Ralph Bakshi’s a fascinating figure to me, as much for what he hasn’t managed to do as what he has. He got a Lord of the Rings animated movie off the ground, then never was able to finish the story. He made an X-rated cartoon out of Fritz the Cat, but did so in a way that R. Crumb hated. He promoted radical left-wing politics in movies that nonetheless featured racial caricatures so grotesque that one could be forgiven for missing the subtext due to off-putting imagery. Never really having the budget to pull off many of his ideas, he developed rotoscoping techniques to save money. In the truest ways, his cartoons are punk rock – they may be ugly, but they’re brutally honest and out there.
I had the chance to interview him last year, and he seemed burned out on animation altogether, wanting to focus on painting. Sony had rejected a screenplay of his entitled Last Days of Coney Island, and when I suggested he make it independently with all the technological tools now available to an animator, he responded, “For me to go back to battle at 73 would be physically hard and mentally too tough.”
But it seems that something lit a fire under him again.
Maybe it was the convention love he got from touring to promote the new Blu-ray of Wizards, but he resurfaced last year with an animated short that, in typically outspoken fashion, compared Mitt Romney to Hitler while trafficking in the kind of inflammatory caricature that people politely pretended not to notice. And now he’s looking to make Last Days of Coney Island independently, as he should have all along. Done right, it could be both his lowest-budget and best looking project ever.
The rewards on this Kickstarter are killer, too. Donations of $150 above can net you such swag as original sketches, production art, animation cels, paintings…all for what you’d pay at a convention anyway.
You don’t have to agree with Bakshi, or even like everything he does, to find him an interesting and uncompromising voice. Whether Coney Island ends up being any good or not, it’s already a movie I can’t wait to check out.