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Ralph Bakshi’s animated assault on racism in America

A subversive and satirical re-imagining of Disney’s Song Of The South with an urban spin, Ralph Bakshi’s incendiary masterpiece Coonskin exploits and eviscerates grotesque American racial stereotypes with a politically incorrect, profane and vicious sense of humor.

A flamethrower of confrontational cartooning Ralph Bakshi intensifies the minstrelsy where Disney coats it with honey, his “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” is a “Fuck you” hurled right at audiences. “Ah’m a N****r Man” (“I’ve been red, white, and blue’d on”) is the overture, sung magnificently by Scatman Crothers in profile over the credits, the choleric preacher (Charles Gordone) sets the stage with a sermon in a church empty but for a pair of kids. Gordone crams into a car with Barry White and off they go to bust their bud (Philip Michael Thomas) out of prison; the wait is long so fellow con Crothers spins a tale, and jive-talking furries, slags, junkies, and other unholy toons are drawn on William A. Fraker’s cinematography. Brother Rabbit, Brother Bear, and Preacher Fox ditch the South for Harlem, where racial stereotypes can be amplified until humor boils away and submerged hate splatters the screen. Rabbit follows the Black Caesar trajectory, Bear steps into the boxing ring to evoke Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali, Fox meets his snake-oil match in Black Jesus, the rotund charlatan who breathes fire out of his neon-lit cross while bilking the congregation (“Segregate! Integrate! Masturbate!”). A crooked cop is dipped in blackface and left to shoot it out with the NYPD, the “Godfather” is a swollen subway pig with a brood of sodomites; Miss America has the stars and stripes painted on her buxom body, the noose falls on a serenading black suitor when she sweetly cries “rape.” Pungent ideas and grenade-images are penciled in throughout, often Bakshi lets one become a self-enclosed film of its own—a melancholy sister recounts the tale of the straying cockroach she grew to love, a rat floats into the monologue and is blasted after flashing the evil Mickey grin. Bold racial vaudeville and jolting session of cultural exorcism, Bakshi’s picture is its own tar-baby, making itself open to ignorant punches only to entangle them with the implicating, toxic stickiness of the ugly assumptions that have been swept under our collective rug.”—- Fernando F. Croce

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 Bamboozeled , released 25 years after Coonskin, echoes Bakshi’s brutal take on the pervasive, ages-old, racism in American popular culture.

Sometimes art needs to go over-the-top in order to roil up the dark side of our collective consciousness…to shove into the light the shit we’re too afraid to talk about and too ashamed to acknowledge. Sometimes the only way to make that reality check bearable is to find the ridiculous, the absurd and the insanity within the demons trapped in the briar patch of our shared mythologies.

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


Ralph Bakshi
Susan Tyrell
Necron 99

“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
05:01 pm


Ralph Bakshi
Mighty Mouse


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
11:16 pm

Pop Culture

Ralph Bakshi
Calpernia Addams

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