March 27, 2015

Fritz the Cat

SCA Welcomes Revolutionary Animator Ralph Bakshi

Ago and Bakshi in SCA 108

The history of animation has many luminaries in art, technology, business, and innovation. None of them are as beloved or bizarre as writer/director and animator Ralph Bakshi, who visited the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) after a screening of his X-rated cartoon feature Fritz the Cat. The screening was followed by a Q & A moderated by SCA Director of Programming Alessandro Ago and was presented by Visions and Voices. Fritz the Cat tells the story of a cat who studies at New York University trying to find truth in the subcultures of the revolutionary 60s.

Fritz the Catis the highest grossing independent animated film in history, but Bakshi told the audience that it started with almost no expectations of success: "The film was done for a million dollars. It was done with a ton of heart by good, old-fashioned animators. And it worked. It made a fortune.

“I learned that it isn't necessarily how good you draw; it's what you're saying on the screen. Fifty years later, all of my pictures are still playing, which shocks me. They're basically about people. They're about people and how hard they try. I love my people. They're crazy and obscene, but they're doing the best they can. All the pictures that were made when I was doing Fritz have disappeared and my films are still here. I'm not promoting bad quality, but what I'm saying is to just go for it if you have something to say."

Bakshi began his career at Terrytoons studio. After the success of Fritz the Cat, he went on to write and direct Heavy Traffic,Lord of the Rings,Last Days of Coney Island,Coonskin, and American Pop. His career spans fifty years and includes revolutionizing Saturday morning cartoons with The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse.

“[In the 50s], animation wasn't the big deal that it is today. All the old cartoonists — which I loved — they worked in circuses, they were bums, they went through the depression. They were very colorful people. Good cartoonists. Good people. None of us expected to do much in animation. All you could really do was love the artform. It was a road to nowhere."

Bakshi summed up his career by saying, “My career was a lot of luck. A lot of stupid, stupid luck. I wouldn’t advise my career path to anybody.”

Visions and Voices is a university-wide arts and humanities initiative that is unparalleled in higher education. The initiative was established by USC President C. L. Max Nikias during his tenure as provost in order to fulfill the goals set forth in USC's strategic plan, to communicate USC's core values to students, and to affirm the human spirit. Emphasizing the University's commitment to interdisciplinary approaches, the initiative features a spectacular array of events conceived and organized by faculty and schools throughout the University. The series includes theatrical productions, music and dance performances, conferences, lectures, film screenings, and many other special events both on and off campus. Each program invites students to dialogue and interact with artists, writers, professors, and special guests. These interactions provide a dynamic experience of the arts and humanities and encourage active exploration of USC's core values: freedom of inquiry and expression, team spirit, appreciation of diversity, commitment to serving one's community, entrepreneurial spirit, informed risk-taking, ethical conduct, and the search for truth.