ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.4 - JULY 1999
Draw What You Want To Draw
by Ralph Bakshi
I have been asked by Heather Kenyon to say a few words about adult animation, and believe me at 60 I feel like an adult alright. From my first day at Terrytoons to my last, which was by the way about 15 years, the conversation by animators always revolved about anticipation, squash and stretch, holds, timing, etc., etc. Two more frames here would make that hit funnier, two more frames there would make that hit slower. Disney did this and that and not only this but that too. On and on and on and on and on... It was fun at first, but then it got old. Very old. Wasn't there anything else to this business besides this? Oh, yeah, there was. This Disney studio kid was saved by merchandising, do you know that? Yeah, so make sure everything you do has a doll in mind. Because even if you blow it at the box office, the doll will save the studio. So then you can go on to do another picture that blows it in the box office, but the coloring books will save this one. We all had to animate 50 feet a week, plus layout our own animation to stay on budget. With no pencil tests -- that's right, no pencil tests, you learned what you did on the final print three months later or not. That was Terrytoons. That was reality. We weren't allowed to finesse the animation like at Disney, so why talk about it endlessly? There had to be another way to beat them. (This stays true today. I just saw Tarzan and the animation is incredible. I think it is the best film Disney has ever done.)
As my hero animator, Jim Tyer, used to say, "Hey Ralph, stop worrying. Everything moves, so put it down, have fun and go home." Yeah, Jim had fun, more fun than any animator I knew at the time. He distorted, he drew off model -- yes, off model, and threw shapes around like he was Jackson Pollack, the animator. He had fun. The rest of the guys stared at Disney and cried, "If we could only do that, boo-hoo." Jim would walk around the inking department -- yes, hand-inking with Crokille pens -- telling the inkers, "Don't worry about where my line is, don't stiffen up the animation, keep it loose. The color will hold it together. Have fun. It is just cartoons." This, compared to another guy who would scream, "You wiggled the nose on that cel! What are you doing ruining my animation that way!"
To do whatever you want; to make statements like Bob Dylan marching down South for voting rights and integration; to hit a note like Miles Davis and John Coltrane; to be free like Rock 'n Roll taught: that's what was blowing in the wind during my youth, whether we realized it or not. On Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Hey, Good Lookin', Wizards, we had no pencil tests. What I did have was the brilliant golden age animators on my side. Who loved what they were doing -- finally. Virgil Ross, Irv Spence, Manny Perez, Bob Carlson, John Sperry, Ed Barge, Tex Avery (he was Irv Spence's best friend and used to come in and hang out a couple of times a week until he left the planet), John Vita... These guys loved what we were doing. They were free to create, to say anything and man, could they animate. Not the slick, boring, perfect stuff, but the "I really feel this scene" kinda stuff. I believe in what I am drawing. I believe in what I am drawing.
What adult animation means to me is not tits and ass, but the right to animate any subject or idea you have and let the ratings fall where they may. All I wanted to do was animate the things I thought about and not the dolls they thought about.
Good luck to everyone.
P.S. When I first got to Hollywood to do the production of Fritz the Cat in 1970, I was greeted by a full page ad in Variety from about 50 well known Hollywood animators who told me I was destroying the Disney image and should go home. I didn't know who these guys were because I was from New York, so I threw the ad away. Anyone who could come up with that ad and send it to me via Animation World Network will recieve a full Fritz the Cat set up from the bathtub sequence, background and cel, as a present from me. I want to know who those guys were now.
To purchase a Ralph Bakshi video, visit the AWN Store.
Ralph Bakshi is the director of The Mighty Heroes, Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, The Lord of the Rings, Fire and Ice, Cool World, American Pop, and other films, as well as television series like Spicy City and Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures.
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