating shorts, even if the shorts barely broke even. How do you let guys like that go? In my day, if you let guys like that go, you were cheating yourself. I was lucky that when I came into town, the business was dead. All of the shorts guys were out of work, so they started pouring into my office. How do you replace great animators like that? You don’t.

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You have to fight for your work.

Ralph Bakshi: One of the biggest fights I had as a young man was against producers, who were the ones that got all the credit. I kept screaming, “Who animated Pinocchio?” and “Who directed ‘Night on Bald Mountain?'” One of the biggest fights, that I won, was to become one of the first directors working for a very strong producer that got credit for his movies. Few understand that: Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic had the producer’s name all over them, trying to take the credit. They were standing up in meetings and bullshitting about how great they were, but I would go into the room and say, “I made the movie!”

I fought for animators a long time ago, but now we’ve slipped back to the producers. In some instances today, I’ve never seen so much good work, but I don’t even know who directed it. So we’re back to where I fought very hard to get us away from, but it’s not up to me anymore. I’m not going to get back into that ring again, I’m telling you. It’s up to today’s animators and directors.

You know, a lot of animation critics, and Disney guys who can’t stand me, never got that I wasn’t just trying to free myself. I was trying to free the directors, animators, and writers. They are the ones who make the films, not the guys with their names on the studio doors. I won that battle for myself and for some others, but now they have to fight it, to protect themselves and get the credit they deserve.

Speaking of freedom, Last Days of Coney Island seems free from the bounds of animation. Lines, action and sound are coming loose but still holding together, which I thought was expressively bold.

“Great poses take away from the story; great poses make you keep looking for great poses. If you’ve got a dumb, fat cop, he’s not going to do a great pose. He can hardly fucking walk!”

Ralph Bakshi: Being an old man, you learn a few things, and I learned a lot from painting. I learned a lot from Francis Bacon and other painters I like. Painting can teach you things that animation can’t. Looking only to animation just freezes you up; you’ve got to get involved with all of the arts. I’ve always said that, but I do that, and some people don’t believe I do.

I’m not an animation buff; my library is filled with art books. I don’t have reels and reels of animation here, because then I’m just looking at what other animators have done. Jim Tyer taught me everything I needed to know about animation at Terrytoons; I loved him so much. His attitude about approaching art and animation was so loose but so brilliant. It’s all about attitude. When I was a young man, I used to sit on a wastepaper basket next to his desk and watch him draw with my mouth open. That’s what I did on Last Days; I animated straight ahead, with very little in-betweens, which can bore the shit out of a piece of animation.

And I tried to avoid all of those great poses that everyone tries to hit in animation, which always seemed to me like turn-of-the-century overacting. Great poses take away from the story; great poses make you keep looking for great poses. If you’ve got a dumb, fat cop, he’s not going to do a great pose. He can hardly fucking walk! [Laughs] As an animator, you’re taught to work on your fucking pose and silhouette, and make sure everything is perfect — and boring, and wrong, and unreal.

I mean, who’s better than George Herriman? Look at his pen and inks, look at his scratchy drawings on Krazy Kat; what a brilliant artist. Now there’s a guy who taught me a lot about making unpretentious art. Animation is art, but it’s got to be wrested away from the producers again. But I’m too old to do it; it’s got to be someone else. Didn’t I teach anybody anything? [Laughs] That’s why I like Cartoon Brew. I think you guys do a good job.

Thanks, Ralph.

Ralph Bakshi: I like what you do, and what you cover. You’re very important to me. That’s why I want this to mainly be about animation. I’m not necessarily looking to get people who aren’t into animation to watch my movie. I want animators to see it, and to understand that hand-drawn animation isn’t dead.

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I think animators respect you. I’ve seen some technical complaints, especially about your lines, but that’s missing the point. You’re not coming back as sweet old Uncle Ralph.

Ralph Bakshi: [Laughs] Listen, you’ve just said a mouthful. Let me tell you what it’s about. It’s not about the line. It’s not about the animation. It’s not about the backgrounds. That’s all bullshit. It’s about the movie. How do you feel about the movie? You don’t like the line? Excuse me, that is bullshit. That’s missing the point. Give animators something to move, and they’re happy. That’s not what it’s about; it’s about what you are saying, goddammit. What are you saying? Are you saying the same old thing again? You love the lines, and you love the colors, and you love the poses, but it’s nothing but the same old thing, again.

