Imagine a main-stream animated feature with major distribution receiving an X rating from the Motion Picture Association of America going on to become the most successful independent animated feature of all time. Such was Fritz the Cat, (released in 1972) the brain-child of American animation and live-action film director Ralph Bakshi. It was on this day, October 29, 1938, Bakshi was born.
Between 1972 and 1992, Bakshi directed nine theatrically released feature films, five of which he wrote and established an alternative to mainstream animation through independent and adult-oriented productions. He has been involved in numerous television projects as director, writer, producer and animator.
Beginning his career at the Terrytoons television cartoon studio as a cel polisher, Bakshi was eventually promoted to director. In 1967 he moved to the animation division of Paramount Pictures and in 1968, started his own studio, Bakshi Productions. Through producer Steve Krantz, Bakshi made his debut feature film, Fritz the Cat.
Based on the comic strip of the same name by Robert Crumb, the film focuses on Fritz (voiced by Skip Hinnant), an anthropomorphic feline in mid-1960s New York City who explores the ideals of hedonism and sociopolitical consciousness. A satire focusing on American college life of the era, race relations, the free love movement, and left- and right-wing politics, Fritz the Cat grossed over $100 million worldwide
Over the next eleven years, Bakshi directed seven additional animated features. He is well known for such films as Wizards (1977), The Lord of the Rings (1978), American Pop (1981) and Fire and Ice (1983). After a nine-year hiatus from feature films, he directed Cool World (1992), which was largely rewritten during production and received poor reviews. Bakshi returned to television with the live-action film Cool and the Crazy (1994) and the anthology series Spicy City (1997).
During the 2000s, he has focused largely on painting. In 2003 he founded the Bakshi School of Animation and Cartooning. He has received several awards for his work, including the 1980 Golden Gryphon for The Lord of the Rings at the Giffoni Film Festival, the 1988 Annie Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Art of Animation, and the 2003 Maverick Tribute Award at the Cinequest Film Festival.
1891 – Fanny Brice (Borach) (actress: Ziegfeld Follies; comedienne: Baby Snooks; subject of film: Funny Girl; died May 29, 1951)
1899 – Akim Tamiroff (actor: For Whom the Bell Tolls, Anastasia, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Hotel Paradiso, Lord Jim, The Story of Louis Pasteur; died Sep 17, 1972)
1907 – (Robert) Douglass Montgomery (actor: Little Women, Harmony Lane; died July 23, 1966)
1947 – Richard Dreyfuss (Academy Award-winning actor: The Goodbye Girl ; Valley of the Dolls, Jaws, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Lost in Yonkers, Nuts, American Graffiti, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, The Graduate, Postcards from the Edge, In Mama’s House, Karen, The Education of Max Bickford; TV narrator: American Chronicles)
1948 – Kate Jackson (actress: Charlie’s Angels, The Rookies, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Baby Boom, Killer Bees, Satan’s School for Girls, Loverboy)
1967 – Joely Fisher (actress: I’ll Do Anything, The Mask, In the Loop, Inspector Gadget, Nostradamus, Normal, Ohio, Danny)
1971 – Winona Ryder (Winona Laura Horowitz) (actress: Little Women, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Age of Innocence, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Lucas)