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Western Animation / Fritz the Cat

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"We ain’t rated X for nothin’, baby!"

"Hey, yeah, the 1960s? Happy times. Heavy times."

Ralph Bakshi's directorial debut, this 1972 feature film adaptation of Robert Crumb's comic strip Fritz the Cat is famous for being the first feature-length adult animated film in the United States, receiving an X rating upon its original release.note  It streamlines three plotlines from the comic into a linear story, with more political and social commentary than what had previously been largely light entertainment.

The film follows the adventures of a sex-crazed cat named Fritz who, after deciding he's had enough of the college life, drops out and roams New York City (later taking a roadtrip to San Francisco) in The '60s, ostensibly looking for a cause to join in, all the while anything that could go wrong does.

Over the course of the story, Fritz spends time with stoners, talks to black people (represented by crows) in Harlem where he meets Duke, very briefly meets with some Rabbis, goes on a road trip with his girlfriend Winston Schwartz, and ultimately meets up with extremists who scheme to blow up a power plant. Unsurprisingly, he spends most of the movie running from the police (represented as, of course, pigs). Of course, his goal of finding himself always seems to take a back seat to more immediate gratification in the form of either carnal pleasures or good ol' fashioned weed.

Having previously helmed several TV shows, Bakshi came across a Fritz comic in a Manhattan book store and went straight to author R. Crumb to ask for the rights to turn the comic into a film. Although Crumb gave Bakshi a sketchbook of his to help him learn to draw Fritz, he was highly doubtful of the film's potential for success, and never agreed to sign over the rights to greenlight the film. Producer Steve Krantz, however, struck a deal with Crumb's wife, allowing the film to begin production; Crumb was paid $50,000 for the film rights. Despite its limited release, it gained favorable critical response and great commercial success, remaining one of the highest-grossing independent films of all time. This enabled a sequel to be produced in 1974, titled The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat.

Although aired in 1080p on HDTV and MGM's streaming service in 2017, it has never been released on Blu-ray and the 2002 SD DVD edition is out of print.note  In 2021, it was available to stream on Prime Videonote  and a planned Blu-ray release (along with a separate Blu-ray of Nine Lives).


