Ralph Bakshi: Still Railin After All These Years
You know, when I was trying to find an animator to help me, all these ex-Disney animators sent me their stuff. It looked good. But with that Disney Aladdin shit - excuse me - that Disney Aladdin stuff and all those feature films done in the 80s and 90s, it was so boring, it was so perfect. I finally found a young woman who lived two years in Singapore, has a rather crude animation style, self-taught. Her name is Colleen Cox and she did some of the funniest animation I had ever seen in my life. It’s not perfect, but it’s honest, it’s coming from her, it wasn’t trying to copy anything, it was an honest piece about how she felt about something, without it leaning towards Disney or UPA or anything. That’s the kind of people I love to work with. Those are the kind of people that aren’t part of the pack.
The Disney guys reacted in horror and disbelief because I didn’t hire them. All of them said to me, which is embarrassing, “Could you imagine if I worked with you in the old days how much better your films would have been?” I said, “So what do you mean?” and they said, “Well, you know, the animation wasn’t very good.” I said, “Guys, you’re really good at this so I’m not hiring you.” Their animation was good enough and exactly wrong for what the material was. The material was raw, it was on the street, it was unslick and so the great animation is for what? I was able to do what I did because I didn’t care about being great like you guys.
I plan to put up all this stuff up on the Internet. I’m not looking to push it any further. I’m not looking to take this and do a series, I’m not looking to take this to a motion picture company. I’m not looking to broaden its base. I am going to screen this on the Internet wherever I can. That’s my goal. My goal is to bring animation to the Internet that’s unfiltered by working through a big studio that controls what you do.
RB: You know I took this Last Days of Coney Island to studios who said they would do it, except it’s not merchandisable, there’s nothing in it to merchandise.
RB: I said well OK, I’ll make it for six million dollars. A picture is a picture. It’s still a film, I said. So what we can’t merchandise to adults. The kids don’t need the crap anyhow. So they were very nice to me and that was that. So, I plan to do Wizards II, another short if I get the funding to finish it and show it online and so on and so forth. Kickstarter will allow me to continue to work with creative people in animation and laugh at the guys who think UPA is God. Before I came into the business, UPA was God. That’s why, probably, it’s come full circle back to the same stuff. I don’t mind fighting. I love to fight. I love it because every time I do something like this it gets all my enemies mad. But hey, it keeps me alive. These bastards don’t know what they’re doing for me. I love it [laughs].
DS: [laughs] Going back to your earliest feature work, you obviously had tough, gritty stories to tell, with in-your-face characters. Certainly we live in a different society now than we did 40 years ago when Fritz the Cat came out, but the human condition doesn’t change all that much. Do you think audiences will understand and relate to your storytelling in the same way they did years ago? Do you think people are any more receptive to your storytelling than they were then?
RB: I’ve got to give this thought. I don’t know, but I’m going to find out. That’s my first answer. I don’t know but I’m going to find out. There is a certain lack of integrity today that…
DS: No kidding…
RB: …I say that mildly, that I did not find in my day. In my day a hand shake was a hand shake. He’s an old fart, we know he is an asshole, but a hand shake is a hand shake. You had kids who were more involved in what was going on in the world. Today it seems to be every man for himself. Be careful what you say. Everyone is trying to hook up with each other so be very-very careful. They’re not talking to each other they’re texting, there is no emotion. I don’t know.
But you’ve got to understand that it gives me a perfect opportunity to yell at them. In other words, I never went and did a film to make audiences feel good or happy. I could care less what my audiences cared about. What every big director in Hollywood today is really doing, most of them, they’re creating lies. Now what do I mean by lying? It’s that they get together in a room…I was there so I know…they get together in a room and they say, “OK, how do we make audiences happy? How do we make a film that gets them excited?” So they forget the truth. The truth isn’t the issue anymore. It’s all smoke and mirrors. That’s the reality. A lot of them are very, very successful. When I approach my films, I’m asking myself what am I angry about, what do I want to say to people? Who cares what they think. That’s always my approach. And I’m dying for them [the audience] to show up and see it. Don’t get me wrong. I’d like a Ferrari. I would love to buy a Ferrari and drive around America, you know what I’m saying? There’s nothing wrong with money if you make it honestly. I always wanted audiences to come, I wanted them to like my films. Every artist wants you to like their work. But I didn’t bend my work towards what I thought they would want to see.
So I think the opportunity today, it’s amazing. [In my new films] I’m going to call everyone a bunch of assholes. I’m going to say we sold America down the river. I’m going to say we financed two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan and lost them both, we shouldn’t have been there. But instead of raising taxes on Americans to pay for these wars, we sold our souls and borrowed from China. And everyone just kept on going about their business being yuppies and going out to eat and no one even gave the soldiers a parade when they came home. That’s the kind of fury I feel now. And if people don’t like that I’m telling them that, they can stop watching my films. And if I make a couple of shorts that say that and people don’t want to give me any more money to say that what I have to say, well, I don’t really care. I’m going to find out what they’re thinking about.