“Unless animators think that what they are saying is as important as what they are moving, then we’re going to have this endless repetition of Toy Story 12.”

I am as sloppy as a Jackson Pollock painting. I am as sloppy as a Francis Bacon painting. I’m about what I am saying, and unless animators think that what they are saying is as important as what they are moving, then we’re going to have this endless repetition of Toy Story 12. I’m serious! You can point at my lines or my colors or my sloppy in-betweens, but it’s all bullshit. At the end of my film, you’re going to feel something.

Animation that makes a statement beyond technique. It’s form versus function.

Ralph Bakshi: That’s what I’m about, and it’s a lot more fun than worrying about how slick the line is. I don’t read those Disney books that those guys write about great poses. They make you afraid to draw! [Laughs] Every fucking thing in them needs a reason, and a purpose, and a that and a this. It doesn’t. It needs a feeling; it needs an expression. Animation has got to move past the line being too shaky. He’s a shaky character, asshole! [Laughs]

It’s ridiculous, but I love to yell about this. A lot of guys who’ve worked with me get it, including a bunch who are directing now for Pixar and others, like Andrew Stanton. I could give you names of animators who have worked with me who have heard me yell about it. And they’re doing quite well, even though they’re working with overbearing bosses. It’s not easy for them. It’s hard to fight the kind of money those pictures make. But that’s learning; I’m not yelling at these guys, I’m trying to teach them to get off of it, get out of it. Drop that bullshit. It’s 100 years old; it’s over and done.

Speaking of Stanton and other guys you mentored like John K. and Bruce Timm, especially on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, when I watch their work, I know immediately whose vision it is. Like you, they have an instantly recognizable style.

Ralph Bakshi: Absolutely. Those are the guys I yelled at, like I’m yelling at you. I like to yell about it when I get the opportunity. But don’t get me wrong, they are the ones with the talent. I had nothing to do with their talent; they learned all of that on their own. But how to think about what you do is what I used to yell about. It’s not about lines.

Most painters I love say their paintings are never finished; they just had to let them go. That taught me a lot. Let it go, man. Let it go. I mean, Richard Williams could never let anything go. Some animators can’t let anything go. What are they afraid of? They think it’s not right, but so what? What does that mean? Heavy Traffic plays as good today as the day I made it. Why? Because the animation comes and goes, at varying levels of quality, but the characters stay as firm as ever. That’s what lasts, and why it’s still playing decades after I made it.

That’s why I’m alive. I’m not alive because of Last Days of Coney Island. I’m alive because of all the young kids who have seen my movies. I love animators; I just want them to wake up.

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  • George

    I like Ralph. What a fun read.

  • Joel Mayer

    If nothing else, i think this should show young wannabe-Animators that they should stop worrying and start animating their own ideas. I myself worried for much too long about my abilities until recently when i said “Screw it, i’m gonna make the best, bad animated cartoons i can.” The result is that now i actually have an output vs before, where i was so paralyzed because off all these apparent rules and requirements that are being thrown around and i couldn’t be happier. Plus with every little film i’m getting a little bit better. It’s why i miss the early Flash and Newgrounds Days, there were so many young kids doing stuff in their bedrooms which where hit and miss but they all improved and didn’t give a fart about what Milt Kahl would’ve said about their poses. The result also was, that you got some VERY creative animation, which went completely against the rules. So yeah, unless you want to work for big studios, just stop worrying and start doing it!

    • Ryoku240

      “It’s why i miss the early Flash and Newgrounds Days”

      Same here, that stuff was sloppy but fun, now the TVs littered with stiff flash animation with zero of the fun you got on Newgrounds. Then you have flash indie games, I’ll stick with the free Alien Hominid thank you very much.

      These days its all about playing some game and counting the ad revenue bucks, getting sponsors, and begging for money.

    • Marie

      ^ This.

    • Marie

      ^ This.

  • Meagan

    I was shocked but at the same time so pleased – re: filmmaking vs focusing on the technical only. Mind-opening. Thanks, Mr. Bakshi (and thanks Scott Thill & Cartoon Brew).

  • Ginormous Canvas

    I understand that Traditional Animation shouldn’t die and give way to only CGI Animated Films, but Eras come and go, and new things take their place. If traditional animation died now, it would be a tragedy, and yet we would move on. To quote Miyazaki:

    “If [hand-drawn animation] is a dying craft, we can’t do anything about it. Civilization moves on. Where are all the fresco painters now? Where are the landscape artists? What are they doing now? The world is changing. I have been very fortunate to be able to do the same job for 40 years. That’s rare in any era.”