  • The '60s: The film is a little inconsistent on when exactly in the sixties it takes place. Golda Meir is mentioned as the Prime Minister of Israel and one of the crows says "Who do you think I am? Geraldine?" (a character created by comedian Flip Wilson in September 1969). This might suggest that the film takes place in the fall of 1969. However, in the opening scene, a billboard advertising John Huston's film The Bible, released in September 1966, is visible. Given the lack of references to The Vietnam War or Martin Luther King Jr.'s death (which would be fairly common topics in the late '60s, especially in a movie about race relations and political revolution), and the fact that most of the comics by Crumb were written in the mid '60s, may suggest that the film takes place circa 1966.
  • Accidental Murder: In a surprisingly sudden and sad turn of events, Duke is shot by a stray bullet while attempting to keep Fritz safe from the gunfire. However, he appears as a ghost playing pool in the sequel.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the original "Fritz the No-Good" comic, Fritz actually joins in on Harriet's gang-rape. Here, he's horrified and tries to help her.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Granted, the rapist-looters in "Fritz the No-Good" were already highly villainous, but here, they're made significantly worse by being neo-Nazi anarchists who dynamite a power plant.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Poor, poor Harriet.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Especially Fritz, as every other scene is him ogling or sleeping with various women.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Bakshi has referred to Winston Schwartz as such. As if her name weren't indicative enough.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Averted. When one of the pig cops is thrown through a church window (somehow lacking his pants and undergarments), you can clearly see his junk.
    • Until he takes his shirt and coat off, Fritz is usually drawn with this.
  • Animal Stereotypes: Feline Fritz is something of a coward, let alone a hypocritical coward. He rants about how much he hates college and that he could have spent his college years having fun before burning down his textbooks - ultimately regretting it in the end cause he was too afraid to rebel against and leave the education system like he had called for and then fears he'll end up without a good career or job and his parents will punish him harshly for this. Later on, he calls upon the crows to rise up against the police blaming the pig cops for keeping the wealthy in power, starting a riot and all-out war between the crows and pigs but when Fritz finds himself in the middle of the riot, he gets frightened and runs off from what he started.
  • Animated Shock Comedy: The Ur-Example. While it was by no means the first adult animated film, it was the first to receive an X rating, and to market itself based on this fact.
  • Anti-Hero: Fritz is a self-absorbed, manipulative and sex-loving jerkass. However, see Jerk with a Heart of Gold below.
  • Author Appeal: A big reason that Crumb disliked the film was that Bakshi took what was ultimately apolitical light entertainment and used it as a basis for his own opinions of the hippie movement and race relations. There's also the many reflections on Bakshi's own Jewish upbringing, such as the scene in the synagogue invented for the adaptation and the gang of looters from "Fritz the No-Good" being changed to neo-Nazis.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: At least that's what Fritz thinks. He rallies up the black crows and gives a Karl Marx-esque speech towards them (he specifically uses the word "proletariat") that the police are enforcing the rule of the "bosses" (elite rich) and putting everyone else in a relatively weak position of power. But there is no evidence to support Fritz is telling the truth, at least not on-screen.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Most of the cast.
  • Blame Game: When Fritz rallies the crows to gang up on the pig cops, accusing them of keeping the bosses in power, the cops stupidly buy Fritz's speech themselves and blames the other one while denying that himself is to blame ("Fuck you!", "You first!")
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Occasionally, Fritz will look at the camera to react to what's going on. He makes the talking motion with his hand while Winston chews him out.
  • Camp Gay: The first crow to appear, who flamboyantly tells off the girls trying to flirt with him via positive discrimination.
  • Chick Magnet: Fritz attracts five different women throughout the plot.
  • Closed Circle: Averted; once Fritz gets into trouble for inciting a riot, he hightails it out of New York and never looks back.
  • Condescending Compassion: The Establishing Character Moment for the three girls Fritz later has sex with shows them with good intentions, but the crow is clearly annoyed by their Soapbox Sadie antics.
  • Covers Always Lie: While Fritz appears pretty much as depicted in posters, the female cat never appears or is mentioned in the film.
    • Though she does resemble the bespectacled, feline member of three girls Fritz engages in sexcapades with, so it's possible it's her, with a prototypical character design.
  • Crapsack World: New York in the mid-late '60s. Not unusual for a Bakshi film, however.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: When Fritz rallies the crows to overthrow the pig police force, the crows and pigs are engaged in battle. The pigs easily bulldoze over the crows with better technology (including Air Force fighter-jets) while the crows only manage to kill three pigs. Hundreds of crows die in the process, with Fritz having to run for it.
  • Depending on the Artist: There is no attempt whatsoever at uniformity when it comes to animation styles; there wasn't a high enough budget for it. On the plus side, this gives the film quite a bit of variety and allows each artist's style to be showcased more easily.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Both films contain one, though Nine Lives uses it to show one of the ways Fritz dies.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Fritz when he and Duke steal a car.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: And not just Fritz. Nearly every scene has him or some other character either engaging in intercourse or getting felt/feeling someone up.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even a manipulative, perverted manchild like Fritz has zero tolerance for rape and is seen comforting Harriet after he fails to save her.
