Features and Columns

The Cruel, Cool World of Ralph Bakshi

An introduction to the cinematic world of Ralph Bakshi: an adult animation trailblazer, Hollywood rebel, and alternative icon of 1970s counterculture.
By  · Published on May 6th, 2020

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Ralph Bakshi is simultaneously one of the most distinct and obscure voices in American animation. Responsible for introducing western audiences to adult-oriented animated feature films, Bakshi is a raunchy, political, heart-first creator who spent his career behaving less like his studio lifer peers, and more like a live-action auteur.

Auteurism in western animation is about as uncommon as feature-length animated films intended for adults. And, as a consequence, Bakshi’s uniquely dark and dingy sensibility has largely relegated his feature films to the fringe. These days Bakshi’s catalog is under-seen and often held at arm’s length as oddities reserved for weirdos and perverts. And while that last part is somewhat true, Bakshi’s boundary-pushing filmography is as deserving of attention as any of his more mainstream (a.k.a. live-action) counterculture cohort.

The video essay “The World of Ralph Bakshi” offers an introduction to the look, feel, and patterns of the cinematic world of Bakshi. It outlines his cynical, chain-smoking everyman archetype, embodied iconically in the frisky feline form of Fritz the Cat. The video lays out Bakshi’s cacophonous worlds of constant gunfire, smokey pool halls, and dusty neon-lit alleyways. This is a scary and captivating cinematic world founded on violence, corruption, and desire. Peppered, of course, with the promise of escape from the endless roar of the city into parallel worlds of fantasy and magic. For the uninitiated: buckle up.

You can watch “The World of Ralph Bakshi” here:

Who made this?

This video essay was put together by the Texas-based Royal Ocean Film Society, which is run by Andrew Saladino. You can browse their back catalog of videos on their Vimeo account here. If Vimeo isn’t your speed, you can give them a follow on YouTube here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.