MichaelBarrier.com - Exploring the World of Animated Films and Comic Art - banner by Michael Sporn
Home  |  Capsules  |  Commentary  |  Essays  |  Funnyworld Revisited  |  Interviews  |  Books  |  Links  |  Bio  |  Feedback
   
MichaelBarrier.com Exploring the World of Animation and Comic Art

FUNNYWORLD REVISITED

The Filming of Fritz the Cat, Part One

Reprinted from Funnyworld No. 14, Spring 1972.

II. Up from Brownsville

Ralph Bakshi was born in Brooklyn and grew up there in a section called Brownsville. Brownsville is now one of New York's most desperate black slums, but as recently as 1960, it was still ninety per cent Jewish. It was tough; one writer has said that Brownsville was known locally as Spearville, because "if somebody says how about going for a walk, you say first let me get my spear."

Fritz DVD coverAlfred Kazin, the critic, was born and raised in this ghetto, too, but he left not long after Ralph Bakshi was born. He wrote a book about Brownsville twenty years ago, when Bakshi was in his early teens, and in its pages he described a community made up mostly of working-class Jews who abandoned hope for themselves early, and poured their lives into their children.

When Kazin returned to Brownsville years after he had moved away, it was as if nothing had changed: "The early hopelessness burns at my face like fog the minute I get off the subway. ... It is in the faces of the kids, who before they are ten have learned that Brownsville is a nursery of tough guys, and walk with a springy caution, like boxers approaching the center of the ring."

Ralph Bakshi was once a boxer, in his teens: "I boxed for the Police Athletic League between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. I don't think it's on record; I was too young for them to put me on record. But because I was the only Jew in the neighborhood who was willing to fight the Italian and black kids, they let me fight. To keep us from fighting in the streets, they got us in to the gym. I love fighting—boxing, you know; switchblades weren't my thing."

Bakshi has a little of the look of a boxer—dark, bulky, rumpled—and he alternates between a cocky self-assurance and a distracted, sometimes frantic grasping for words and ideas as they drift past him ("My English can't compare with what is going on in my head"). The animators who worked with him on Fritz—all of them men who have worked with the tired, cynical old pros in charge at most studios today—found Bakshi a "most unusual" director, much younger and more talented and enthusiastic than what they had been used to. Marty Taras, who worked on Fritz in New York and is one of Bakshi's admirers, remembers Bakshi as "nervous and fretful, like a mother hen trying to lay an egg on a hot pavement."

Bakshi is an artist—his love for what he does is palpable—but he is an artist who speaks in the urgent accents of Brownsville. The well-bred inanities of a filmmaker like Stan Vanderbeek are alien to him. Bakshi is sensitive about his Brooklyn veneer ("People expect me to drive a cab"), but at times he recognizes that his roots are a source of strength, and that without them he might not have made Fritz. He says: "My background—the fights, the way I grew up—might have been the best thing in the world to prepare me for one of the biggest fights in this industry, to get animation talked about again. ... I am the right man for the right time in this business. Maybe it needs a fighter to revive it, because no one else can."

Bakshi was born on October 29, 1938; his father was a Russian immigrant who worked in a sheet-metal factory, his mother worked in the garment district. He has one older sister. Brownsville was not exactly fertile soil for a budding artist, and in Bakshi's case, the urge to draw was late in coming. In his adolescence, he remembers, "it was the usual bullshit—guys, gangs, basketball, broads. I was playing the part, with my blackjack and things, and whatever the guys were doing, I was doing. I went to Thomas Jefferson High School, and one day, I was walking around, really depressed, I don't know why. I got a lot of girls, my hair's combed back in a d.a. ... The academic thing was okay; I was able to skin by without doing much work, so that was cool. I was walking on the second floor and there were some drawings up, by kids in the senior class, that had all gotten blue medals and green medals and red medals. I just looked at them and I said, man, I can do better than that. Mind you, I had never drawn in my life. Sometimes my ego is unreal.

"That afternoon, I was sitting on the steps in front of Thomas Jefferson, in front of these doors that lead to the street. There was this banging on the door behind me; they couldn't open, it because I was sitting there. The door was banging against my back, and I was slamming it shut because it hurt, but I wasn't budging—that kind of thing. I'm getting ripped in the back and I keep getting angrier and slamming the big steel door shut. I stepped back, and I was going to rap this kid in the mouth when he stepped out of there—and the principal steps out. He said, 'Young man, you'll be in my office tomorrow.'

