Dr. Toon: Two Films, Two Concerts
The past month saw an important anniversary in the history of American animation, one surely noticed by industry veterans and fans alike. On April 12, 1972 Fritz the Cat premiered in theaters, one of the most influential films ever to dress in ink and paint. Under the direction of former Terry studio and animation enfant terrible Ralph Bakshi, Fritz was a stunning social satire that could not be ignored. Much is made of the fact that Fritz was the first X-rated animated feature ever released but in retrospect, that is a mere sidebar. Fritz The Cat was an uncanny mirror of the cultural times, and that is of more importance than any edict issued by the MPAA. What's more amazing is that Fritz had a sister film that premiered four years previously, one just as reflective of its milieu. Further, both films were mirrored in legendary concerts that in themselves were bellwether statements about America. This is the tale of two films, Yellow Submarine and Fritz the Cat, and two concerts, Woodstock and Altamont.
There had been a counterculture youth movement growing in the United States ever since the 1950s but much of it was underground. By 1966, however, the counterculture entered the mainstream thanks to figures such as LSD guru Timothy Leary, the emergence of psychedelic themes in art and music (the Grateful Dead were particularly instrumental in the latter regard), and an unbridled attitude towards sexuality that rewrote societal rules of male-female relationships. The seminal event of the “hippie” movement" likely took place on January 14, 1967. The Human Be-In, held in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, alerted the media that something weirdly new was afoot. That summer was dubbed the Summer of Love, and it came with a soundtrack: The Beatle's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
A futile and unpopular war was being waged in Vietnam, and reports of campus protests dotted the news, becoming so common that the term "student unrest" was a regular feature of the news. Young students may have had a secondary agenda of avoiding the draft, but their desire for a world where peace had a chance was also sincere. Their moment culminated in Bethel, New York on August 15-18, 1969. The Woodstock music festival may have had its share of bad trips, and bad vibes, but it emerged as an event of legend. The counterculture declared the founding of "Woodstock Nation" and it appeared, for a brief time, that America's youth was omnipotent, capable of anything they could dream, powered by the spirit of peace, music, and love.