Neglected Virtues: Fritz the Cat (1972)
Publication date: 01/12/2017
The title character of this film, the first animated feature aimed at an adult sensibility, was the creation of underground comic book author Robert Crumb. Crumb was the most successful of a number of comic creators in the late 1960s and early 1970s, alongside such as Gilbert Shelton and Bobby London (whose work was later adapted for the screen in Dirty Duck). Crumb’s published book of Fritz stories was bought by Warner Bros. and eventually secured by the team of producer Steve Krantz and animator Ralph Bakshi. Although the resultant film was a critical and popular hit, and a pioneering work in the field of animation, Crumb loathed it and a lengthy court battle ensued during which the cartoonist had his name removed from the credits. During the squabble, Krantz and Bakshi also ended their partnership, so that when the sequel came to be made, it was done without Bakshi’s creative input. Fritz the Cat emerged as the first American animated feature designed as a social comment on the 1960s. Although many will forever nostalgically associate it with that era, the film is quite scathing in intent, despite its endearing irreverence, and makes for surprisingly resonant viewing – a true hallmark in the evolution of the animated feature. Bakshi went on to make a number of provocative animated features in the 1970s, establishing himself as America’s foremost auteur in the field.
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