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Fritz the Cat: Animals in a Human World

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Dewayne Perkins

May 11th, 2011

Matthew Marsden

History of Animation

Fritz The Cat: Animals in a Human World

Ralph Bakshi used anthropomorphism and water colored background traces of live photographs to create a genre all of its own. It was gritty, satirical, almost amateur-esque in its animated quality. These films were loaded with violence, sex, drugs, and characters based off racial tensions and stereotypes. Yet, the films from this genre have made a mark on history because of those exact reasons. Ralph Bakshi was born October 29, 1938, and migrated to America with his family in his youth. He got his animation start at Terrytoons studios where he worked as a cel polisher. He quickly worked his way up to become an animator, and then a director. He was very ambitious and soon outgrew Terrytoons and created his own studio. His career continued to further and he became known for his animated fantasy films such as Wizards (1977), Lord of the Rings (1978), and Fire and Ice (1983). But, his most noted film was Fritz the Cat. It was created in 1972 as Ralph Bakshi debut feature film. The main character, Fritz, was based on the comic strip of the same name by Robert Crumb. Fritz the Cat was an anthropomorphic cat con artist who lived in New York City in the 1960's. He was a college aged student attending New York University and partook in college related absurdities that often involved drugs, sex, and violence. Bakshi created this satire to challenge the roles of race, politics, and American youth.

Fritz the Cat uses traditional 2D animation, the same as all the other big studios at that time. The biggest difference between Fritz the Cat and a traditional Disney movie is the content. Fritz the Cat was one of the only animated films to get an X-rating. Another big difference between Fritz the Cat and other traditional films of that time were the methods used to make Fritz. Step one involved the director and animators traveling around New York City to take pictures of landscapes, and other significant locations and neighborhoods around the city. Step two was to take those live pictures and trace over them to create the backgrounds that were seen in the film. The last step was to use water colored paintings to paint over the traced pictures, to create an urban realistic setting that traditional animations of that time did not have. The character design of the animals featured in Fritz the Cat also aided in creating this new genre of Bahski's. The characters were divided racially. Caucasians were represented by cats, pigs, and horses while the African Americans were represented by black crows. The actually look of these characters varied in specificity, such as the crows being one solid color, while Fritz himself was multi-colored and more detailed.

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