    Traditional Animation has had an amazing run, and if it ends then we can look back on all of the amazing things that came from it, and it won’t disappear completely. We still see some silent or black and white films today.The next generation will say the same about CGI when it’s death draws near, and yet that will die to.

    Animators do care about what they’re saying. Just because a film is a sequel does not mean it revisits the same ideas as its predecessors, it can explore new ground. And sequels are a problem with the entire film industry, and not animation. Tomm Moore didn’t make a sequel to The Secret of Kells, Sylvain Chomet didn’t make a sequel to The Triplets of Belleville, and Hayoa Miyazaki has never made a sequel in his life. Mainstream animation is inspired by Hollywood, and Hollywood is broken. Independent animation does care about what it is saying.

    • May1979

      Well, Miyazaki said “if” it’s dying. As several films, TV programs and social media have proven, hand drawn animation isn’t “dying”–not by a long shot. And none of the examples he gave (landscape artists for example) are dead, either. Just as TV didn’t kill radio (or movies), CGI hasn’t killed classical animation. Our task is to continue telling our stories as we want and worry less about shallow West Coast/East Coast rap battles between computers and pencils. We need BOTH.

      All Ralph is saying is if animators are going call themselves artists they need to act like artists, create the art they believe in, and let the chips fall where they may. Sounds simple enough. Whoever says otherwise are selling animators short.

    • May1979

      Well, Miyazaki said “if” it’s dying. As several films, TV programs and social media have proven, hand drawn animation isn’t “dying”–not by a long shot. And none of the examples he gave (landscape artists for example) are dead, either. Just as TV didn’t kill radio (or movies), CGI hasn’t killed classical animation. Our task is to continue telling our stories as we want and worry less about shallow West Coast/East Coast rap battles between computers and pencils. We need BOTH.

      All Ralph is saying is if animators are going call themselves artists they need to act like artists, create the art they believe in, and let the chips fall where they may. Sounds simple enough. Whoever says otherwise are selling animators short.

    • Mister Twister

      So… you believe that time is an actual thing, and not what people make of it?

    • The_Purple_People_Eater

      Miyazaki is just a man and his views are his views. You should live by your own values and carry your own integrity. To tell people “let it die” is just encouraging them to give up.

      Anyways, the problem with the majority of sequels is that they NEVER explore new ground and they do indeed revisit the same ideas as their predecessors. Almost across the board. Unless they are planned, film sequels are almost always executive-made decisions and thus they are executive run. Yeah, you named some nice European and Asian animation directors who exist outside “Hollywood” thus they don’t have their arm twisted into forcing out a sequel they don’t want to do.

      Back to Miyazaki’s quote, I have to say he gives really bad examples. You can’t really compare landscape painting (a subject matter) and fresco (a medium that was typically commissioned by the church) to hand-drawn animation. People will always be more impressed and entertained by the highly respected craft of things being hand-made by solely a person.

      People will always be more afraid of practical effects than polished CG in a horror movie, we will always be more entertained by a puppet versus a character you know isn’t actually there, we will always be more thrilled by witnessing a stuntman risk their life for a scene, etc. Once you get a computer involved, people tend to be more disconnected.

      To say that we should be apathetic about the death of man-made art is like saying that having nature be replaced by machines is something we should all just accept. We are innately attracted to the organic movement and look of things. I just believe that rather than “updating” the medium it will just leave people in the future feeling nostalgic. People will have museums that showcase a time when animators were incredibly knowledgeable draftsmen and highly conceptual thinkers who relied only on their abilities and simple tools to create (oh wait, we already have those.)

    • Furrenamon

      This argument of a dying art is silly, it’s like saying let’s burn all the paintings in favor of 3d printed objects because it’s scientifically “superior”.

      This is as silly as using quantum physics to explain why “CGI is superior to hand draw” essay I read a while back. Over explained and really, really stupid on so many levels because the writer is “SCIENCE! SCIENCE IS EVERYTHING! COMPUTERS! DARWIN!”

      • Fried

        Except burning old art isn’t the same as moving on with new techniques. Nobody is burning old Disney movies. We just have CG movies now instead.

        • Furrenamon

          That’s not my point. My point is people still use brushes, ink, crayons and so many other methods to create. They did not just turn their collective noses at something because bigger and more technical came along.