"I went to his office the next day, and he tells me I'm nothing, I'll never be anything, I'm a typical hoodlum, etc. He told me there was nothing I could do, and I said, bullshit, I can draw. He said, 'If you can draw, you don't belong in this school, and we'd like to get rid of you anyhow. There's a school uptown called the School of Industrial Art that takes guys like you.' The School of Industrial Art started in the eighth grade; it was a vocational school, but it was highly specialized training. So, if you were a really good artist, you could leave junior high school to go there. The last chance to get in was coming up; you had to take a test. I got very excited—something really hit my head. I almost started to tremble. I couldn't explain it. I went up the next day to the principal with my cards saying I was allowed to take this test. There were about thirty kids in this auditorium, all latecomers like me for various reasons. There was this model up there, and the test was that you had to draw the model in different poses. Out of the thirty kids, they took ten, and I was one of the ten.

"I transferred out of Jefferson the next week. Everyone laughed. My mother flipped, my father broke up. It was ludicrous. I took cartooning and illustration all day; I dropped all my academic courses. That's what the principal had meant at Thomas Jefferson—if you don't want to work, you go to Industrial Art, too. You could spend three years drawing all day. You could sit there and do zero, get your diploma and split. You were allowed to take as many art courses as you wanted, and for every art course you took you had to drop an academic course. So I dropped all my academic courses, and took art all day. I drew day and night, day and night, around the clock. I never hit the streets any more. Guys used to come up and call for me, and I'd tell them to forget it. During my last two and a half years at Industrial Art, I lost thirty or forty pounds. I was working like a madman. My mother got very nervous. I wasn't drawing that well; I just loved it. For the first time in my life, I was doing something-something I really enjoyed. Anyway, to make a long story short, I walked out of the school with the cartooning medal. It was the first and only thing I ever won in school, and one of the few things I'm really proud of."

Bakshi graduated from the School of Industrial Art (now the High School of Art and Design) in June 1956. In November 1956, a few weeks after his eighteenth birthday, he went to work for the Terrytoons studio in New Rochelle, a New York suburb, as an "opaquer," painting the cels on which drawings of the characters had been traced in ink. At that time, Bakshi didn't plan to make animation his career; he wanted to draw comic strips, and he took the job at Terrytoons as a way of marking time. However, his rise up the ladder at Terrytoons was very rapid, for reasons having as much to do with unsettled conditions at the studio as with Bakshi's own talent.

Terrytoons, for most of its life, has not been a studio that nurtured budding animators. The "stars" of Terrytoons were characters like Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, Gandy Goose, and Sourpuss, who, when they had personalities at all, were pale and derivative. So were most of the cartoons in which they appeared. The late Paul Terry, who founded the studio and ran it until he sold it to CBS in 1955, was an important figure in the history of animation (the young Walt Disney studied Terry's cartoons when he was learning the craft), but that doesn't make most of his cartoons any easier to look at. When animators who worked for Terry reminisce about him, they remember him talking about money. "We are turning out a five-and-ten-cent store product," one veteran quotes him as saying. The cartoons look it. Terry did not seek quality, and he only rarely got it. At their best, the Terry cartoons have a loose-jointed, springy quality that can be appealing, at least in small doses. But most of them are coarse and formless, lacking the precision—of timing, of movement, of expression—that made the best Hollywood cartoons of the thirties and forties so memorable.

Bakshi went to work for Terrytoons at a crucial point in the studio's history. After Terry sold the studio to CBS, Gene Deitch was named "creative director" in June 1956. Deitch set about turning Terrytoons upside down, and that was his downfall—and Bakshi's opportunity.

Deitch's assessment of the old Terry studio is harsh: "That studio must have surely ranked the next-after-1ast on any roster of cartoon studios. For thirty years they had been making the crassest of unadulterated crap. I was trying to make a renaissance on the most moldering foundation to be found anywhere." (Veterans of the old days at Terrytoons would probably agree with that; one former Terrytoons director, who moved to the West Coast a number of years ago, says of the studio, "I am still trying hard to live down my association with them.")

Deitch, who was thirty-one when he took charge at Terrytoons, had worked for UPA's studios in Hollywood and New York, and he tried to reshape Terrytoons into the UPA image: great sophistication in drawing and stories, limited animation, an emphasis on color and design over movement. Such distinctive artists and writers as Ernest Pintoff, Jules Feiffer, and Bob Blechman joined the staff.