  • Face Palm: Duke does this complete with "Aww MAN!" when Fritz calls the crow bartender "boy".
  • Fantastic Racism: Somewhat. Crows stand in for black people, however the terms "crow" and "black/negro/colored" are used completely interchangeably.
  • Femme Fatale: Winston Schwartz, as evidenced by the song which introduces her:
    She makes men into boys
    She makes giants into men
    She'll have you feeling guilty
    Before you can count to ten
  • Fooled by the Sound: Fritz is lying in a hospital bed, a victim of a bombing at the power substation. Three weeping furry female visitors come to see him, which leads the policeman outside his room to believe Fritz is a goner. When he hears some noises come through the door, the cop takes his hat off, certain that Fritz is in his death throes. Inside the room, Fritz isn't dying, nosiree, not even close.
  • Funny Background Event: When Fritz is preaching for revolt on top of the car in Harlem, someone in the crowd yells "Get the fuck off my car!"
  • Gender-Blender Name: A girl named Winston?
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Pretty much everyone.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: Fritz later encounters a drug-addicted neo-Nazi rabbit, Blue, who isn't that friendly. The rabbit would later chain up, beat and rape a horse, his girlfriend, Harriet.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Duke dies saving Fritz by getting shot by a stray bullet. Not only is he one of the friendlier and more sympathetic characters, but he's also the only male character to care about Fritz's well-being.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Fritz refers to a black bartender as "boy" immediately after telling Duke how much he understands race relations.
  • I Have a Family: Ralph tries to save himself and his partner from getting ripped to pieces by an ensuing mob by showing them a photo of his kids.
  • Improv: A few scenes, such as the opening on the construction site and the conversation among the patrons in the crow bar, were voiced by NYC pedestrians whom Bakshi would approach at random and interview, paying them $5 each and using audio of their candid conversations as dialogue.
  • Intellectual Animal: Regardless of one's personal opinions on this matter, it's clear that Fritz only barely understands what he's talking about and is most likely just regurgitating words he's heard other people with more personal experience have told him.
  • Interspecies Romance: Fritz's girlfriend, Winston Schwartz, is a dog.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Fritz is a self-righteous, self-serving, entitled, immature pervert who brings about trouble wherever he goes. He's still horrified by Harriet being gang-raped and actually tries to comfort her after it. He even delivers a "Reason You Suck" Speech to the neo-Nazis later on.
  • Karma Houdini: The Sadistic Satanic Neo-Nazi Junkie Terrorists who made Fritz plant the bomb inside the power plant near the end of the movie and made it explode along with Fritz still in there, and beat poor Harriet pretty bad. We just never hear of them again.
  • La Résistance: Deconstructed and Parodied. Fritz is a college dropout who has a naive and idealistic view of left-wing revolutions. After irresponsibly delivering a nonsensical pseudo-Marxist speech that causes a neighborhood of black people (portrayed as crows) to riot against the police and experience mass death and destruction, he cowardly flees as he witnesses the highly violent and unpleasant realities of an actual revolution.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: After Fritz ends up causing a riot between crows and pigs. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck (via silhouettes) are briefly seen cheering as airplane fighter jets fly across the city.
  • Leitmotif:
  • Mature Animal Story: One of the earliest animated films that feature a cast of anthropomorphic animals geared towards adults and deals with heavy subject matter.
  • Medium Blending: The power plant explosion is stock footage of a real one.
  • Never My Fault: When Fritz and Winston's car breaks down in the desert, a trucker stops by and tells them that the car simply ran out of gasoline. Winston berates Fritz for this and makes him walk to the nearest gas station with a bucket in hand as if the situation was his fault, even though she's the one who has been driving the car the entire trip.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted with two entirely different female companions of Fritz, both named Winston. The first is a fox who engages in the orgies at the beginning and the end. The other, a dog named Winston Schwartz, goes on a road trip with Fritz, but breaks up with him out of annoyance. Oddly, both these characters are similar enough in appearance that first-time viewers might just assume that a new voice actor was brought in. That Other Wiki says that Bakshi may have named both characters Winston as a haphazard way of making up for the fact that Fritz's girlfriend Winston suddenly pops up in the film with no introduction and he wanted to try and make it seem like both characters were the same person to remedy that.
  • Only Friend: Duke is the only male character to show Fritz any empathy.
  • Photo Montage: The film ends with pictures with many different location spots from New York City, including an area that was referenced in the beginning of the film.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: EVERYONE, especially the titular Fritz the Cat qualifying as this since just about everyone is pretty goofy in this story.
  • Police Are Useless: The two pig cops never successfully uphold the laws they intend to enforce.
  • Police Pig: Police officers are portrayed as corrupt, incompetetent, anthropomorphic pigs. The film was a major reason why the 19th century usage of "pig" as an insult for cops made a big comeback in The '70s.
  • The Pornomancer: Fritz is able to bed several strange women on charisma alone.
  • Precision F-Strike: Discussed.
    Pig Cop #1: (to his rookie partner) "Now, you have the deeper voice so on three, you yell 'Open the fucking door.' Now, you've got to use the word 'fucking' because it makes you sound tough."
