The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (commonly known as LACMA) paid tribute to Ralph Bakshi, one of the great pioneers of avant-garde animation. The event, a part of the New York Times Film Club at the museum, brought out hardcore fans from all over Los Angeles to pay tribute to such an influential filmmaker that is rarely given the spotlight.
Bakshi is most well known for being the animator behind the genre-bending film Fritz the Cat, the first animated film to ever receive an X-rating from the MPAA after its release. An instant cult classic, the film put Bakshi at the forefront of adult animation in the late 1970s.
His fans came out in full force for a special presentation of his masterpiece Wizards. A highly conceptual film, the movie is a strong deviation from his grittier urban tales instead telling the story of a post-apocalyptic Earth torn between magic and technology. “I wanted to show the kind of fairy tell Disney wasn’t willing to tell,” said the now 72 year-old Bakshi during a Q&A with film curator Elvis Mitchell after show.
“Things were much different then, we didn’t have the technology or the budget of most of the animated films of today,” he said nostalgically. “I was lucky enough to have been able to work with some of the best animators from Warner Brothers and Disney, who at that time had just been let go, they did the most amazing work on the film. What you have to understand is we did everything in basically one take, we didn’t have the budget for a pencil test. If something didn’t fit I’d just chop it out and find a way to make it work in the film.”
“I would like to make a Wizards 2, I have an outline ready and everything. I think with a real budget and CGI it could be a fantastic film,” Bakshi told the audience. “I know I would much rather go see something like Wizards 2 than Cars 7 or something,” he joked.
Bakshi remains an eclectic personality, never holding back what he thinks. “I’m just being me, I’m just having fun with what I do,” he said with a childlike smile on his face. Despite his underdog status in the film industry, his fans remain loyal and dedicated. Many in the audience that night had come with memorabilia in hand, ready to show their appreciation for the innovator. As the crowd rushed on Bakshi after the show, the look on his face showed both shock and humility.
The rest of the night played out like a version of This Is Your Life as people he had worked with throughout the years suddenly appeared out of the audience. It quickly turned into a reunion of sorts as animators, actors, and studio executives came out to give a once forgotten artist his due.
Even though Bakshi has not produced a film in almost two decades, the influence of his work can still be seen today. Cartoons like Beavis & Butthead, The Simpons and Ren & Stimpy all owe a debt of gratitude to Bakshi for paving the way for other subversive animation.