Ralph Bakshi, American (1938 - )
Ralph Bakshi (born October 29, 1938) is an American director of animated and live-action films. In the 1970s, he established an alternative to mainstream animation through independent and adult-oriented productions. Between 1972 and 1992, he directed nine theatrically released feature films, five of which he wrote. He has been involved in numerous television projects as director, writer, producer and animator.
Beginning his career at the Terrytoons television cartoon studio as a cel polisher, Bakshi was eventually promoted to director. He moved to the animation division of Paramount Pictures in 1967 and started his own studio, Bakshi Productions, in 1968. Through producer Steve Krantz, Bakshi made his debut feature film, Fritz the Cat, released in 1972. It was the first animated film to receive an X rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, and the most successful independent animated feature of all time.
Over the next eleven years, Bakshi directed seven additional animated features.
He is well known for such films as Wizards (1977), The Lord of the Rings (1978), American Pop (1981) and Fire and Ice (1983). In 1987, Bakshi returned to television work, producing the series Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, which ran for two years before it was canceled due to complaints from a conservative political group over perceived drug references. After a nine-year hiatus from feature films, he directed Cool World (1992), which was largely rewritten during production and received poor reviews. Bakshi returned to television with the live-action film Cool and the Crazy (1994) and the anthology series Spicy City (1997).
He founded the Bakshi School of Animation and Cartooning in 2003. During the 2000s, he has focused largely on painting. He has received several awards for his work, including the 1980 Golden Gryphon for The Lord of the Rings at the Giffoni Film Festival, the 1988 Annie Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Art of Animation, and the 2003 Maverick Tribute Award at the Cinequest Film Festival.
Ralph Bakshi was born on October 29, 1938, in Haifa, British Mandate of Palestine (now Israel), as a Krymchak Jew. In 1939, his family immigrated to New York to escape World War II, and he grew up in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. The family lived in a low-rent apartment, where Bakshi became fascinated with the urban milieu. As a child, he enjoyed comic books, and often dug through trash cans to find them.
In the spring of 1947, Bakshi's father and uncle traveled to Washington, D.C., in search of business opportunities, and soon moved the family to the black neighborhood of Foggy Bottom. Bakshi recalled, "All my friends were black, everyone we did business with was black, the school across the street was black. It was segregated, so everything was black. I went to see black movies; black girls sat on my lap. I went to black parties. I was another black kid on the block. No problem!"
The racial segregation of local schools meant that the nearest white school was several miles away; Bakshi obtained his mother's permission to attend the nearby black school with his friends. Bakshi was the only white student in the classroom. While most of the students had no problem with Bakshi's presence, a teacher sought advice from the principal, who called the police. Fearing that segregated whites would riot if they learned that a white student was attending a black school, the police dragged Bakshi from his classroom. Meanwhile, his father had been suffering from anxiety attacks. Within a few months, the family moved back to Brownsville, where they rarely spoke of these events.
At the age of 15, after discovering Gene Byrnes' Complete Guide to Cartooning at the public library, Bakshi took up cartooning to document his experiences and create fantasy-influenced artwork. He stole a copy of the book and learned every lesson in it. During his teenage years, Bakshi took up boxing. While attending Thomas Jefferson High School, he took little interest in academics, spending most of his time focusing on "broads, mouthing off, and doodling". After participating in a food fight and being caught smoking, Bakshi was sent to the principal's office. Believing Bakshi was unlikely to prosper at Thomas Jefferson, the principal transferred him to Manhattan's School of Industrial Art. In June 1956, Bakshi graduated from the school with an award in cartooning.