Quotes: Ralph Bakshi

"From my first day at Terry Toons to my last, which was by the way about 15 years, the conversation by animators always revolved about anticipation, squash and stretch, holds, timing, etc., etc. Two more frames here would make that hit funnier, two more frames there would make that hit slower. Disney did this and that and not only this but that too. On and on and on and on and on... It was fun at first, but then it got old. Very old. Wasn't there anything else to this business besides this? Oh, yeah, there was. This Disney studio kid was saved by merchandising, do you know that? Yeah, so make sure everything you do has a doll in mind. Because even if you blow it at the box office, the doll will save the studio. So then you can go on to do another picture that blows it in the box office, but the coloring books will save this one. We all had to animate 50 feet a week, plus layout our own animation to stay on budget. With no pencil tests — that's right, no pencil tests, you learned what you did on the final print three months later or not. That was Terry Toons. That was reality. We weren't allowed to finesse the animation like at Disney, so why talk about it endlessly? There had to be another way to beat them. (This stays true today. I just saw Tarzan and the animation is incredible. I think it is the best film Disney has ever done.) As my hero animator, Jim Tyer, used to say, "Hey Ralph, stop worrying. Everything moves, so put it down, have fun and go home." Yeah, Jim had fun, more fun than any animator I knew at the time. He distorted, he drew off model — yes, off model, and threw shapes around like he was Jackson Pollack, the animator. He had fun. The rest of the guys stared at Disney and cried, "If we could only do that, boo-hoo." Jim would walk around the inking department — yes, hand-inking with Crokille pens — telling the inkers, "Don't worry about where my line is, don't stiffen up the animation, keep it loose. The color will hold it together. Have fun. It is just cartoons." This, compared to another guy who would scream, "You wiggled the nose on that cel! What are you doing ruining my animation that way!" To do whatever you want; to make statements like Bob Dylan marching down South for voting rights and integration; to hit a note like Miles Davis and John Coltrane; to be free like Rock 'n Roll taught: that's what was blowing in the wind during my youth, whether we realized it or not. On Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Hey Good Lookin', Wizards, we had no pencil tests. What I did have was the brilliant golden age animators on my side. Who loved what they were doing — finally. Virgil Ross, Irv Spence, Manny Perez, Bob Carlson, John Sperry, Ed Barge, Tex Avery (he was Irv Spence's best friend and used to come in and hang out a couple of times a week until he left the planet), John Vita... These guys loved what we were doing. They were free to create, to say anything and man, could they animate. Not the slick, boring, perfect stuff, but the "I really feel this scene" kinda stuff. I believe in what I am drawing. I believe in what I am drawing. What adult animation means to me is not tits and ass, but the right to animate any subject or idea you have and let the ratings fall where they may. All I wanted to do was animate the things I thought about and not the dolls they thought about."

"It’s probably inconceivable to you guys, but I made my feature films with no pencil tests, no storyboards, no retakes, no color keys, no character designers, no special effects department, nothing, zip, nada- because we had to. (How I did that is another discussion altogether.) I was my own animation director- everything came to me. I flipped the drawings and gave the OK. God bless the professionalism of Irv Spence, John Sparey, Ambi Paliwoda, Virgil Ross, Manny Perez… all those guys who animated for me, because they’re the ones that made it all come alive."
Ralph to young artists

"I’ll tell you a secret… Not having pencil tests was liberating for the animators who worked for me. They knew I was expecting creativity, not perfection. I wasn’t gonna be standing over the moviola looking at their tests saying, “raise that pinkie finger a little higher” or “fix that lip flap”. There was no room for retakes. Knowing that made them unafraid. No one was going to look over their shoulder and second guess them. They puzzled out the scene, expressed themselves through the character, and moved on to the next scene. You better believe- they loved it!"
Ralph Bakshi on his films

"When I was young, I had a dream- and a rage over Disney’s insistence that nothing worked on the big screen unless it was perfect- redone and reworked until it was flawless. I always thought the difference between my films and the Disney ones was the difference between rock n’ roll and a symphony. I love them both if the music is right. But a lot of spoiled animators claimed that I was ruining every young kid’s life with my rough animation- and that Terry-Toons and I were nothing. I didn’t listen to them, because I always felt that honesty, leaving the pack, telling stories that were part of the director’s personal life and not some merchandiser’s idea- all those things were more important than Disney’s insistence on perfect animation."
Ralph Bakshi