Under Deitch, Terrytoons made some exceptionally attractive films, including the Tom Terrific television series and a number of theatrical cartoons, among them The Juggler of Our Lady, Flebus, and the first few cartoons in the Silly Sidney series. To get what he wanted, Deitch took unusual measures. He exercised strong control over all the studio's cartoons from start to finish, to the point that the director's function was significantly altered. It was not just that all decisions on stories remained in Deitch's hands; his control extended beyond that. He recalls:

"I developed, with Tod Dockstader [his sound effects man], a completely new way of making a cartoon sound tracks by mixing [music, voices and sound effects] in advance of animation. In this way, I was able to control the total, detailed timing of the film before it ever got to the animation director. He and the animators got a complete reading of all dialogue, sound effects and music cues to work to. With the general level of staff I inherited, this was the only way to set a new style and tempo of action."

[A 2004 note: As I didn't realize at the time, Deitch's method was actually a refinement of the method Paul Terry had used from the beginning, recording the complete soundtrack for a cartoon in advance and requiring the directors and animators to adhere to the timing established by Philip Scheib's score and the accompanying sound effects.]

In other words, the directors really were "animation directors"—they were in charge of the animation, and nothing else. They would prepare layouts and hand out assignments to the animators, but that was about where their responsibilities ended. The timing of a cartoon is probably the director's single most important job, and that was taken out of the Terrytoons directors' hands by Deitch and his story men. When Ralph Bakshi became a director, a few years later, Deitch's innovation had been transformed from a device to ensure quality into a straitjacket—at least from Bakshi's viewpoint.

The most important holdover from the Paul Terry era was not a director, or an animator, but a man named William Weiss; by 1956, he had the title of general manager. Weiss was in charge of getting the old Terrytoons onto television, a job at which he was highly successful. While Weiss was bringing money in by peddling the old cartoons, Deitch was spending money making new ones. CBS (with, Deitch says, the help of a few nudges in the ribs from Weiss) noticed the difference. Deitch lost his job in April 1958, and Weiss took over.

Terrytoons' brief flowering ended with Deitch's departure. Under Weiss, the quality of the studio's cartoons sank rapidly to depths never explored even by Paul Terry. The talented men brought into the studio by Deitch began bailing out, and that gave Ralph Bakshi the chance to show what he could do.

In the flux after Deitch left, Bakshi remembers, "the place was in a panic. They were in the middle of this television series, and they needed animators. They asked everyone if they could animate, and I said I could. This is insanity, right? There was so much going on in this crazy transition that if you said you could, they said go ahead. I didn't know exposure sheets, I didn't know anything. But I figured if you keep it moving, it's going to move. The checkers climbed the wall, the cameramen quit on me—but after six months, it was like sink or swim, I started to animate. I still don't know if I could be an assistant animator.

"Consequently, in a year, people thought I was the best animator in the place. I was totally uninhibited, no one taught me. There were no rules I went by, and the things looked kind of crazy on the screen. Some of it was terrible, some of it was fine. I'm sorry houses like Terrytoons aren't around any more, because whatever you could do they'd let you do. They were interested in saving money. Guys would tell me I was crazy for staying there when I could work in other studios, but I was getting more experience, and getting a lot of things out of my system that were wrong. I locked myself in my room and had a wonderful time. People would tell me to go here or there, and I'd say, 'Forget it, I'm learning.' Basically, I had a ten-year apprenticeship."

Marty Taras, who was a director at Terrytoons when Bakshi was climbing the ladder, remembers that Bakshi "was imbued with an almost religious zeal in learning. He had an amazing drive to learn plus an indefatigable capacity for hard, round the clock work. It's part of his makeup—Drive! Drive! Drive!"

Bakshi began animating in 1959, working on theatrical cartoons with some of the new Terrytoons characters—Deputy Dawg, Hector Heathcote, Hashimoto. In 1964, he became a director of cartoons starring such dreary and short-lived characters as Sad Cat and James Hound.

By then, the word "director" as used at Terrytoons didn't mean what it has traditionally meant in animation. As in Gene Deitch's day, the complete soundtrack would be delivered to the director, with the timing fixed. The director would also be given the storyboards for the picture, with the story broken down into a series of rough sketches. The director's function was to prepare layouts—that is, drawings showing how the action would be stagedin each shot—and then to animate the entire cartoon from his layouts. The traditional concept of the director as the supervisor of the picture—setting the timing for the cartoon and overseeing the story, the layouts, the animation, the voices, the backgrounds, and so on—had been abandoned, and the man who had the title of "director" was, in fact, merely a layout man and animator combined.

