May 16 2012
With the exception of anime (which I am leaving off the list, or we would be here all day), the biggest misconception people make when it comes to animated films is that they are all made with the intent of having children as their target demographic. In some cases, that could not be further from the truth. Animation is an incredible medium in which to tell a story, and some directors realized that, at the time, they could do more (and get away with more) using animation than they could shooting the same story, live action.
Also, the certain simplistic animation techniques that could be implemented were time saving and money saving (rotoscoping), even if the ends results were, at times, not pretty. And though the animation could be weak at moments, the intricacies of these tales often revealed themselves over time, and not upon initial viewings. As a child, I went at some of these with the “it’s animated, so it must be made for me” mentality, and the end result was me being traumatized by a few of these. In hindsight, though, now I can see just how subversive and brilliant some of these films are. Ofcourse, as is the case with any medium, some of these are shocking just to be shocking, so the beauty here is digging deep, and finding the diamonds among all the coal.
Fritz the Cat
Yes, you will see a few Ralph Bakshi films on this list, as I am sure you were somewhat aware. If I were a bit lazier, I could have done ONLY Bakshi movies, and been done with this list in ten minutes, but I decided to focus on only a few of his films, and try to capture a bit of a wider range. But as far as cartoons aimed at adults, he is the innovator, and Fritz was the forerunner.
For the uninitiated, Ralph Bakshi was pretty much the anti-Disney. He made independent, adult-oriented animated films. And though he has many to his name, and a bit of a cult legacy, it all began with his first film. An animated version of the much loved Robert Crumb comic strip, Fritz the Cat, which was released in theaters in 1972. It was also the first animated film to ever receive an X rating.
Yes, Fritz the Cat was an X rated cartoon that was released in theaters, although not many.
The best way you can describe Fritz the Cat if you watched it right now is it is a sex and drug fueled comedy that fears no taboo and takes pleasure in crossing lines that few would fear to tread. It is racially insensitive, politically incorrect, and honestly, a little uncomfortable to watch. Well, at times, a lot uncomfortable to watch. Rape scenes in cartoon are not cool, which is why there are so few of them in old Looney Tunes cartoons anymore.
Are there awards for most racist thing ever? Because this pic would win one.
That being said, this movie was a wake up call to people who really did think that animated films with talking animals were only done by Disney.
In Fritz’s world, animated character would literally be “done” by Disney.
While Fritz the Cat was just a little too over the top for me, Bakshi would go on to blow my mind eleven years later, with…
Fire and Ice
Inspired by the “too awesome I cannot find the proper words to sum it up” fantasy artwork of the immortal Frank Frazetta, and an actual collaboration between the two artists, Fire and Ice was a somewhat typical sword and sorcery movie. Regardless of that, when you see that movie at nine years old, and up to that point all you knew were Mickey and Donald, it can be a pretty life changing moment . My father is an artist, and was a huge fan of Frazetta, which is why I was lucky enough to see this movie with my older brother and my Dad when I was so young.
This is Frank Frazetta’s art. Death Dealer might be one of the greatest paintings ever. If I had a van, this would SO be on the side of it.
Fire and Ice it had everything that made movies awesome to me: Axes, Ice Queen’s, Ogres(or orcs or trolls or subhumans whatever you choose to call this particular version) breast physics, feminine, long haired heroes (I was a weird kid), badass sidekicks with a vague moral compass who chooses to fight for good, killing, ice mountains, lava lakes, buxom calendar girl type damsels, and animation. Hell, most of those STILL meet my requirements for a perfect film.
Also, finding out Robert Rodriguez bought the rights to the film and is remaking it is what inspired this list. The film has begun to show it’s age, and I can only imagine what type of madness Rodriguez will inject into the it when he gets his hands on it.
This already has that Robert Rodriguez feel to it.
Also, funny trivia fact: Thomas Kinkade (who recently passed, and was famous for all those Bob Ross type nature paintings that end up on candles) painted quite a few of the backgrounds in this film. So Ralph Bakshi, Frank Frazetta and Thomas Kinkade walk into a bar. Sounds like the opening of a nerd joke that has no punchline.
Let’s go see an animated movie about talking rabbits, they said.
It will be adorable, they said.
They lied! But what the movie lacked in cute, it made up for in badass, so it is OK.
Ever since Thumper in Bambi, I have loved animated, talking bunnies (please do not comment about the differences between rabbits and bunnies. I know….), so it only made sense to us that I would want to see a movie that was FILLED with animated, talking bunnies. Well, imagine my horror when the bunnies started killing each other. Well, it isn’t that simple, but it does get there.
It is a movie about a pilgrimage some rabbits make, and the hardships they encounter. From the politics between the rabbits themselves, to issues as heavy as death, the movie is unexpected, but utterly engrossing.
Now despite the fact that the film messed up my young mind at the time, watching it now, it captivates me. I still feel like it handles death with more grace than most movies do, and that scene when Simon and Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes is playing just a truly breathtaking moment in a film, and it is a moment where you completely lose sight of the fact that this movie is animated. Rarely do animated movies summon emotions like this in a viewer for as long of a time as this film does.
in hindsight, the movie poster should have acted as a warning to my young mind.
You know that feeling you got when Bambi’s Mom gets shot? Yes, this movie is that feeling, the whole time. But that does not make it a bad film. It is emotional and exhausting at times, but there are also moments of true beauty and brilliance, and it is worth the journey just to see how it plays out.
BUT, it is said, you cannot talk about Watership Down without talking about….
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