Animation's Long Awaited Shot In The Arm

There are two iconic names within the Animation Industry that almost every fan of cartoons know: Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi. If you don't know who they are and reading this blog regularly, click those links read about their history and then come back. I'll wait.....

Right. Moving on. So recently, John K. successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund his short "Cans Without Labels", a hilarious tribute to a quirky habit of his father's.

He managed to raise almost 125% of his goal, thus securing the short's immediate future. With this success, I'm sure Bakshi thought it was high time to step up and give it a shot.

However, with 14 days to go (as of Feb 16. 2013) the campaign is only sitting at 41% of it's goal. I'm a little shocked by this and then again, I'm not. Bakshi is far from mainstream and only marginal likable from a mainstream point of view. But to the animation community, he is Important and relevant to our current state of affairs.

Bakshi is American Pop

His art is challenging and raw and beautiful all within the same breath. He is the antithesis of Disney and he doesn't want to placate you with heartwarming stories and vapid character design that is considered 'safe'* for the families of the world. He's there to set you on your ear and get you to think. Say what you will about his polish and style, that's what he's here to do. His chosen medium is animation. Personally, I can't say I love everything he does but that's not the point. I'm always challenged by what I see. I respect the work and the outside-the-box thinking that went into it. Even if it isn't successful within it's own context, it has to earn your respect for the sheer accomplishment. I recently watched American Pop again, after about 20 years from having first seen it. I found it gripping and compulsive, trippy and downright spectacular in the audacity of the narrative structure. It's now a genuine favourite of mine. You see, now I get it. There is no hero's journey. There is only a shadow of a three act structure. But there is a powerful through-line in a family's struggle down the generations that is absolutely gripping. And it's about as close to a happy ending as you're going to get from Bakshi.

Disney wouldn't have touched it with a 10 foot pole.

Kricfalusi: Heir to the Throne?

John K. states something that is surprising to some in this video. He credits Bakshi with the boom in creator driven shows of the 90s. For a long time Kricfalusi was credited with it because of his success with Ren & Stimpy. Bakshi's brilliant Mighty Mouse revival was conveniently forgotten about. 

Squarespace won't process the embedplus code properly so this image will click thru to the chaptered interview. At 1:16:28 Kricfalusi credits Bakshi with the resurgence of creator driven cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants. The whole interview is great.

Squarespace won't process the embedplus code properly so this image will click thru to the chaptered interview. At 1:16:28 Kricfalusi credits Bakshi with the resurgence of creator driven cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants. The whole interview is great.

Every generation needs someone on point turning over the tables of the status quo. Kricfalusi is not everyone's favourite bigmouth. Mostly because he insults the work being done by just about everyone. And people don't like to think their chosen path has been worthless. I can certainly relate to Kricfalusi's experience in the 80's to my own in TV animation. It's a wasteland of great talent languishing in mediocrity. The product is mediocre not the talent. Believe me.

Bakshi was and still is a great artistic, rebellious force. Someone to take inspiration from. Watch this entire video. The guy ain't lying. If I had the years immediately after school to do again, I would have taken his advice.

The Next Generation of Rebels

Nick Cross, Duke Johnson, Phil Tippet,  Ed Skudder and Zack Keller, who will be the next trailblazer for the indie animator? Some are industry vets working in teams, with even bigger names behind them with some startup capital to organize a Crowdfunding Campaign and grow some capital to pay all the people who are going to make their Great Work.......with one exception.

Nick Cross, a protege of John K.'s, certainly wears his influences on his sleeves in his previous shorts. But his ambitious feature Black Sunrise is being produced by a crew of one.

His Indiegogo campaign fell short of it's final goal but due to the type of campaign, he was able to keep what he raised. He's still producing the film and releases images every so often on his blog. I think it's going to be an impressive piece of work when completed.

Because he has bills to pay he takes on some commercial work but, I'm sure, manages to get a great chunk of work done on his feature on a daily basis. The man is prolific. If he had the time, he'd probably manage his marketing (social networking) campaign too but there are only 24 hours in one day.

But when Black Sunrise hits, I hope it goes viral. I really do. Even if it's just to prove a point. That animation artists can take their professional fate by the horns and direct it where they want to go.

Old Dogs Learn New Tricks?

As Kricfalusi mentions in the interview, Nick's adventures in crowdfunding inspired him to go with Kickstarter for his Cans Without Labels short. And though I have no proof at the moment, Kricfalusi's success most certainly inspired Bakshi to jump into the future.

The OneRing.net interview was posted in August of 2012. Near the end of the interview, Kricfalusi begged Bakshi to reopen an animation studio. If Bakshi answered the call, the least we, as a community, can show is our support. Not only for Bakshi and our art but for our future. If we want things to change for animation, the least we could do is to start putting our money where our mouth is.

Just before posting this, I ran across this article on Jojo Baptista at AnimationResources.org.

I'm not the only inspired by Ralph's Kickstarter campaign. Stephen Worth and I share very similar feelings on the subject Ralph Bakshi.


*How many Art of Pixar books do you own? Ever wondered why the beautifully awesome character sketches get watered down to their release versions? They aren't safe enough.