          Of course I say this knowing animation is dead as a doornail, everything is live action because of immersion and it’s “better”.

          Thanks for murdering cartoons.

  • Happy MC Ride

    i learn something new with every interview damn this man is gold wish more people talked about him

  • Happy MC Ride

    i learn something new with every interview damn this man is gold wish more people talked about him

  • I fully agree with what Ralph said. The animators need to take more fight to the producers/executives of the studios, and remind them who is really taking time to making the films. Both hand drawn and CGI. But also, we need to do a better job of educating the general public of who is really responsible for all the hard work and sacrifice.

    Animators are actors, but even more than the live action actors. They deserve credit and value just as much, actually even more, than those who voice the characters. In my opinion anyways.

  • I fully agree with what Ralph said. The animators need to take more fight to the producers/executives of the studios, and remind them who is really taking time to making the films. Both hand drawn and CGI. But also, we need to do a better job of educating the general public of who is really responsible for all the hard work and sacrifice.

    Animators are actors, but even more than the live action actors. They deserve credit and value just as much, actually even more, than those who voice the characters. In my opinion anyways.

  • Mary E. Townsend

    I miss animation like this

    • Ryoku240

      I miss “fun” animation

  • Roger Åmoth

    “Let it go, man. Let it go.”

    Great. One more Frozen fan.

    But to be serious; while I would like to see him make a whole hand-drawn movie the way he wants to make it, I just wonder; what if he was told he got to make a movie with an unlimited budget and total creative freedom, as long as it was CGI? That could be very interesting as well.

  • Roger Åmoth

    “Let it go, man. Let it go.”

    Great. One more Frozen fan.

    But to be serious; while I would like to see him make a whole hand-drawn movie the way he wants to make it, I just wonder; what if he was told he got to make a movie with an unlimited budget and total creative freedom, as long as it was CGI? That could be very interesting as well.

  • white vader

    Fantastic stuff! The shame of it is that some of it shouldn’t be news to anyone. The great Disney guys were great because they didn’t navel-gaze, they *did* look at the other arts and real life instead of just animation. And when Ralph gives the “fat cop” example as an argument to pose-based animation and silhouette, he’s only really talking about animators keeping character (and therefore body language/movement) and story foremost in their minds rather than letting the tail wag the dog.

    And not to diminish his achievement at all, but “A 77-year-old man fully working on animation, in-betweens, backgrounds, layouts, character design, and everything else?” – Maybe someone should re-introduce him to a guy named Richard Williams (as Bill Plimpton isn’t old enough)! ;)

  • white vader

    Fantastic stuff! The shame of it is that some of it shouldn’t be news to anyone. The great Disney guys were great because they didn’t navel-gaze, they *did* look at the other arts and real life instead of just animation. And when Ralph gives the “fat cop” example as an argument to pose-based animation and silhouette, he’s only really talking about animators keeping character (and therefore body language/movement) and story foremost in their minds rather than letting the tail wag the dog.

    And not to diminish his achievement at all, but “A 77-year-old man fully working on animation, in-betweens, backgrounds, layouts, character design, and everything else?” – Maybe someone should re-introduce him to a guy named Richard Williams (as Bill Plimpton isn’t old enough)! ;)

  • Alan

    Those that say hand-drawn animation is dying are doing exactly what Ralph Bakshi is telling you not to do, which is to worry and to let those with the money define the industry. It will never die, like Nye Bevan who founded the UK National Health Service back in the 1940’s, when he was asked “how long will it last?” he responded “for as long as there are those that will defend it”.

    Japan produces a large variety of hand-drawn animation every year, series, features, shorts; good and bad, some of it is the most inspiring stuff I’ve ever seen, look at Studio 4C for example or their Young Animator Training Projects. Some are as polished as a diamond like Steamboy, some are as rough as sandpaper like Tekkonkinkreet, some are as dark and twisted as Perfect Blue, some as political and emotional as Metropolis and some as sweet as My Neighbour Totoro. We just don’t have that variety in the US/EU which is strange because I’m sick of hearing people complain about it, you’d think producers would get a clue. Like Ralph Bakishi says, animators need to wake the hell up.

  • Alan

    Those that say hand-drawn animation is dying are doing exactly what Ralph Bakshi is telling you not to do, which is to worry and to let those with the money define the industry. It will never die, like Nye Bevan who founded the UK National Health Service back in the 1940’s, when he was asked “how long will it last?” he responded “for as long as there are those that will defend it”.

