For the Love of Ralph Bakshi
One of My Favorite Film Makers
This article was adopted from a speech I wrote in college. I hope you enjoy it.
A fair maiden in trouble in the distance. A flash of red, yellow and black streaks by. Boom! Pow! Bang! The hero leaps into action.
Mister Trouble never hangs around
When he hears this Mighty sound.
"Here I come to save the day"
That means that Mighty Mouse is on his way.
Yes, sir, when there is a wrong to right
Mighty Mouse will join the fight.
On the sea or on the land,
He gets the situation well in hand.
Mighty Mouse was my introduction to one of my most loved entertainers, Ralph Bakshi. Born in Haifa, Mandatory Palestine. At the age of 18 he got his start under the tutelage of Terrytoons’s lead animators. During this time, he did mainly pencil work and cel polishing, the process of removing dust and dirt from animation cels. Working on many of Terrytoons’s lead productions such as Mighty Mouse and Deputy Dawg gave Ralph much needed experience to hone his craft. After spending 11 years with Terrytoons, Ralph moved to form his own company. During this time, he began to work on what would become one of his highest grossing films, Fritz the Cat. When it was released in April 1972, it frantically climbed up the box office charts, clawing its way from a mere $700,000 it would go on to make $90 million.
From there Ralph continued to produce some of the most successful, well-written and hilarious independently produced animated films of all time, from Coonskin to Heavy Traffic, Ralph’s use of real life circumstances to create an uproarious atmosphere filled with some of the darkest and most colorful characters brought to film.
After much commercial success, Ralph moved on to making some of his most fantastic characters come to life. Whipping together a withering tale of two brother Wizards who are battling for control of a post-apocalyptic Earth, 1977 saw one of the greatest American animated films released. Not only is this a movie a classic in the fantasy genre, but it contains one of the greatest speeches ever to slip the lips of a character in the English language. One of the wizards, Avatar, falls in love with a frolicking fairy while preparing to battle his maliciously mutated brother Blackwolf in the land of Scortch.
This film was introduced to me by my grandfather, one of my fondest memories is going to his house to watch it until I wore the tape off of the reels reeling with laughter. Moving on from the budding relationship between Avatar and Elinore, and the confounding predicament of the assassin Peace, Ralph set out on his quest to tell the story of a tiny man and his voyage to return the one ring to the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. Forging his fantasy in the artist’s hearth, Ralph went on to direct the only successful film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings before Peter Jackson ever knew we would make films. Although commercially successful, much of the production was plagued by budget cuts, which lead to much of the deeper parts tomes of Tolkien to be left on the cutting room floor. Despite these setbacks Bakshi created one of the greatest adaptations of JRR Tolkien’s works. For his next few films Ralph would return to his roots of telling highly entertaining stories of the inner city in Hey Good Lookin’ and American Pop, until in 1983 he would partner with one of the greatest fantasy artists of all time, Frank Frazetta, to produce Fire and Ice. Ralph’s flare for the magnificent is on full display.
With his influence spread across the industry, Bakshi inspired many of today’s leading animators to pursue a career in film and television Ralph Bakshi has touched the lives of many fans and even given some of Hollywood’s stars their first boost. Much of the techniques he created or developed would become accepted in all of film production, from a simple story no bigger than a shire to a story as big as our hearts desire. Whether the telling the tale of a young boy’s misadventures in a strange land, or a young girl who’s father his murdered by the very machine that will eventually save her, Ralph Bakshi spins a tale as old as time in a future that maybe more near than we may fear.
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