Tom Morrison, a Terrytoons veteran who was head of the story department under both Deitch and Weiss, was the director in fact if not in name. Morrison remembers Bakshi now as "particularly enthusiastic, with a unique talent and style all his own. He was a prodigious worker and completely believed in his own judgment in everything he did. We had the usual differences of opinion but I felt we got along very well."

Bakshi is not so gentlemanly when recalling those "differences of opinion." "When I directed my own pictures, I broke up the timing," he says. "They'd time the storyboards and deliver you tracks that were fixed. And everyone else in the place didn't care, they just did it that way. I broke up the tracks, retimed, re-directed, and consequently got in a lot of trouble."

It's surprising that anyone cared, since the Terrytoons studio under Weiss must have been stifling for anyone who cared much about animation. The footage requirements Bakshi cites are astonishing, at least for theatrical cartoons: "They expected seventy feet a week; I had some weeks of a hundred and eighty, and I'm sure they're very embarrassing. But at any decent studio I would have been out on my ass, so I have mixed emotions."

The budgets, he recalls, were as low as the footage requirements were high. "Eight thousand dollars was what they wanted you to bring them in for, and sometimes we brought them in for six, because we got into so much damned re-use [of animation]. We just started doing re-use at some point, we just didn't care. The footage requirements were very high, and Weiss was very strict on them. You were young, you panicked, you just wanted to hold your job down, to learn. Eight thousand up to twelve or fifteen was the highest budget you had for any five- to six-minute short. It came in at about a drawing and a half a foot. The only way I could rationalize it was to give the illusion of motion, to see how much motion I could get from those few drawings. It never worked. You ended up fooling yourself, endlessly."

In 1966, after a year and a half as a director, Bakshi became Terrytoons' creative director (or supervising director, as he was called on the payroll records), in effect stepping into the position Gene Deitch had vacated eight years before. He was twenty-six. "CBS made me creative director upon seeing some of the films I had done by myself," he says. "They saw the theatricals and they flipped because there was something different. I don't say it was much different, but anything a little different at Terrvtoons was noticeable."

A title is one thing, but the reality is another, and the reality evidently was that Bakshi had less power than Deitch did. Bakshi began colliding with Tom Morrison and William Weiss: "I wanted to go upstairs and do my own recordings, and they wouldn't let me do that. Then I sat in on Tommy's recordings and then I retimed the stuff." The conflict extended throughout the studio: "There were key groups of guys who had grown up with Weiss at Terrytoons and weren't about to do me any favors." The depth of the animosity can be measured by Weiss' attitude; his response was surly when I asked him about Bakshi last year.

Bakshi, for his part, soon decided that the game was not worth the candle, and he remembers that in his gloom he began drifting into Negro bars in Brooklyn, spending hours drinking there. He recalls:

"Even if I had managed to be able to change the style and get the guys the way I wanted them, it still was unimportant to me. I don't mind the fight if the fight has some meaning. But the thing we were geared for was television sales; in other words, CBS wanted me to break into television, and do good work for television, and try to improve the theatricals. But the subject matter. . . I'd get very excited about a storyboard for the first three days, very excited about trying to do something different. But it just wouldn't be there. Whether I did a better cartoon or not, it didn't matter. The cartoon itself was geared for a very young audience. I didn't know what was wrong at the time; I wasn't that clear on what was bothering me so much. I rationalized and thought it was the fighting with Weiss, but it was twofold. One, the fighting with Weiss, and two, even if I did a great Bugs Bunny, what did I have? Another great Bugs Bunny, and I still would probably enjoy the old ones better. That was the kind of funk I was in."

After eight months as creative director, Bakshi left Terrytoons to become director of cartoon production at Paramount Pictures' cartoon studio, the only other studio of any consequence in New York that was still making cartoons for theaters.

Whatever Paramount's merits as a refuge from the office politics at Terrytoons, it didn't have much to offer for a cartoon director aspiring to better things. Throughout the forties and fifties, Paramount's distinction was that its cartoons were a notch or two better than those Paul Terry was making.

