Ralph Bakshi Critical Essays

Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ralph Bakshi 1938–

Palestinian-born American film director, animator, and screenwriter.

Bakshi is said to have revolutionized the concept of the animated film with features specifically designed for adult audiences. Most of his works are graphically bold, sometimes violent and obscene, commentaries on contemporary society.

Bakshi's first, perhaps most notable, film was Fritz the Cat (1972). Based on an underground comic strip by Robert Crumb, Fritz the Cat either shocked, delighted, or bored its viewers and stirred controversy because of its strong sexual content. Bakshi combined live action and animation in his second film, Heavy Traffic. The film is a semiautobiographical account of a young Brooklyn cartoonist and his struggle to maintain his sense of morality amid the violence that surrounds him. Bakshi utilized basic film noir techniques of shadowing and coarse graphics in Heavy Traffic to depict the unsavory side of New York City.

Turning away from urban America, Bakshi switched to fantasy in Wizards and The Lord of the Rings. In both films, he achieved a sense of realism by first filming real actors and later sketching over the film. American Pop, in Bakshi's words, "is about trying to make it in America." In this film, documenting an immigrant family's pursuit of the American dream, Bakshi successfully integrated popular music into his development of plot and theme. For some critics, Bakshi came of age as a filmmaker with American Pop.

Although his work has often been called stereotypically offensive and violent, even racist, Bakshi is recognized by many critics as an important innovator. He is, as Andrew Sarris wrote, "a conscious antithesis to Walt Disney."