    Japan produces a large variety of hand-drawn animation every year, series, features, shorts; good and bad, some of it is the most inspiring stuff I’ve ever seen, look at Studio 4C for example or their Young Animator Training Projects. Some are as polished as a diamond like Steamboy, some are as rough as sandpaper like Tekkonkinkreet, some are as dark and twisted as Perfect Blue, some as political and emotional as Metropolis and some as sweet as My Neighbour Totoro. We just don’t have that variety in the US/EU which is strange because I’m sick of hearing people complain about it, you’d think producers would get a clue. Like Ralph Bakishi says, animators need to wake the hell up.

  • Gerard de Souza

    Always refreshing to hear Mr. Bakshi. He says what needs to be said.

  • Gerard de Souza

    Always refreshing to hear Mr. Bakshi. He says what needs to be said.

  • James Madison

    There is always insight to be gained when listening to Ralph and watching his films.

  • James Madison

    There is always insight to be gained when listening to Ralph and watching his films.

  • Richard Blakely

    Ralph Bashki clearly understands the mechanics of animation. That being said, the question of relevancy without the crutch of blue humor should be addressed.

  • Richard Blakely

    Ralph Bashki clearly understands the mechanics of animation. That being said, the question of relevancy without the crutch of blue humor should be addressed.

    • OtherDan

      Why? His stuff was never geared toward children.

      • Richard Blakely

        His scripts are just weak. Crumb disowned Fritz the Cat based on the writing. Again, I admire his technical skills but I’ve never been able to sit through any of his movies.

  • Bryce Abood

    I have been refreshing CB several times a day since Coney Island came out, waiting for my Bakshi piece. This one knocked it out of the park. Thanks so much Scott.

  • Fluffydips

    What a cool guy. Animation does need to change as well. Everything is starting to look, feel, and breathe the freaking same.

  • one big fat kiss for this window of conversation . make and worry not my little handsome art friends …

  • Mister Twister

    Inspirational, motivational, and informative.

    But I’ll rather not agree with everything he said there. I love great poses, and I love great lines. If that makes me pretentious, then **** it!

  • Elsi Pote

    Animators used to stand up for something back in in the day. Today they just want to belong.

  • SKITS☆ (Manny O.)

    I think it’s all too easy to fall into the trappings of perfectionism– for any artist, the deadliest sin.
    That’s what I love about what Bakshi’s saying right now. Stop worrying about all that crap, and just DO IT! And if you’re gonna do it, have something to say– have an attitude, personality, a message you oughta speak. What defines, and seperates you from the billion of other well-crafted arts that say the same thing over, and over again?

    A piece worth reading, and coming back to over, and over again.

  • OtherDan

    I always fantasized about having a teacher who’d yell at me the way Bakshi does. I love the message and his passion. Thanks Ralph! Hopefully, he’ll post job openings for his next feature on the Brew.

  • Dave

    I love when Ralph talked about poses and silhouettes. I always believed a drawing is good if you put heart into it. I had this mega egotistical character design teacher in college who scolded me for not having “perfect” silhouettes or character design”
    Knew it was bullshit from the get go.

  • Dave

    I love when Ralph talked about poses and silhouettes. I always believed a drawing is good if you put heart into it. I had this mega egotistical character design teacher in college who scolded me for not having “perfect” silhouettes or character design”
    Knew it was bullshit from the get go.

  • Who the hell says that an Uncle has to be “sweet”?
    A true nephew of Ralph knows what he’s in for, and learns, and flies the hell on.

  • Many years ago, Ralph met with me and a few other cybernauts when he was planning COOL WORLD, which was a rather different film than what eventually got released. He was excited at all the efficiency that digital film making would be able to do for hand drawn animation: not just for coloring and inking (or not inking) and compositing, but for distributing dailies and making living storyboards. Stuff that’s relatively old hat today!
    It’s great that he can sit down and draw straight ahead and that the short keeps the sketchiness that you often see in concept art, but gets erased in the final project.

    He wanted to set up the studio in NYC, so that the animators would trip on bums on the way to work.

  • What a great interview. Everything he says is bold, fearless, and meaningful, but even so there are so many great gems in there that stand out. Some of what he said reminds me of a Picasso quote, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” I think Ralph embodies that so well, and his age and experience have allowed him to just be this next-level talent.