Ralph Bakshi has always been one of my heroes. The animation legend, who started out working for Terrytoons and Paramount Pictures before making his jump to feature filmmaking with his 1972 cult classic adaptation of Robert Crumb’s Fritz the Cat, has always displayed a unique gift for smashing the boundaries for traditional animated storytelling. He alternated personal projects like Heavy Traffic, Coonskin, and American Pop with large-scale animated fantasies like The Lord of the Rings, Wizards, and Fire & Ice, his wonderful creative collaboration with the legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. It was Bakshi’s version of The Lord of the Rings that Peter Jackson has credited with inspiring him to become a filmmaker and mount his own epic Rings trilogy more than two decades after the Bakshi version failed to set the box office afire.
In the years that followed Bakshi would attempt to make live-action/animated adaptations of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye to no avail. After butting heads with Paramount studio heads over the direction and casting of his 1992 film Cool World, Bakshi retired from cinema and moved to New Mexico to focus on his painting, but his legacy as an animator and filmmaker endures to this day.
To the surprise of myself and many others, Bakshi has made a roaring return to animation. Yesterday, he announced that he would be writing and directing a series of short subjects called Bakshi Blues. Each short will employ traditional animation to tell stories of present day American and will feature characters created by Bakshi for his past films. The shorts will premiere on his YouTube channel and today marked the debut of the first subject, entitled Trickle Dickle Down. You can view both the video and a statement from Bakshi here below.
The animation in the short is done in Bakshi’s trademark style that his fans will easily recognize from his earlier radical features, especially the controversial 1975 film Coonskin. Trickle Dickle Down takes a searing potshot at current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the “trickle down” theory of economics favored by Romney and his wealthy and powerful colleagues in the Republican Party and corporate America, a theory that has been in practice since the late 19th century. If your politics lean towards the right side, you’ll probably find this video very flattering. Ultimately, it matters little. Bakshi is one of American cinema’s fiercest and most independent filmmakers and has been at his best when working without creative shackles imposed on him by narrow-minded financiers and studio executives. It’s good to have the man back. I look forward to further entries of Bakshi Blues.