A newly restored and remastered version of the controversial 1975 masterpiece now available on Amazon.
SANTA MONICA, CA – Xenon Pictures has answered the request of animation and cinema fans by announcing a second run release of a newly re-mastered version of the 1975 animated classic “Coonskin.” Directed by legendary animator Ralph Bakshi (Lord of the Rings, American Pop) the Coonskin DVD has become a collector’s must-have item of the year.
One of the most controversial films ever made, Coonskin is an honest portrayal of urban street life in the 1970s. A combination of animation and live action, the film stars legendary soul singer Barry White (in a rare film role), the incredible Scatman Crothers, and a young Phillip Michael Thomas who would go on to star in Miami Vice a decade later.
On a roll with his previously successful adult animated films Fritz The Cat and Heavy Traffic, Ralph Bakshi started working on a new film in 1974 for producer Al Ruddy who was enjoying enormous success with The Godfather. Bakshi decided to open and close Coonskin with live-action scenes wrapped around an animated film featuring animal and human characters sometimes exhibiting stereotypical ethnic traits. Brother Rabbit (voiced by Thomas), Brother Fox (voiced by Gordone), and Brother Bear (voiced by White) enter a white mafia and police-dominated ghetto environment and do what they have to do to prosper.
Bakshi laces the film with ghetto dialogue and street slang and today Coonskin is praised for its groundbreaking approach to social issues. However Coonskin originally encountered extreme controversy before its original theatrical release when the Congress of Racial Equality strongly criticized the content as being racist, although none of the group's members had actually seen the film.
When the film was finally released in 1975, Bryanston Distribution gave it a limited release but the outcry was so overwhelming they pulled the movie from theaters. Aside from the Congress of Racial Equality’s premature denouncement, the vast majority of voices decrying the film’s alleged racism were those of white journalists and self-proclaimed intellectuals. The black community for the most part understood Bakshi’s vision.
Many years later, Coonskin was reexamined, with many film historians considering it to be one of Bakshi's finest works. The New York Times said Coonskin was “a shattering, successful effort, it's a work of brilliance and innovation.” Film critic Leonard Maltin wrote that Coonskin “remains one of Bakshi's most exciting films, both visually and conceptually.” Film site Shrunken Head Reviews says “The hipsters dig Coonskin. Tarantino digs it. Wu Tang Clan digs it. The film has been critically re-assessed and recognized for its cinematic value.” John K, creator of The Ren and Stimpy Show, calls Bakshi “a force of nature,” while Quentin Tarantino describes him as “a fearless satirical artist,” and calls Coonskin “the most incendiary work in the entire genre.”
A petition signed by thousands of animation fans had been circulating online asking for a re-mastered version of Coonskin to be released on DVD. Xenon Pictures CEO Leigh Savidge said, “There were petitions, calls to our office, people approaching me at film festivals asking us to please release Coonskin on DVD. The re-mastered print looks amazing and I know the fans will be pleased.”
“Xenon was the obvious choice,” adds Xenon’s EVP Steve Housden, “We’ve been involved in the preservation and distribution of pioneering black cinema for many years, working with Melvin Van Peebles, Jamaa Fanaka and the late great Rudy Ray Moore to name a few. We hope we can get Coonskin embraced by the public in a way those petitioning us to release it embrace it.”
Xenon Pictures is an independent film and media distribution company specializing in star-driven cutting edge urban dramas and popular independent films often over-looked by the mainstream studios.
Source: Xenon Pictures
Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.