From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Ralph Bakshi (born October 29, 1938, in Haifa, Palestine [now Israel]) is an American director of animated and occasionally live-action films. As the American animation industry fell into decline during the 1960s and 1970s, Bakshi tried to bring change to the industry and pioneered adult animation using political commentary and satire.
Bakshi started his career as a cel polisher at the Terrytoons studio, working his way up from cel painter to inker, then animator, and eventually began to direct animated television shows for the studio. Bakshi moved to Famous Studios in 1967, before starting his own studio in 1968. Through developing a work relationship with producer Steve Krantz, Bakshi made his debut feature film, Fritz the Cat in 1972, the first animated film to receive an X rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. The film was followed by Heavy Traffic and Coonskin. All three films were extremely controversial for their content and approach to animation.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Bakshi became a spokesperson for a new direction in animation with American Pop and the fantasy films Wizards; Fire and Ice, with legendary painter Frank Frazetta; and the first film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, a film that laid the groundwork for future adaptations of the book. In the mid-1980s, Bakshi returned to his roots in TV cartoons with a revival of the Mighty Mouse character, and the animated specials Christmas in Tattertown and The Butter Battle Book, based on the book by Dr. Seuss.
Following the troubled production history of Bakshi's 1992 feature film Cool World, he did not complete another animated feature film. Bakshi's films have created controversy while continuously breaking new ground in the form. He encouraged the public to look at animation in a new way by creating worlds that are sometimes familiar and sometimes alien, whose power and strangeness are completely absorbing.
From 1972 until 1994, Ralph Bakshi directed nine feature films, writing five of them. He made voice cameos in six of his animated features, and in episodes of Spicy City and Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon". He also directed an animation sequence featured in the 1984 live-action film Cannonball Run II, and was interviewed for the 2003 documentary feature Frazetta: Painting with Fire, and the segment Ralph Bakshi: The Wizard of Animation, which appears as a special feature on the 2004 DVD release of Wizards.
Film directorial work
- Fritz the Cat (1972) (also writer)
- Heavy Traffic (1973) (also writer)
- Coonskin (1975) (also writer)
- Wizards (1977) (also writer)
- J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1978)
- American Pop (1981)
- Hey Good Lookin' (1982) (also writer)
- Fire and Ice (1983)
- Cool World (1992)
Television directorial work
- The Mighty Heroes (TV series) (1966)
- Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures (TV series) (1987) (also writer)
- Christmas in Tattertown (TV special) (1988) (also writer)
- This Ain't Bebop (live action) (1989) (also writer)
- Hound Town (1989) (TV)
- Dr. Seuss' The Butter Battle Book (1989) (TV special)
- Cool and the Crazy (TV movie, live action) (1994) (also writer)
- Malcom and Melvin (1997) (also writer)
- Babe, He Calls Me (1997) (also writer)
- Spicy City (TV series) (1997)