Wizard of Animation Ralph Bakshi

Ralph BakshiOn this day in 1861, the great painter Andrei Ryabushkin was born. He has a very distinctive style—in some ways primitive. He painted primarily ordinary working people, but not of his time—of those two centuries before. As a result, he was never really accepted. His paintings were not pretty enough for the rich nor were they political enough for the avant garde. And then he died at 42 of tuberculosis.

The great editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin was born in 1921. He got his start working as a reporter and artist for the army during World War II. In fact, he is still best know for that work that features Willie and Joe, two infantry soldiers who struggle through the hardships of war. The following two cartoons are from later in his career. The first is in reference to the Kennedy assassination. The second one is from 1984 about terrorism. It shows Death with two meat grinders. One is marked “Terrorism” and the other “Retaliation.” The caption reads, “Women and Children first.” It’s great work.

Two Cartoons by Mill Mauldin

Other birthdays: the highly successful propagandist for the Nazis Joseph Goebbels (1897); the great sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle (1930); singer Melba Moore (68); musician Peter Green (67); actor Richard Dreyfuss (66); and actor Winona Ryder (42).

The day, however, belongs to the great animator Ralph Bakshi who is 75 today. He is best known for Fritz the Cat. He created animated films not just for adults but for thinking adults. He was highly controversial throughout his career. He bounced around, doing a lot of different things. My favorite of his films is Wizards, although I wouldn’t say it was a great film. There are two things about it. First, I’m a huge Cheech Wizard fan, and Bakshi totally ripped of that character for the part of the hero Avatar. Second, it is amazing to watch how much he does with so little. Of course, it helps to have a really great voice like Susan Tyrrell’s to work with. You can see a collection of some of the interesting imagery used in the film below. It gives you the wrong idea about the film, however. It’s actually a very funny film. (It is also available complete on YouTube.) Anyway, he has produced an enormous amount of work, especially for someone who has largely worked independently. Check out any of it.

Happy birthday Ralph Bakshi!

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