Ralph Bakshi talks about his sketchbook, Lord of the Rings & working with Brad Pitt on Cool World

Ralph Bakshi is the man responsible for films like Fritz the Cat, Coonskin, American Pop, Heavy Traffic, The Lord of the Rings (’78), Wizards, and Cool World.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat about drawing with Ralph as well as how he got the rights to make the animated Lord of the Rings movie in 1978 to working with a young Brad Pitt on Cool World.

Eddie Bakshi talks about producing “Last Days of Coney Island” and this year’s Kansas City Film Fest

If you’re a fan of classic animation you surely are a fan of Ralph Bakshi. In his five decade career he has created such seminal animated features as “Fritz the Cat,” “Heavy Traffic,” “Wizards,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Cool World” and many more. This week at the Kansas City Film Fest a retrospect of his work will be shown, featuring screenings of “Heavy Traffic,” “Coonskin” and “Wizards,” culminating in a Q&A Skype session with the director after Saturday’s screening of “Coonskin.”

Introducing the films this week will be another filmmaking member of the Bakshi family, Ralph’s son, Eddie. Eddie caught the filmmaking bug at a young age and is finishing up his animated producer’s debut, “Last Days of Coney Island.” While waiting for the Fest to begin, Eddie Bakshi spoke with Media Mikes.:

Mike Smith: Can you give the readers a little inside introduction to the upcoming retrospect of your father’s films at the Kansas City Film Fest?
Eddie Bakshi: The festival is presenting screenings of three of his films: “Heavy Traffic,” “Coonskin” and “Wizards.” There will also be samples of the original art – the original animation cells used to make the film. They will be on display and some will also be available to purchase. In addition, he will be Skyping in to the festival after the Saturday evening screening of “Coonskin” for an audience Q & A. The audience will have a chance to ask him a question about any of his films, be it “Coonskin” or his latest film, “Last Days of Coney Island.” He’s currently editing that film right now and will actually be Skyping in on the same computer he’s editing on.

MS: Can you talk a little about “Last Days of Coney Island?”
EB: “Last Days of Coney Island” is a project that we’re both working on. He’s directing and I’m producing. We’re currently in the middle of editing it. It’s an eighteen-minute featurette. When we announced it on Kickstarter we had said it would be a five to seven-minute short but now it’s a bit longer. Actually, we may continue the project and turn it into a full length feature film. If we can get the funding we would like to tell the entire “Coney Island” story, which takes place in the 1960s and involves cops and a whole lot of seedy characters…the inhabitants of Coney Island. It will be a classic Bakshi film in the vein of “Heavy Traffic.” It has a lot of strange characters and they’re all interlinked. He’s very happy with what he has done now but he would love to turn it into a feature. He’s very happy with the story and how it’s going. He’s been very involved the past several months lengthening the story to eighteen-minutes. The art style is very interesting.

MS: You will be offering some of his original art and cells to the public?
EB: Yes. It’s a great way for his fans to own a piece of his work.

MS: Is this retrospect a way to introduce his work to new fans as well as letting old fans know about his newest project?
EB: It’s a new way to promote Bakshi Productions. It’s really the first real chance people will have to ask him about the project directly. There has been a real spike in the increase of interest in his work since the advent of outlets like Twitter and Instagram. Many new fans are being exposed to his work. An outlets like Facebook these fans are finally getting to see the images from his films and it generated a lot of interest in the new film. We’ve been getting offers from all over the country to attend film festivals to not only talk about “Last Days of Coney Island” but to show his older films as well. It’s kind of like a bundle package. Once “Coney Island “ is ready we can take that to festivals, or show a trailer for it with some of the older films.

The Kansas City Film Fest runs through April 13. For more information go to www.kcfilmfest.org

Ralph Bakshi talks about his Kickstarter campaign for "Last Days of Coney Island"

Ralph Bakshi is one of the last great animators in the business and also a good friend of mine.  He has created some really classics films like “Fritz the Cat”, “Wizards”, “The Lord of the Rings”, “American Pop” and many many more.  Ralph is trying to get his last his latest film, “Last Days of Coney Island”, started with the help of Kickstarter and his fans support. The film is planned to be “an animated cop, mafia, horror movie set in the 1960s in Coney Island, with political overtones both realistic and outrageous”. Sounds awesome right?

