Ralph Bakshi: Still Railin After All These Years
If you’re not copying or getting on your knees to the UPA altar, they won’t talk to you, they won’t put you up, they won’t discuss that you’re going on Kickstarter, they won’t run Trickle Dickle. I totally agree with you. I never seek out conformity. I was talking to a guy the other day, an animator, and he said, “Well you know, if you’re not nice they won’t put you on their blogs, they won’t tell other people to go visit you.” So much control! Then of course there is all this stuff about people writing and badmouthing my work, how cheesy this or that is. On a lot of these blogs people say this is disgusting and that’s horrible. There is one major blog where it’s idiotic what they do to people who go out there with their best art. So I don’t. Of course the big studios, Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks advertise on blogs so, yes without the advertising those guys can’t go on I guess so it’s another form of control.
DS: I fall into that category. I just want to let you know upfront I fall into that category as well. We’re an advertiser driven publication and we get advertising from big studios as well. But, it’s never colored what we publish or…
RB: I could hear that in your voice.
DS: …because it’s one thing to say, “I don’t like that particular work,” but it’s another thing to question the credibility of the people involved. That’s different.
RB: Exactly, exactly. Congratulations. You know what, you are the first person I’ve run into, and I’ve been running around for a while, so congratulations. I’ve been up against that…they basically said shut up and go away Ralph. Maybe they are wrong. Congratulations, I felt that way all along. Someone put my Wizards’ 35-year anniversary picture up on a blog, a major blog. That picture was made for a million bucks, using every trick in the book to get an image up on the screen, thirty-five years later people still love it, right? The question the blog asked was, “Do you think this picture holds up in today’s market,” meaning Pixar and the like. And once the blog posed that question, you should have seen the shit, if you pardon the expression, that rolled in.
DS: Oh, I can imagine.
RB: It’s terrible, it’s slow, it’s limited animation. Instead of the blog person not allowing comments to go up, or editing them, you should have seen the crap that they allowed these people to yell at Wizards on Fox’s [20th Century Fox, the film’s distributor] 35th anniversary of my film. Made for a million bucks. That people really liked. That’s the kind of control I’m talking about, that if you want to get publicity you’ve got to bend to the rules of these small time dictators.
DS: That’s the beauty and the curse of the Internet. Little publishing fiefdoms. It allows people to play in a sandbox of their own creation, of their own rules that they can control. Please, don’t get me started…
RB: Me too, because I want to say it’s difficult, it’s difficult, it really is.
DS: It’s wonderful that you are reaching new audiences. One of the beauties of the Internet is that now each new generation has an even greater opportunity to discover vast new worlds of great work, in so many mediums, for the first time. That’s always wonderful and I would imagine, very gratifying to you. I’m 51 and I have two older brothers. We grew up in LA and I remember Fritz the Cat as a kid because it was a topic of conversation at my house. But I was old enough to go see Wizards on my own. I can honestly remember watching that film with my friends at the Studio Theatre in Studio City. For a young punk like me, it was awesome. As I recall, we all thought it was really cool. There was no consideration or even context regarding whether that film cost a hundredth what a Disney film cost, or was 50 times more expensive. It wasn’t even part of the discussion. It’s not really relevant now.
RB: I know. Thank you.
DS: So, let’s discuss the Kickstarter campaign. In Ottawa, you talked about your new short film, Last Days of Coney Island as well as plans for the future. Can you tell me a little bit about the latest?
RB: I’ll tell you a lot about that if you want. Yes, Kickstarter is amazing. My mouth drops open from what you can do, the fact that Kickstarter is even in existence. I’m 74. The fact that Kickstarter is sitting there and can finance artistic endeavors, through people who like your work, it’s stunning. I have a son who teaches animation, who started a course at New Mexico University. He was at a seminar for young kids going into college, and some 10-year-old kid gets up in the audience and says, “Are you Ralph Bakshi’s father?”
RB: My son called me and says, “They’re 10 years old and they know who you are.” I was stunned and so was he. [Getting project funding through] Kickstarter is a great opportunity for me to experiment in styles, continue the voice that’s forever going on in my head, in a sense, to fight. Not to fight physically. Really, I believe that everyone should make what they want to make in any style they want to make it. What’s important is what the pictures have to say and not how they’re made. Not the techniques they’re made with. I could care less whether it’s computer or hand drawn or puppets. What are you trying to say and what are you trying to say that’s different from Bob Clampett, that’s different than Disney? What are you doing that’s yours?
If you grow up with painters like I did, if you understand art, you know that art is learning from everyone. Everyone is your master and everyone should be respected. But then you have to move out on your own, you have to drop your teachers, you have to move away. But I don’t see that happening especially with this UPA craze.
UPA made the most boring bunch of cartoons in the world. I was there! They were on Sunday afternoon. Except for a few, maybe a handful, most of them were just as boring as the Disney shorts. A lot of them were pretentious, so I am not a big fan. The design was great and the style was great in all of them. But so what? I mean, the shorts themselves were not saying anything new to a great degree. So Kickstarter has allowed me an opportunity to write about people, write about character, and write about what’s happened to America. There is a dwarf in Last Days of Coney Island who thinks he’s God. He’s a little short guy, he runs around working for the Mafia. It’s all about what was going on in America from 1950 to 1960 and how it made our attitudes a certain way and how we reacted and didn’t react to things. I’m doing things I’ve never done before with styles I’ve never used before.