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Ralph Bakshi’s animated assault on racism in America is still an uncompromising gut punch
07.11.2016
11:37 am

Topics:
Animation
Movies
Race

Tags:
Ralph Bakshi


 
A subversive and satirical re-imagining of Disney’s Song Of The South transplanted to Harlem, Ralph Bakshi’s incendiary masterpiece Coonskin exploits and eviscerates grotesque American racial stereotypes with a politically incorrect, profane and vicious sense of humor. The film’s hyper energy is emphasized by Chico Hamilton’s percussive score and the mix of animation and live action set the tone for films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Despite its innovative visuals, there’s nothing slick about Coonskin. The movie has the perfect low-budget skeeziness of a Dolemite flick. And casting Barry White as Brother Bear/Samson and Scatman Crothers as Papa Bone adds layers of pop cultural resonance that continue to reverberate even today. (Did Rick Ross cop his fashion sense from Samson?)
 

 
Released in 1975 to a firestorm of controversy, it took Coonskin several years before the film found an audience that could appreciate it as an edgy aesthetic experiment and a powerful social statement. Wu Tang Clan had plans to re-make it and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, released 25 years after Coonskin, echoes Bakshi’s brutal take on the pervasive, ages-old racism that permeates American popular culture. Al Sharpton and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) went apeshit and picketed Coonskin before anyone in the organization had even seen the film. (Sharpton quipped “I don’t need to see shit to smell shit.”) Bakshi had hired a number of black animators to work on the film and the NAACP felt it was an important work but still Sharpton couldn’t resist the opportunity for some press. New York City theaters were smoke-bombed during screenings of Coonskin. Nationwide theaters panicked and cancelled bookings.The film’s distributor Paramount Pictures eventually freaked and pulled it from circulation. The positive reception from critics didn’t make up for the fact that most audiences, both black and white, just didn’t get it.
 

 
Quentin Tarantino has championed Coonskin over the years and provided some critical insight into Bakshi’s methods. Tarantino describes the film as…

... hands down the most incendiary piece of work in the entire (blaxploitation) genre. Using negro folklore and slave tales of nonviolent resistance, along with the White American/European media’s racist caricatures of the past (i.e., Disney’s Black Crows, Warner Brothers’ Coal Black, every James River pickaninny that smilingly stared back from grocery shelves, the spaghetti benders of Lady and the Tramp, and the Jews of the Nazi Party-produced The Eternal Jew), Bakshi, with zero timidity, challenged his audiences’ sensibilities in ways that made all the other blaxploitation titles seem like the wish-fulfillment fantasies they were.

In fact, the only voice of the time that had a symbiotic relationship to Bakshi’s work could be found in Richard Pryor’s monologues. To discover that the two gentlemen were friends, and Pryor was a huge fan of Coonskin, comes as no surprise. An America that considers Blazing Saddles and All In The Family stinging racial satire is an America not ready for Coonskin.

 
Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards (And The Other Avatar)
01.22.2010
04:30 pm

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
Ralph Bakshi
Susan Tyrell
Wizards
Necron 99

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“Necron 99 has destroyed himself!”  With all the talk of Avatar these days, I find it curious that no one’s made note of that other Avatar (and not the Airbender).  It’s the good magician Avatar from Ralph Bakshi‘s animated, post-apocalyptic science fiction/fantasy, Wizards

And like the Cameron film, Wizards offers up an epic battle between the forces of nature and technology.  On the side of nature, there’s Avatar with his good magic and hot fairy sidekick.  On the side of technology, there’s Avatar’s bad-ass but anorexic-looking twin brother, Blackwolf, who’s just discovered the amazingly persuasive powers of Nazi propaganda.  And for fans of Richard Elfman’s Forbidden Zone (who of you out there in DM-land isn’t?!), actress Susan “Queen Mona” Tyrell provides the narration.

Bakshi’s Wizards came out in ‘77, after Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic, and a year before his own take on Lord Of The Rings.  I’ve seen that later film just once.  I’ve watched Wizards nearly a dozen times.  Part I follows, with links to the entire film below:

 
Wizards Part II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
The Cocaine Adventures of Mighty Mouse
01.08.2010
05:01 pm

Topics:
Media

Tags:
Cocaine
Ralph Bakshi
Mighty Mouse

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Ralph Bakshi apparently loaded some sneaky images of Mighty Mouse snorting coke in the 1980s Saturday morning cartoon. Hey, look, how do you think those poor animators work all night? Oh, I’m sorry, unless they’re chained to a desk in Southeast Asia… and hey, even then. Probably especially then. How else are they going to think like 8-year-olds constantly?

Fans of edgy animation and cartoon vice rejoiced this week, as the infamous 1987-1988 Saturday morning series “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures” finally hit DVD.  From the warped minds of Ralph Bakshi (“Fritz the Cat”) and John Kricfalusi (“Ren & Stimpy”), the show is often cited as a precursor to the era of wacky, subversive TV animation. So why the hold up on the DVD release? Well, it might have something to do with a controversial episode where the superhero mouse sniffed a very suspicious-looking white powder.

Premiering on CBS in November of 1987, “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures” stood out in a field crowded with the mediocre likes of “Foofur” and “The Pound Puppies.” (This was a time when “The Smurfs” dominated two hours of prime Saturday morning real estate on NBC.) Bakshi—who began his animation career at Terrytoons, home of the original Mighty Mouse—assembled a team of future animation stars like Bruce Timm (“Batman: The Animated Series”) and “Wall-E” director Andrew Stanton, and granted them the creative freedom to poke fun at classic animation and superheroes (with characters like the Dark Knight stand-in Bat-Bat) in the guise of an innocuous Saturday morning ‘toon. As Kricfaulsi recently told Wired, the era of edgy, “creator-driven” animation that many credit “Ren & Stimpy” with starting actually kicked off two years earlier with “Mighty Mouse.”

But the show often veered into territory too risque for the Tiffany Network, including having characters shower together and hinting in a dream sequence that Mighty’s gal Pearl Pureheart had an illegitimate child with nemesis The Cow. The biggest controversy (and perhaps part of the reason why the show is remembered today) arose from the episode “The Littlest Tramp,” where Mighty Mouse is shown sniffing what appeared to be cocaine.

(ComicsAlliance: New Adventures of Mighty Mouse)

(Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi, The Force Behind Fritz the Cat, Mighty Mouse, Cool World, and The Lord of the Rings)

Posted by Jason Louv | Leave a comment
Psychedelic Spiderman: Revolt in the Fifth Dimension
10.26.2009
11:16 pm

Topics:
Pop Culture

Tags:
Ralph Bakshi
Calpernia Addams
Spiderman

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Revolt in the Fifth Dimension is a 1967 episode of the old Spiderman cartoon which was directed by a then 25-year old Ralph Bakshi. For reasons no longer recalled, this was the only episode of the series that NBC chose not to air again, although it lived on in syndication for years afterward. The probable reason they didn’t retransmit this episode is how druggy it seems! (Not that the death theme and flying sperm weren’t enough!) This has to be the most wigged out episode of any cartoon series, ever, or at least until the advent of Adult Swim. I recall every second of it, especially the music.
 
Here’s Revolt in the Fifth Dimension:

 
Part II is here. Dangerous Minds pal Calpernia Addams is also a fan of Revolt. Here she gives it a fun MST3K treatment.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment