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What does the Behind the Scenes Pic of the Day look like, man? A soda fountain?

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s Behind the Scenes Pic!

Ralph Bakshi’s work hits a really particular chord for me. I think a lot of cinephiles had my experience with his stuff, especially those of my generation. I saw the vast majority of his stuff as a teenager, when the social commentary and risqué comedy was particularly positioned to have its greatest impact on me.

Coonskin, Fire and Ice and Fritz the Cat are my personal favorites, but the moment I see even one frame of his extremely recognizable rotoscoping style of animation I get instantly nostalgic. There’s something magical about it, much like stop-motion. It’s crude by today’s standards, but goddamn does it have a huge amount of personality.

Today we’re looking at the making of Bakshi’s American Pop with Ron Thompson as Pete filming the live action that would be the basis for the rotoscope animation.

Thanks to James for the pic. Click to enlargen!



If you have a behind the scenes shot you’d like to submit to this column, you can email me at

Tomorrow’s pic is going a little mad.

-Eric Vespe
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Click here to visit the complete compilation of previous Behind the Scenes images, Page One
(warning: there are some broken links that will be fixed as soon as I can get around to it)

Click here to visit the complete compilation of previous Behind the Scenes images, Page Two

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:03 p.m. CST

    Bakshi's shit

    by unkempt_sock

    was always the coolest. What ever happened to this kind of stuff? Probably doesn't get made anymore because there's not a large enough demographic. God damn Hollywood.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:06 p.m. CST


    by Ian bandy

    Fantastic version of Lord of the Rings from RB, always makes me smile :)

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:12 p.m. CST

    AMERICAN POP is fine movie

    by beamish13

    It's not his best work, but it's tighter and more focused than most of his other features. The opening credits sequence and the Russian Revolution sequences are terrific, and I love the finale with the piano-centered re-recording of Bob Seger's "Night Moves". It's amazing how Columbia financed this and HEAVY METAL at the same time. I can't imagine any American studio in this day and age making an animated feature that's aimed at mature audiences.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:14 p.m. CST

    I adore American Pop. I watch it at least once a year.

    by Royston Lodge

    I want you ... to play my songs.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:15 p.m. CST

    Patiently waiting for that WIZARDS live action remake

    by Logan_1973

    R rated with Del Toro and/or Blomkamp directing. Make it so.

  • Now the subject matter on the other hand was way cool.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:20 p.m. CST

    FIRE AND ICE mofos

    by Autodidact

    That's what I'm about. Sorry to say I don't care for any of Bakshi's other features.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:21 p.m. CST

    rotoscoping sucks

    by Raptor Jesus

    It's a cheap trick that looks ridiculous.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:26 p.m. CST

    I don't know much about rotoscoping

    by Nuck81

    But it seems to be a very expensive and ineffecient way to animate and make a movie. Essentially you have to film and create everything twice? Am I missing something?

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:26 p.m. CST


    by J

    Love Love Love Fire and Ice and LOTR, two of my all-time favorites. I know it is Rotoscoping, but when it came out wasn't it called Live-Mation or some such? That is the term I've always referred to it by and I don't think I made it up......or did I? Just askin'

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:26 p.m. CST

    I'm for Wizards...

    by milla jovovich

    as my favorite Bakshi. They killed Fritz!

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:49 p.m. CST

    I haven't seen this one, but man his Lord of the Rings was silly

    by rev_skarekroe

    The dwarf was the tallest member of the Fellowship and Legolas wore all pink. WTF?

