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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.

Director:

Ralph Bakshi

Writer:

Ronni Kern

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ron Thompson ... Tony / Pete
Mews Small ... Frankie (as Marya Small)
Jerry Holland Jerry Holland ... Louie
Lisa Jane Persky ... Bella
Jeffrey Lippa Jeffrey Lippa ... Zalmie
Roz Kelly ... Eva Tanguay
Frank DeKova ... Crisco (as Frank De Kova)
Rick Singer Rick Singer ... Benny (as Richard Singer)
Elsa Raven ... Hannele
Ben Frommer Ben Frommer ... Palumbo
Amy Levitt ... Nancy
Leonard Stone ... Leo Stern
Eric Taslitz Eric Taslitz ... Little Pete
Gene Borkan Gene Borkan ... Izzy
Richard Moll ... Beat Poet
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Storyline

"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

Taglines:

Whether you dance to it, drive to it, sing with it or swing to it. If you can crank it up, plug it in, or switch it on. If it assaults your senses, rocks your body, or touches your soul, it's American Pop. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Hebrew | Russian | Yiddish

Release Date:

13 February 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Amerykanska muzyka pop See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$6,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

When Tony meets the waitress in Kansas, he asks her a number of questions which are references to songs about the state. He asks her, "Is everything up to date here?" which references Rodgers and Hammerstein's song "Kansas City" from the musical "Oklahoma!" However, that song actually concerns the Kansas City in Missouri, as another song from that show indicates. See more »

Quotes

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

Special thanks to the late, great Jimi Hendrix. See more »

Alternate Versions

In some versions of the film, dialog has been redone in at last two scenes, presumably to make points more clear. For example, in Little Pete's first scene, he is asked what his Dad would say about him hanging backstage with a rock band. In one version, Pete says "Nothing. He's dead." In the other version, he instead says "I never met my Dad. He's some kind of mystery" (which serves as a better setup for information learned later) Also, Tony returns to the band's apartment after his release from the hospital, only to find they have moved out. In both versions, under 'People Are Strange,' we hear him on the phone with a friend, but the phone conversations begin completely differently. In one we never learn what happened to the band, only that they seemed to have moved out and left Tony behind, while in the other we learn that the band has gone on to big things, with a gold album. Both versions' phone calls end the same way, though, with Tony desperately asking his friend for money or drugs. See more »


Soundtracks

American Pop Overture
Arranged by Lee Holdridge
See more »

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User Reviews

 
It's DEFINITELY different...
24 May 2004 | by GavnoSee 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.


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