Ralph Bakshi

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Ralph Bakshi

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Ralph Bakshi began his career at Terrytoons, still a student, where he was a cel polisher. He advanced quickly to animator and director, leaving Terrytoons to head up Famous Studios for its last couple of years. He directed a string of remarkably personal, adult features in the early 1970s- Fritz The Cat, Heavy Traffic and Coonskin. With Wizards, he introduced rotoscoping, a technique he used to keep animation costs down during a dark time for animation. He teamed with John Kricfalusi to produce Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, which revolutionized television animation. He retired to New Mexico to teach in 2005.

Family and early life

Ralph Bakshi was born in October 1938 in Haifa, Israel. In 1939 his family came to New York escaping the war. He grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and went to the High School of Industrial Arts now called High School of Art & Design. Bakshi ended up graduating with an award in cartooning in 1957.

Career outline

Bakshi went to work for Terrytoons Animation Studio in New Rochelle as a cel washer, graduating to cel painting. Practicing nights and weekends he quickly became an inker, and then directly to animator (by claiming an empty desk on the animators floor and, claiming that he was promoted to animator, asked for scenes to animate for characters such as Mighty Mouse, Heckle & Jeckle, Deputy Dawg, Foofle & Lariat Sam.

By 25 he was directing these shows as well as Sad Cat, James Hound and others. At 28 he created and directed The Mighty Heroes and was made Creative Director of the studio. 1972 found Bakshi releasing his first feature-film, Fritz the Cat. The X-rated film garnered rave reviews and sequel, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat, was released in 1974. Bakshi’s 1975 film Coonskin parodied of Disney’s Song of the South (1946) and met with strong backlash.  Bakshi wrote, directed, and produced Wizards (1977) which dealt with the creation of Isreal.

In 1978 he worked on the influential The Lord of the Rings utilizing the rotoscoping process to enhance the realism of the figures. After working on television and taking a nine-year absence, Bakshi directed the feature Cool World (1992) that combined animation with live action. He wrote and directed Cool and Crazy (1994), a project he started in 1979.  

Personal style

Improvisational and intensely personal, which is unusual in a collaborative medium like animation. Heavy use of rotoscoping, mixes many aspects of classic animation into his films/projects.


Cartoonists: Fontaine Fox, George McManus, George Herriman, Jack Cole, Billy DeBeck, Eugene Zimmerman, TS Sullivant, Frost, Kemple, Ernest Shepard, Willard Mullin, Bill Mauldin  Painting: Edward Hopper, Hyam Soutine, Francis Bacon, Reginald Marsh  Photography: Diane Arbiss, Weegee

Honors and awards

Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1988 Several films inducted into the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art American Cinematheque: Egyptian Theater Retrospective




  • Lenburg, Jeff. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2006.

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