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:57 p.m. CST

    openthepodbaydoorshal yes early Disney had a lot of rotoscoping

    by Monolith_Jones

    I don't know, I sort of dig it.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:57 p.m. CST

    No rotoscoping in Snow White

    by paulloch

    One of the misconceptions that still persist and nagged the animators who worked on the film. I saw the doc on the dvd, no tracing of film for animals or people. Animators hate it, because it robs them of creativity. It was invented by the Fleisher's for their Superman cartoons and Gulliver's Travels. A cheap way of animating only what you needed. Everything shot and edited then traced over. No wasted paper or cells or ink. It was the only way for independent animators like the Fleishers or Bakshi to get their films done with limited resources.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:58 p.m. CST

    Re: openthepodbaydoorshal

    by ArmageddonProductions

    I was just about to comment on that one myself! Disney rotoscoped A LOT (SNOW WHITE, SLEEPING BEAUTY, CINDERELLA, any movie with "realistic people" in them), and even movies/shorts where most of the character action wasn't rotoscoped, there were plenty of rotoscoped models and backgrounds -- this is exactly what they did before motion capture and CGI-assist were invented.</p><p> There was a lot of experimental adult animation during this time, like ROCK & RULE, HEAVY METAL, FANTASTIC PLANET, LIGHT YEAR, 20 percent of PINK FLOYD: THE WALL. It all seemed to be tied into rock/pop music somehow, too. Unfortunately, none of them did well enough to keep the pattern going, which is a huge shame.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 1:59 p.m. CST

    Bakshi is the man

    by disfigurehead

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 2:08 p.m. CST

    Ah Yes, American Pop....

    by Bag_of_Hammers

    The film that would have you believe that the Baby Boomer descendants of exiled Russian Jews invented Rock and Roll. Technical Proficiency: 8.9 (for the time) Historical Accuracy: laughable

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 2:58 p.m. CST

    Disney used AND reused RS


    Identically animated scenes pop up in Jungle Book/Winnie the Pooh and Snow White/Robin Hood to name but two examples. A quick search of Youtube will net you more. Disney reused the reference live action over and over.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 2:58 p.m. CST

    Disney used AND reused RS


    Identically animated scenes pop up in Jungle Book/Winnie the Pooh and Snow White/Robin Hood to name but two examples. A quick search of Youtube will net you more. Disney reused the reference live action over and over.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 3:07 p.m. CST

    bag_of_hammers: That's a ridiculous misrepresentation of the flick.

    by Royston Lodge

    The movie has ONE descendant of Russian Jews become a rock n' roll lyricist in the late 60s. Why couldn't that happen?

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 3:07 p.m. CST

    bag_of_hammers: Your username is apt.

    by Royston Lodge

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 3:17 p.m. CST

    bag_of_hammers...Don't be a moron...

    by Mikey Wood

    That's not what the film was saying at all. It followed ONE PARTICULAR FAMILY's multi-generational journey through music. They didn't INVENT anything, they participated and performed and, at times, thrived in musical environments, but at no point toes Bakshi try to push any sort of "agenda" on the viewer. Grow up.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 3:38 p.m. CST

    Rotoscope = the mocap of the pre-2000s

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    I've never really liked Bakshi's work, because there's SO much animation just tracing over live-action footage that you wonder why he even bothered to make it an animated movie. Same with Heavy Metal and a lot of the "adult" animated fare of the 70's and 80's....either make a cartoon or don't.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 4:50 p.m. CST

    Bakshi's LOTR was painful.

    by Ingeld

    They should have called it Lord of the Big Hair. Boromir was a viking. Aragorn looked like the last of the Mohicans. Sam looked like he rode the short bus around the Shire. The Ents must have been inspired by trees that developed somewhere near Three Mile Island.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 5:04 p.m. CST

    Bakshi is unwatchable crap

    by jimmy_009

    If you can stomach more than five minutes of his work without getting a migraine, than you're a better person than I am.

