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American Pop (1981)

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The story of four generations of a Russian Jewish immigrant family of musicians whose careers parallel the history of American popular music in the 20th century.






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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tony / Pete
Frankie (as Marya Small)
Jerry Holland ...
Jeffrey Lippa ...
Roz Kelly ...
Eva Tanguay
Crisco (as Frank De Kova)
Rick Singer ...
Benny (as Richard Singer)
Elsa Raven ...
Ben Frommer ...
Leo Stern
Eric Taslitz ...
Little Pete
Gene Borkan ...
Beat Poet


"American Pop" is the animated story of a very talented and troubled family starting with 19th century Russia and moving through several generations of musicians. The film covers American popular music from the pre-jazz age through rhythm and blues, 1950s rock 'n' roll, drug-laden psychedelia, and punk rock, finally ending with the onset of New Wave in the early 1980s. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


One family, 4 generations, in love with the sound of American Pop. See more »


Animation | Drama | Music


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

13 February 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amerykanska muzyka pop  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The incident in which Zalmie's mother dies is the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, one of the worst industrial disasters in New York City's history. 146 garment workers, mostly immigrant women, died either in the fire, or by jumping from the windows of the 8th-10th floors because the doors were locked shut. The fire prompted legislative and union action to improve safety and working conditions in garment sweatshops. The words "Triangle Shirtwaist" can be briefly seen on the wall of the sweatshop during the first scene of the sequence. See more »


The German Soldier who shoots the pianist is wearing an American Helmet with a Swastika painted on the front (which was not the case in any German forces during the war). Also, his weapon is obviously a semi-automatic rifle but he fires it full-automatic as though it were a sub-machine gun. See more »


Palumbo: Don't you think it's time for a wedding?
Zalmie: How can I ask her? I don't have a cent.
Palumbo: You should have thought of that before you got her pregnant.
Zalmie: Who thinks at a time like that?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Disclaimer before soundtrack listings: The following songs were depicted as being written by fictional characters. The producer would like to thank the true composers. See more »


References The Jazz Singer (1927) See more »


As Time Goes By
Composed by Herman Hupfeld
See more »

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User Reviews

It's DEFINITELY different...
24 May 2004 | by (Mad City, Wisconsin) – See all my reviews

If nothing else, Ralph Bakshi is an innovator. He has been ever since he did the first X-rated cartoon, FRITZ THE CAT.

He's also been uneven in his work. He either does great things, like FRITZ, or he produces forgettable, total bombs like COOL WORLD.

Just the same tho, I've very much enjoyed his stuff over the years. My personal favorites are HEY GOOD LOOKIN' and AMERICAN POP.

AMERICAN POP is a daring concept; a feature length, multigenerational saga that tells the story of an immigrant family's American adventure.

When it works (and that's MOST of the time), it works WELL. Bakshi did his historical homework on this one, as well as the musical homework required in telling the story of a family of entertainers.

His characters achieve the goal that EVERY cartoonist tries for; on some level, we find ourselves identifying with those characters, and CARING about them... ALL of them, from the turn of the century song plugger on the streets of New York City, to the Heavy Metal rocker who finally achieves the American Dream.

In some places tho, Bakshi's attempts at innovation have a rather bizzare effect, and sometimes just plain DON'T WORK with his audiences, even for those who LOVE his work.

I'm thinking specifically of the somewhat startling attempt to use cartoon characters in a sexual situation. Somehow, the sight of a cartoon character opening his pants to expose jockey shorts prior to making love with ANOTHER cartoon character is jarring and unsettling in the extreme. It's not a matter of prudishness... it's just that the idea of realistically drawn cartoon characters having sex is a bit of a leap of imagination that many can't easily negotiate.

Another place that it doesn't quite work is during the sequence during the Vietnam years.

We've ALL seen the horrible news film clip of the police chief of Saigon personally executing a prisoner, shooting him in the head with his snub nosed revolver. Bakshi produced a very short cartoon version of that clip for the film. It's intention in the montage is clear and powerful, but somehow the idea of cartooning this horrendous act is even more deeply disturbing to the viewer than the ORIGINAL film was. It might have been MORE acceptable if Bakshi had used a Rotoscoped version of it that was LESS cartoonlike, as he did with other file footage used in the movie.

Just the same... overall, Bakshi's bold experimental film WORKS, and works well.

AMERICAN POP, despite it's faults, is a breakthru for the art of animation. It's a successfully mounted drama, done in animation. Disney came close sometimes, but Bakshi boldly went where Disney didn't dare to.

For anyone who loves animation, and anyone who loves music... AMERICAN POP gets MY vote.

14 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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