For fans of grown-up animation, the most wonderful time of the year arrived in late October. On October 29, Ralph Bakshi, notorious auteur of naughty cartoon cinema (“Fritz the Cat,” “Heavy Traffic,” “Coonskin,” “Cool World”), celebrated his 77th birthday and officially announced his return to filmmaking. More important, however, Bakshi released his latest creation into the world via Vimeo on Demand for a modest $3.99 rental fee. Its name is “Last Days of Coney Island,” and it is a 22-minute, manually designed tribute to the desperate and colorful souls who populate a 1960s-era New York.
The art style of “Last Days” is traditional 2D; the film is mostly Bakshi-animated, and all of the backgrounds are Bakshi originals. Yet, physical technique might be one of the few elements that nods at classical animation precepts. In a holiday season that has “The Peanuts Movie,” “The Good Dinosaur,” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” as inventory, Bakshi’s bouncing baby is a definite standout, especially with regard to subject matter.
The LA Animation Examiner interrogates Ralph Bakshi in the interview below about the new addition to his family, which, incidentally, is not family-friendly due to renderings of nudity, violence, and other hallmarks of the Bakshi adult aesthetic.
LA Animation Examiner: Is “Last Days of Coney Island” meant to be a proof-of-concept short or a sizzle piece for a feature film?
Ralph Bakshi: “Last Days” is a complete movie in and of itself.
LAAE: Please describe the development phase, plus the pre-, main, and post-production processes of this movie.
RB: I was mulling the concept for some time. Then I wrote the screenplay to normal feature standards. When I started the 5 minute short, I realized that the screenplay was a bore. The short then grew to 22 minutes, which allowed me to tell the story that I was thinking about honestly, with no pandering to convention (old school, hand drawn animation on paper, with inking and painting, effects, matting, editing, mixing, all done on computer now with the many programs available).
LAAE: Do you have a past that is intertwined with Coney Island? Is that your inspiration for the film?
RB: My personal history in this film is growing up in Brooklyn and using Coney Island as a perfect metaphor for what was happening around me in the ’60s.
LAAE: How “Last Days” similar to your previous work? How is it different?
RB: Last Days is similar to my previous work in its honesty. It is different because I had complete artistic freedom to do what I thought was right for the story. This was applied in every area of production. I had no one to fight with. Felt very strange.
LAAE: What do you foresee as the future of animation for grown-ups?
RB: Commercially, I see no future now. There is a huge difference between adult animation used as an art form, and adult animation used commercially.
Thus, let us give thanks for non-commercial entertainment during this late 2015 cornucopia of mostly big-budget offerings! One need not look further than social media to find more about Ralph Bakshi’s animated baby new year: Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Merry viewing to all, and to all, a good night!