The World of Ralph Bakshi

Wizards poster

Ralph Bakshi is a particularly interesting American maker of animated films. I expect relatively few of you have ever heard of Ralph Bakshi and almost as few have seen any of his works, which is why it is necessary that I bring Ralph and his works to your attention.

My first encounter with Ralph Bakshi came when, at a young age, I saw the box for his 1977 film Wizards at my local video rental location, Video Revolution, and thought that it looked phenomenally cool (same image as the poster image to the right). For reasons I do not recall, I didn't manage to actually watch Wizards until I was in high school and, let me tell you, it's a pretty fantastic movie. Wizards is set in the far, far, post-post-apocalyptic future and tells the story of a war between two wizard brothers, Avatar and Blackwolf of the land of good and evil respectively. If I recall correctly, the war is precipitated by Blackwolf's discovery of ancient Nazi war propaganda. The film does a fantastic job of alternating between light, dark and flat out surreal; I highly recommend it.

It wasn't until just recently that, in deciding to hunt down a copy of Wizards, I learned the identity of Ralph Bakshi. Being the obsessive consumer of media that I am, I decided to see what else Ralph has done and, lo and behold, Ralph Bakshi was responsible for Cool World. Cool World was a rather odd mix of cartoons and live action that I am rather fond of in spite of the rather poor critical acclaim that it garnered in its time; I must be a member of the cult for which it is a cult hit. Upon realizing that Ralph was responsible for Wizards and Cool World, it became necessary for me to track down his other works and what should turn out to be his seminal work? None other than the film version of Fritz the Cat. Fritz the Cat is noteworthy both as the first independent animated film to gross more than $100 million in the box office and as the first X-rated animated feature film. R. Crumb did not like Bakshi's take on Fritz the Cat and killed off the comic character in retaliation but, by most accounts, R. Crumb is a whack-job and the film was great; I have obtained the film but have not yet had the chance to watch it so I must withhold my personal views for now.

Ralph Bakshi is one of the behemoths of mid-20th century animation, responsible for many things beyond the few that I have mentioned, and I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't bring him to your attention. Having done so, the disservice of not watching Bakshi's works is now yours to remedy.