Interview: Ralph Bakshi Pt. 4 [of 4]

Categories:  Interviews

Ralph Bakshi is one of those rare artists who possesses a personality ever bit as colorful as the characters he creates. It’s no surprise then, that the man fit in perfectly amongst the Ren & Stimpy cast, when John Kricfalusi asked him to voice a part in his 2003 sequel to Fire Dogs.

That inspired partnership was also a happy reminder of the fact that, in spite of the animator’s remarkable ability to maintain a four-decade old grudge with a certain prominent underground cartoonist, Bakshi has long been a supporter of many of his talented peers.

In this final part of our hour-long interview with Bakshi, we discuss the artist’s favorite contemporary cartoonists and animator, and let him get off a few more shots against that aforementioned fellow counter-cultural icon.

[Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three]
Have you kept up with the contemporary comics scene at all?

There are so many great, strange comics out there. I went to the comic convention—I wish I could remember their names—they’re brilliant, and the drawing is awkward now and weird, and very wonderful. Everyone draws so well. I love [Julius] Knipl, you know, the real estate guy. I can never remember the names, but I think they’re sensation, especially the new underground, with the lines and the distortion. I see a renaissance there. It’s all tremendous. And Juxtapoz is wonderful—the best magazine around. Those guys are wonderful. I love James Jean. A wonderful artist. I think the new kids—I don’t know what kind of drawing they’re doing, but it’s marvelous.

Is there any kind of similar revolution happening in animation? Or has it stagnated?

That’s a good question. I think, believe it or not, with Nickelodeon, some of the shows that they’re doing are amazing. I think what kids are doing on their computers at home—what I catch on YouTube and what I see in schools—is amazing. I see spurts of great stuff all over the place. I’m not talking about the Pixars, where what they do is overwhelmingly beautiful. What they do is incredible, but the kind of stuff that I’m talking about, I see it everywhere. I see young kids really working with computers and doing wonderful stuff. I feel that there’s a huge renaissance and I thought the kids at SVA that I visited—I told them that I’m not coming through again.

The only reason everyone wants to talk to me again isn’t because I did so well. It’s because everyone did so poorly. No else has done anything since Traffic and Coonskin. I must drive my contemporaries crazy, because every time they fucking want to do something, here I come. It’s only because you guys have done nothing, not because I’ve done anything.

What I’m saying is I’m very optimistic. Kyle Baker is incredible. Unbelievable. I can go on and on about the talent. I went to the comic convention and walked down the aisles, and I bought thousands of books, because I just love the new art.

You love the art, but do you feel that there’s something lacking in the message in the books?

No. Here they come. It’s brilliant stuff.

Is there still a subversive quality present, like there used to be?

I’m not an authority on this stuff, like I used to be. I’ve seen some stuff—I think the subversive quality is there. It’s as much there as the underground ever had it. I don’t know about across the board—I haven’t read DC in a long time, and I haven’t read Marvel. I don’t like what they’re doing.

So it’s there, but it has a hard time bubbling up to the surface.

Yeah. Yes. It’s there, oh it’s there. Let me put it this way. If I had money, there are hundreds of things that I would buy, as compared to walking into a store and there’s only Fritz. The other guy I’m sorry I didn’t make a movie with is Spain Rodriguez. I love Spain. Spain is absolutely brilliant with his layouts. He’s such a good artist. I used him in Cool World to paint the walls. I was going work with him in my next project, but Crumb got me so disgusted and angry

I wanted to be friends with those guys. I still think what they’re doing is great. And all of those guys wanted to work with me. The only guy that screwed it all up is Robert Crumb. He said, “if you work with Bakshi, you’re not my friend.” I’m serious, and they needed him, because Crumb sold comics. In the old days, all of these guys would be able to make bread because Crumb would be a part of Zap and stuff. They’d all hand him their pages. He really hurt the others, as far as I’m concerned. I was dying to make a movie with Spain. I spoke to him six or eight months ago, just to touch base. Everything he did on Cool World, I have a drawer.

But the guys today are just as good. Meathaus is good. In fact, the Meauthaus guy did the book [Unfiltered],. John Gibson and Chris McDonnell are brilliant. Chris McDonnell did some of the greatest layout I’ve seen, and I love the way that John Gibson wrote it. He had the hard job of 40 years of a man’s life. It’s not easy to do in less than a year. I thought they did a wonderful job.

You ask me if there’s good stuff in comics? Yeah, it’s all around us. Maybe other people don’t see it. One of the things about me is that I’m a great fan of cartoonists. I’m a cartoonist who loves cartoonists. And one of the mistakes that all producers of animation make with young cartoonists is they don’t love cartoonists. They pass up a lot of stuff. That’s why so much of the stuff that you see isn’t animated. I wasn’t afraid of making Crumb world famous. When I picked him, nobody knew him.

–Brian Heater

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