This is Ralph’s first and hopefully not last attempt at cr0wd-funding.  At the time of posting, there has been over 900 backers since it was launched and about $140,000 dollars pledged of the $165,000 dollars goal.  We are almost there but we need your help. Be sure to rush over to Kickstarter and help Ralph on this project and be sure to mention Media Mikes sent ya!. He is a man who fights for hand-drawn animation in an industry that is fighting against him. Click here to join the fight and see “Last Days of Coney Island” get made. The campaign ends on Sunday March 3rd around 12pm EST, so don’t miss out! Spread the word!

Check out our interview with Matthew Modine who recently joined on the film, click here.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about you decision to use Kickstarter for “Last Days of Coney Island”?
Ralph Bakshi: I am 74 years old and I didn’t want any trouble. I figured I would try and raise the money if I could and that way I would be able to do what I wanted. I am not looking for anything major. If it turns into something more like five shorts then I would be more than happy. But I have my freedom, as you can see and I am not bothering with anyone. I do not have to show around storyboards and scripts. It is really a great sense of freedom. We got a lot of push from fans, which is great. We even got a new large donation from a Formula One racer, since he said he grew up with my movies. I am amazed by that. I am really looking to the internet here. I would like to spark an audience reaction to find out what they think. I am not going to get big money online but I will still get to make the film I want.

MG: On the Kickstarter page, it lists the film as “Part One”. You mentioned there will be more?
RB: That is right. I will just keep going with the shorts. Also remember they are also pilots. If I get part one done, Hollywood will realize that this guy has a nice following and he is not dead, that is number one. Number two is that if I do something really cool, I can show it to somebody and have them finish it for me, like a promo real. That could always happen.

MG: Tell us about the involvement of Matthew Modine and how that came about?
RB: I just got this email from Matthew Modine. He loves animations and grew up with my films. He said he wants to come help me and came on as a producer. He will also be voicing a character called Shorty, who is very fun. Modine is great though and he has helped me out a lot. We got hundreds of news stories when Matthew Modine came on board. It has just been amazing. Kickstarter made people realize that I am not dead and it has helped quite a bit since we all know that Hollywood is all about hype.

MG: How do you feel your style of animation stands up in today’s times?
RB: My animation isn’t perfect and that is what companies like Disney they strive for…that perfection. I would love to do perfect animation but what that takes is money. So the perception in the industry is that my stuff isn’t good enough. Animation isn’t about perfect. Art isn’t about perfect. They take it too seriously. I am not perfect and they hold it against me. Uncle Walt wants perfect. I can’t. You can’t be perfect with $1 million dollars.

MG: What has been your biggest challenge that you faced with trying to get the word out?
RB: There has been a lot of support from fans, yes. But you look at the animation blogs, they are all taking to each other and no one has Bakshi on there. Let’s talk about Cartoon Brew, they have not mentioned a word about the Kickstarter for “Last Days of Coney Island”. They also never put up my last cartoon “Trickle Dickle Down” either. Now, I am a 74 year old animator who has been around for a while and has fought for animation over the years. Look, we are trying to do a lousy five minute cartoon. Yet they will not assist with us on this project. I am more shocked and upset out of amazement on this, but I am not bitter. If I succeed in “Last Days of Coney Island” doing hand-drawn R-rated film, which is possible not probably…but possible. If I get to make this into a feature and its makes big money like “Fritz the Cat”. All of Hollywood is going to say “Oh my God, hand-drawn and R-rated?” and everyone would be put back to work. So we may make it…we may not. It is very close.

MG: I have to ask what are your plans if funding does not meet your goal?
RB: I don’t have a backup plan. If I don’t reach the limit, then I don’t reach the limit. I would have had a good time. I am trying hard. But I am not going to go crazy. If the guys don’t support me then I won’t do it. If places like Cartoon Brew don’t want to mention that I am out here fighting for animation, especially since they are all for animation. Remember they get their ads from Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks and they realize that I am at it again doing stuff that those guys can’t do because of their family audience. So they don’t mention me. I just won’t do it then. I don’t want anyone to think I am angry. I am very proud. We raised a ton of money.

MG: Tell us about your team you’ve you have working with you right now?
RB: I have hired some great young animators. I got this Japanese guy from Brooklyn. He sent me his reel and they are very crude and very honest. I emailed him and gave him some work to do. I later found out that he was living on the streets in Brooklyn. He has all his drawing up on my Kickstarter page. His name is Tsukasa Kanayama. He is such an amazing guy. I also got this woman, Colleen Cox, who taught herself how to animate. What I am saying is that I love working with these young animators. I see the passion through their eyes and its reminds me about my own passion and what it is like to be young and have that drive. One of my animators JoJo Baptista is using Toon Boom Studio to work on the animation, which is 100% 2D. With this program, you can draw on paper and scan into the software. Toon Boom colors and does the in between. It works great. As the director, I want it to look like hand-drawn animation and they are and using this software to fill in the necessary in-betweens. Also My son Eddie Bakshi is producing and breaking his ass. He is taking on a lot of hard work and the Facebook stuff, which is beyond me. So we have a wonderful team and we are just waiting to see if this will work out.