Paramount's origins were more promising than that. The studio began as the Fleischer studio, in the early days of animation. The Fleischer brothers, Max and Dave, distributed their cartoons through Paramount Pictures Corporation, starting in 1929, and lost control of the studio to Paramount in 1942. Although the Fleischers' cartoons were mostly as earthbound as the other New York cartoons of that period, their Popeye series had some vitality, and a rough charm, and the Fleischers were the only cartoon producers of the time to challenge Walt Disney's supremacy as a maker of long cartoons; two Fleischer features appeared before the studio changed hands, and at least three Popeye cartoons were double the usual length for shorts.

After the studio became Paramount's, and cartoons began appearing under the direction of Seymour Kneitel and Isidore Sparber, any suggestions of quality rapidly vanished. By the fifties, Paramount cartoons were providing a sort of fever chart for animation. To learn what was wrong with animation at any point during that decade, it is necessary only to watch a handful of the Paramount cartoons made at the time. There are the imitations of UPA, devoid of any of UPA's wit and visual elegance; the Popeye cartoons, with their stale, overworked plots; the cartoons with Baby Huey and Herman and Katnip, geared to children, as earlier cartoons had not been. And so it went. Pencil tests were abandoned, and the animation became hard and crude. In the early sixties, Paramount turned to television cartoons; it made some for King Features, and then, in the mid-sixties, made the Mighty Thor segments for the sixty-five half-hour shows that starred five of the Marvel comic book characters—Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, et al.

By that time, Paramount was enjoying a small renaissance, under the supervision of Shamus Culhane, a former animator for Disney and director for Walter Lantz who had become director of production for the Paramount studio in 1965. Under Culhane, Paramount made not only Marvel cartoons but also a cartoon called My Daddy the Astronaut, which was designed to resemble a child's crayon drawings; it was the first Paramount cartoon in years to receive any serious attention.

The Marvel cartoons were made for Steve Krantz, a TV producer who had made a deal with Marvel and then had farmed the work out to Paramount and a California studio, Grantray-Lawrence. Krantz had begun his career as a producer for NBC. He was director of program development and then head of international sales for Screen Gems, finally leaving to form his own distribution and production company. In 1967, his subcontractors were at work on three animated television series—the syndicated Marvel super-hero cartoons, a Saturday-morning network program about another Marvel hero, Spider-man (spelled "Spiderman" for television), and a syndicated show called Rocket Robin Hood.

In May 1967, Culhane left Paramount to go to work directly for Krantz, and Bakshi stepped into Culhane's job-an event that was to be repeated with Culhane's new job in about six months.

The same month that Bakshi took charge at Paramount's cartoon studio, Charles G. Bluhdorn, the head of Gulf and Western Industries, became president and chairman of the board of Paramount itself. Bluhdorn's stay with the company was destined to be a lot longer than Bakshi's. As Bakshi tells the story, it sounds apocryphal, but he insists that it's true: "Bluhdorn came to the studio for the first time, he's walking through the studio and he says, 'What the hell is this?' They told him it was a cartoon studio, and he says, 'I never bought this. I make films, what is this?' They said, 'Of course, it comes with the whole package.' Fade out. Fade in, three months later, they closed the place down."

The doors closed at Paramount's cartoon studio on December 1, 1967, putting Bakshi out of a job; he says he refused to take more than four weeks' salary after the studio closed, even though he had a three-year contract. Bakshi had time to finish only a handful of cartoons before the closing, perhaps only two. One, called The Opera Caper, had originated with Shamus Culhane; it was to have been drawn in the style of My Daddy, the Astronaut, but Bakshi made it in traditional line animation instead, a switch that precipitated the firing of an artist who disagreed with Bakshi's decision. The other was more significant; it was called Marvin Digs, and it was, as Bakshi says, "a flower-child picture."

Marvin Digs is an offensively bad picture, the kind that makes people who love animation get up and leave the theater in disgust. Bakshi himself doesn't have much good to say about it ("I saw the picture once somewhere, vomited and left") and says that it was not finished the way he wanted. But he attaches importance to that cartoon because "that basically is when I started to get involved with things that are happening. Marvin Digs was going to have curse words and sex scenes, and a lot more than that. Marvin was a hippie kid. Of course, they wouldn't let me do that. The procedure was, I ran the studio, and no one was there except me and my crew, but I had to send my storyboards up to the main office, two blocks away.