"Some history- Early on, hand drawn was great- Fleischer’s Popeye, Jim Tyer, Freddie Moore, Rod Scribner, Bill Tytla, Johnny Gent… the direct, fresh stuff. But then suddenly, along came “real good animation” with all its complication, and the long painful looks, big shrugs and sighs, batting eyelashes, cutesy pie phony crap until you want to vomit… Overnight, all the old greats were forced to either kill themselves, stay drunk all the time, or quickly fade away. Animation got saddled with a bunch of boring, repetitive, old fashioned, dumb cliches. I am NOT going to tell computer animation to follow that road. Sure, computer animators should look at hand drawn animation to learn. But don’t get down on your knees. Don’t make the same mistakes hand drawn animation made at the end. Study the right stuff. There’s a hell of a lot more to learn from a Fleischer Popeye than there is from some “epic fantasy” like Prince of Egypt."
—Ralph Bakshi

"I wouldn't leave Disney to do Disney."
Ralph Bakshi on the works of Don Bluth

"I am not interested in slickness for the sake of slickness. In other words, too many of the Disney animators, and a lot of the guys that come out of Disney and the films that try to emulate Disney, are trying to hit what they call "quality levels" – which are really not quality at all. They're boring mannerisms, and the actions and reactions of the characters are something you've seen in every movie going back to the beginning of Disney, but they're now not discovered – they're copied, so they become very manneristic and lose heart. Starting with the fact that we are cartoonists and it is a cartoon medium, I think the death of all of that is slickness. So what's most important to me is "Are the emotions real?" Are the emotions real enough not to be lying to audiences. Most of the animated films I watched, the emotions are all prepackaged like canned music, the hand actions, and then the sighs. Those sighs by the young men, like in El Dorado – like "Gosh, gee whiz" – are all not to be believed and all lying to audiences. I love real emotions. Bob Clampett had it in his Warner Bros. shorts – his Bugs and his Daffy are off the wall. The drawing was distorted and more funny than it was slick. I think that's what's most important in animation, is the emotions and the ideas being portrayed. I'm a great believer of energy and emotion, and the slickness, or the "quality" of animation is not that important. I think full animation is important, but honest animation is key. It's basically how I was able to do feature films and compete, because I hired Warner Bros. guys and guys that came out of Fleischer. I hired guys who were just workmen, whom didn't think they were great… Who weren't mesmerized by the Disney hype and publicity. But boy, Manny Perez, Irv Spence, Bob Carlson, Virgil Ross – those guys are the greatest animators in the world. They didn't fuss over their stuff – they just came in and knocked it out, sort of like a jazz musician. As opposed to some classical musician, who really doesn't know what the f*** they're playing. I think it's emotional first, and then cartoon crudeness should follow up that emotion. That's what I prefer."

"When you blame great animation – like Katzenberg and those guys have, who make the world's worst pictures… and then when the pictures don't work, like horses trying to eat apples off of trees and talking – I don't believe how bad that was – they blame the technique! "I will never," says Katzenberg, "I will never do 2-D animation again." That's like killing the messenger! You know what I'm saying? All the old great companies – Fleischer, Disney, Warner Bros., Paul Terry – they all were run by guys who animated or knew what an animator meant, and guys who knew how to draw. All the companies today are run by executives. Look what Disney's done to their animation department. There wasn't an animator in charge of their animation unit – it was all these execs coming in. I don't really understand how Michael Eisner could allow that. This disdain for animators. I animated 20 years at Terry Toons. You've got to know what the guys are doing at their desks so you can relate to them and they can relate to you. It's important to know that animators like pizza and a raise once in awhile, and you've got to treat them with love. If you treat them like s***, they're going to come in and not feel like drawing. So it's like anything else, it's all in how you treat these guys. I think American animators are being destroyed by machinery and these non-animators running major corporations. They're spending more on sequences than I spent on all of my movies! Yet my movies continue to be found and be sold because there's something going on in them, and basically it was as honest as I could be and not worried about what people might feel about what I'm doing. Because you can't second-guess yourself as a filmmaker. Bob Clampett never second-guessed himself. Chuck Jones either. And those guys were off the wall. In a corporate setting, they got away with an awful lot."

"John [Kricfalusi] is so arrogant. He thinks he's me!"
Ralph Bakshi to Tom Minton during the production of "Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures."