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.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.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.
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.
- May 24, 2004