Ralph Bakshi talks about ‘Wizards” and it’s possible sequel

Ralph Bakshi is now best for his animated films like “Fritz the Cat”, “Wizards”, 1978’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “American Pop”.  Ralph is a legend in the animated world and has such a unique vision.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ralph about his films and he even leaked a very cool top secret news about a possible sequel to one of his films.

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s talk about the recent Blu-ray release of “Wizards”, tell us about your involvement?
Ralph Bakshi: Fox did it all by themselves.  They can be a good company when they want to be [laughs].  They did the book by themselves, designed and remastered it.  Then they called me and told me that they were going to release it.  I nearly had a heart attack.  But I loved the picture and I think they did such a great job.

MG: “Wizards” only cost $1 million dollars and looks great, how do you feel about these polished $150 million dollar animated films today?
RB: The artists who are making these films today are so talented.  The kids today are coming out of school with this computer knowledge and its just great. I think it is all too much of the same.  I think that they focus more on the merchandising.  I think they should do something with more of a social bite or dabble in the R-rated area, if not only to do one and try and push the boundaries.   When I was doing my films like “Heavy Traffic” and “Fritz the Cat”, I was yelling at Disney for those same reasons.

MG: There aren’t too many people that are able to pull off adult animated films, why do you think that people steer clear of doing these?
RB: That is a great question Mike, let me tell you what it’s like.  Guys get the wrong impression about my R-rated films.  They think it is about sex, tits ‘n ass and cursing.  Basically what is underlining all of my films are political ideas.  In “Heavy Traffic”, Michael’s father was a racist and he had a black girlfriend.  Those are issues that far transcend the dirty words, the sex and the violence that people think that R-rated violence is all about.  I never start my animated films with trying to shock somebody.  I try to have a reason to make the film personable.

MG: A few years ago there was talk of a sequel to “Wizards”, any chance it will still happen?
RB: Well Mike, you are the first person to hear this.  I don’t know why they never made a sequel but right now, the head of Dark Horse Comics, Mike Richardson, is writing a script for “Wizards 2″. He and his partner are writing the script and he is very interested in making the movie.  I feel that Dark Horse is really the right team in order to get this project done. I will definitely read it once it is completed but I doubt I will direct, probably executive produce. I would also contribute storyboards and sketches for the film if needed. In order for it to work though, I feel that it has to also be political important with what is going on today.

MG: What would you say was your most difficult production?
RB: Well look, they were all hard.  I left the business burnt out and crazy.  Every picture I had was a massive fight.  Like with “Fritz The Cat”, Robert Crumb hated my guts and was screaming at me.  They gave me an X-rating and my mother was mad at me.  Everyone of them was hard.  Everyone of them I worked seven days a week with no money.  I am shocked but happy that people still love these films.  I am grateful to the internet and guys like you who have saved my ass.

EXCLUSIVE BREAKING NEWS: Ralph Bakshi announces “Wizards 2” script is in the works!

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ralph Bakshi this afternoon and he was nice enough to leak us a very exclusive tip. According to Bakshi, there is a script in the works currently for a sequel to his 1977 film “Wizards”.

Here is a quote from Bakshi in our upcoming interview:
“Right now, the head of Dark Horse Comics, Mike Richardson, is writing a script for “Wizards 2″. He and his partner are writing the script and he is very interested in making the movie.  I feel that Dark Horse is really the right team in order to get this project done.”

Bakshi addressed his intentions once the script is done:
“I will definitely read it once it is completed but I doubt I will direct, probably executive produce. I would also contribute storyboards and sketches for the film if needed. In order for it to work though, I feel that it has to also be political important with what is going on today.”

Stay tuned to Media Mikes for more breaking news on “Wizards 2”. We are also trying to get a quote from Dark Horse Entertainment’s Mike Richardson and we suggest to you to reach out to Dark Horse as well at dhcomics@darkhorse.com and let them know you want “Wizards 2”.  Our full interview with Bakshi will go live next week.