"Had I been the same guy then that I am now, and if the new job hadn't been so exciting to me that I wanted to go a little slow—I thought I had three years—I would have done whatever I wanted to, anyway. The beautiful thing about animation is, no one knows what you're doing until it hits the screen. It's not like live, when you can see the rushes the next day. But I did what they told me to do, and watered Marvin Digs down to a typical 1967 limited-animation theatrical. But I was still very excited; it was one of the best times of my life. I felt very good from gaining confidence from running a studio without Weiss. I was flying by myself, and that felt good."

In the meantime, Shamus Culhane had gone to Canada for Steve Krantz, to oversee the production by a Toronto studio of a science-fiction series called Rocket Robin Hood. The problems that confronted Culhane in Canada apparently were staggering, and he and Krantz quarreled and parted in the fall of 1967. Krantz turned to Bakshi, after learning that he was available; Krantz says that he had met Bakshi at Terrytoons, when Bakshi was creative director there, and later had heard good things about him from the executive in charge of Paramount's cartoon department. Bakshi says he was reluctant to take the job when Krantz offered it to him, but "the next week, I was in Canada. I learned that I really could not stay out of a cartoon studio for more than a week without getting real sad."

Rocket Robin Hood was one of those projects that is doomed from the start—Bakshi remembers working with Italian and Spanish animators through interpreters—but Bakshi evidently made the best of hopeless circumstances, as he had done at Terrytoons and was to do again when running a studio for Krantz in New York City. One artist who worked on Rocket Robin Hood says that "Ralph was in tune with the science-fiction needs of the series and the further need for a more cinematic approach." Bakshi provided that "cinematic approach" by bringing in comic-book artists Gray Morrow and Jim Steranko—both highly regarded as illustrators of stories of the science-fiction and "swords and sorcery" variety—to draw layouts and storyboards. Bakshi recalls: "My attitude there was, okay, screw motion; I made the animators trace the layouts, to try to maintain at least a good drawing quality."

The Canadian studio folded in the spring of 1968, and Bakshi returned to New York after six months in Toronto. Meanwhile, Krantz had been having problems with Spiderman, which was being made for him by Grantray-Lawrence in California. Grantray-Lawrence had gone bankrupt late in 1967, after completing twenty half-hours of Spiderman, and so the demise of the Canadian studio left Krantz with two homeless television series on his hands.

Krantz said in a letter that he had learned his lesson about subcontracting animation:

"We did not have satisfactory performance from subcontractors in the animation field. There is natural enmity. The producer and the subcontractor are absolutely at opposite poles. The producer wants the best in the picture and the subcontractor wants the least in the picture. So we learned, after experiences that were in some ways unpleasant, that if we were going to be in animation, we would have to do it ourselves. Ralph struck me as not only creatively able, but also administratively able, and so we decided to start a studio and not put ourselves in the hands of others."

The new animation studio got off to a shaky start. Bakshi remembers a desperate search for the necessary animation equipment, until finally some ancient desks were found in a loft in the garment district ("Guys did Mutt and Jeff on this stuff, would you believe"). The new studio finished work on Rocket Robin Hood and cranked out Spiderman half-hours—thirty-two in all—at the rate of one a week, with a fifteen-man crew. That was a small crew to be doing that much animation that quickly, and Bakshi says that it was "very, very difficult. I thought I was insane sometimes. Terrytoons looked good at one point."

In order to spew out Spiderman at the required rate of speed, Bakshi made as much use as possible of Grantray-Lawrence's animation, stuffing each half-hour full of scenes of Spider-man swinging from building to building. The Bakshi-Krantz studio "was built on leftovers," Bakshi says. "Quality wasn't my objective then, it was getting the studio started." As in Canada, Bakshi was willing to throw animation to the wolves in order to get his films made.

After Spiderman, the Krantz studio made a variety of films, none of them distinguished; there were commercials with Peter Max, and a "Max the Mouse" series of five-minute educational films that mixed a smidgen of animation with photos and drawings of historical events.

This was not the sort of stuff that required an animation director's intense concentration, and Bakshi remembers getting restless. "It was so easy to do, it was such a nothing, I didn't really care that much about it, I started thinking about what I'd really like to do in animation." That eventually led to Fritz.

[Click here to continue to the next section of "The Filming of Fritz the Cat."]

[Original article © 1972 Michael Barrier]

Home  |  Capsules  |  Commentary  |  Essays  |  Funnyworld Revisited  |  Interviews  |  Books  |  Links  |  Bio  |  Feedback