  • Product Placement: Fritz and Winston Schwartz at one point eat at Howard Johnson's.
  • Random Events Plot: The film opens with Fritz playing music at the park, then later visits Harlem where he starts a riot after getting drugged up by a female crow named Big Bertha, then finally encounters a neo-Nazi bunny named Blue.
  • Rape as Drama: Fritz sees Blue preparing to rape Harriet by hitting and tying her up her with metal chains. We don't see the rape; Fritz tries to stop him, only to get burned by the female lizard.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Harriet getting raped by her boyfriend is the only scene in which a sex act is shown in a completely negative light (along with said sex act not being shown). Even Fritz is horrified and tries to stop him.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Fritz's girlfriend, Winston Schwartz, isn't even mentioned until her appearance in the last third. Her disappearance is just as abrupt. Supposedly this is why Bakshi gave the fox character in the female trio the same name, to try and pass off both characters as the same person so the real Winston's sudden and unexplained appearance wouldn't be so jarring. However, it's arguably more jarring this way, since the fun and easygoing "Winston" in the beginning suddenly becomes a nagging, hateful, abusive wench without explanation.
  • Revolutionaries Who Don't Do Anything: Applies to a few characters, notably Fritz has some moments where he is one. This was more so the case in the comics.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Fritz's response to what the revolution was about.
    Revolutionist: Me and you have been assigned to blow up the power plant. That's all I care about. The revolution. (turns the radio on)
    Fritz: (turns the radio off) You're full of shit! All you care about is a reason to hurt, to destroy, to blow up! You don't know what a real revolution is! None of you sons of bitches do!
  • Simpleton Voice: The unnamed pig-cop partnered with Ralph. Ironically, he seems to be the smarter of the two.
  • Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: Somewhere between 3 and 4. It adapts three stories from the comic, the first two wholesale but the last only slightly, retrofitting it to make sense within the narrative, and is bookended by two completely original scenes.
    • The opening scenes of Fritz and his friends in Washington Square Park leading up to the bathtub orgy is adapted from the comic simply called "Fritz the Cat", adding the girls' being Innocently Insensitive to the crow, who originally ran off because Fritz lied to him about where he could get some drugs rather than left of his own accord, and the ending scene in the synagogue. The bear cops are also changed to pigs.
    • The bulk of the plot is adapted from "Fritz Bugs Out" and only changes the beginning and the end. In the comic, Fritz's rant about wanting to see the world and live life to the fullest was the direct result of an encounter with a hippie girl he meets at a party, then goes back to her house and has sex with. Here, it begins in the dorm and his rant is depicted more as pretentious navel-gazing. Later, when he's stranded in the desert, he train-hops his way back to New York and his dorm, promptly getting mugged on the way.
    • The last act is the loosest adaptation, "Fritz the No-Good". Originally, Fritz was a deadbeat husband and father who hooked up with Winston and, later, a gang of small-time crooks after getting kicked out by his wife, eventually winding up in jail. The only aspect that remains is the gang, here neo-Nazi anarchists. Also rather than try and stop them from raping Harriet, Fritz originally joined in.
  • Spoof Aesop: The ending, in which Fritz concludes that he should stick to having sex with everyone he can and let the world take care of itself.
  • Sinister Swine: The incompetent, antagonistic police officers are pigs.
  • Stoner Flick: A cartoon version of this trope to boot.
  • Teeny Weenie: Fritz is supposedly turned down for sex by Big Bertha (who he got high with) because of this (and is euphemistically described as "[not] black enough"), but as it turns out, she was just teasing.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Winston gives one to Fritz after he calls her a bitch:
    Winston: I see the hard facts of life! I am realistic, something you're incapable of! You'd be better off with one of those stupid little morons like Charlene who you could just sleep with and throw away when you're done! You can't cope with a mature woman! You haven't the faintest idea how lucky you are, than an intelligent woman loves you, and wants to give you something of value; something that will inflame your creative potential!
    [Fritz rolls his eyes, gives an Aside Glance, and makes a "talking too much" gesture with a smirk]
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Duke the Crow is one of the few genuinely nice characters who cares about Fritz's well–being. He gets killed by a stray bullet during a shootout which Fritz himself incited, trying to get him out of danger.
  • Underground Comics: The film is based on the Robert Crumb comic of the same name.
  • Vapor Wear: Bertha and Harriet both wear no underwear and skirts too short to cover their butts.
  • White Man's Burden: How Fritz sees the race relations problem in America. He strolls into a bar in Harlem not knowing much more than what he learned in an NYU class and immediately assumes it's enough to be accepted by the black community, on which Duke makes no hesitation calling his bluff. Even after spending more time socializing with black characters, he doesn't grow sympathetic to their plights so much as offended on their behalf, encouraging them to express their anger towards racism with riots. It gets them all gruesomely gunned down, including Duke himself.
  • Working Through the Cold: Real-life example. Animator Ted Bonnicksen, gravely ill with leukemia during production, was so dedicated that he took his work home with him and worked until his death.
  • World of Funny Animals: The entire film mostly takes place in this setting, except for the chickens and seagulls.

"Far out."


Video Example(s):


Duke the Crow

We meet Duke the Crow, an African-American crow in Harlem, whom Fritz the Cat becomes friends with. As for his Leitmotif, a smooth jazz theme is used for him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / Leitmotif

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