  • One of the things I love most about Fritz is that Bakshi used pictures of actual locations and simply drew over them to create the backgrounds and then washed them with watercolors to give them that surrealistic quality that I adore. Fritz is my personal favorite movie of Bakshi's although I maintain that Heavy Traffic is his best work. But the problems that Bakshi developed started with Traffic. Too much live action footage, using real photos with animated characters on top of them etc... Now, the way he uses these things in Traffic works because of the nature of the story and I take everything from the point of view of the main character who is a cartoonist and, as such, we the audience are seeing his life and fantasies through his perspective. This is why I buy the juggling of styles. But it still irks me when I see over exaggerated caricatures animated over live action footage or real still photos. That just bothers the shit out of me for some reason. The style Bakshi used in Fritz was perfect because although the backgrounds might have been based on real life pictures, having them traced over and colored in with watercolors helps the characters blend in with their backgrounds. But that’s just me. But Bakshi just started using it way too much with Coonskin, which was just lazy, and then made the eventual leap to rotoscoping which is what killed it for me not to mention that his work lost the grubby charm that Fritz and Traffic had, which was one of the most appealing things about those movies. I also don’t like his later fixation on leather clad greasers and zoot suited gangsters. But the rotoscoping really sucks shit as it’s like motion capture where it’s good if you want to get realistic movement for human characters but doesn’t work for facial features. This is why you need to exaggerate cartoon characters features and expressions as rotoscoping is incapable of picking up on the tiny little subtleties of a person’s face and gives you that Uncanny Valley zombie look. This is why I wish Bakshi would make a new movie using rotoscoping today because Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly is the best animated movie that Ralph Bakshi never made. Computers have made it possible that you can rotoscope and get a level of detail impossible with traditional cell tracing. I really can’t believe that Bakshi hasn’t made an attempt considering the ease of flash animation programs not to mention a community of animators, such as on sites like Newgrounds, that would be more than willing to work on something with a legendary animator even in exchange just for some credit. I’d love to see Bakshi do something set in New York during the 1970’s, preferably based on a novel, that’s filled with sex and violence. Maybe even a PROPER Fritz the Cat sequel.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 5:10 p.m. CST

    Heavy Metal only used rotoscoping for one character: Taarna

    by Autodidact

    And mostly only her dressing and undressing, at that. Much of the rest of her animation was done the traditional way with animators working out keyframes on their own.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 5:11 p.m. CST

    FIRE AND ICE is the best use of rotoscoping ever, in my opinion

    by Autodidact

    It's really well integrated with the pure animation elements. They even have a lot of slow motion rotoscoped animation.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 5:13 p.m. CST


    by CreepyThinManForever

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 5:14 p.m. CST

    ^ Props for referencing TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE

    by Autodidact

    A movie which I watched literally frame by frame, along with HEAVY METAL, a pitifully long time ago. Have yet to really apply any of that knowledge to something I care about, although I do make money doing animation.

  • I had watched the TV show religiously but I had no fucking idea what the fuck was going on with that opening scene with Unicron! That shit BLEW MY MIND! Then killing off most of the regular characters! HOLY FUCK! I fully admit to crying like a litte bitch when Optimus snuffed it. It took some fucking MASSIVE BALLS to do that. But that was at the time when they made popcorn kiddie flicks that fucked with the audience. Empire Strikes Back, Poltergeist, Neverending Story etc..... Sure, you could point to "COULSON" in The Avengers but he was a throwaway character and his death didn't mean shit. Anywho, Transformers The Movie, what a great flick and what an amazing fucking voice cast! Orson Wells, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Judd Nelson etc....

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 5:57 p.m. CST

    TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE where's the AICN feature on that?

    by Autodidact

    Maybe I'll mail one in.

  • Then again I'm not some fanboy who responds to every single cue from a director with the desired response as if my soul is empty.

  • Who seems like a really nice guy and is actually a very good actor, not to mention that he Directed-Scripted CHOKE based upon Chuck (Fight Club) Palahniuk's novel, but he didn't have the presence to make his death meaningful. They needed a well known actor whose death would have been shocking.

  • Prime dying was pretty cool but it was never my favourite part of the movie. I was really into the animation itself. I still find certain bits of it to be pretty neat, although even back in the day on VHS I could see how sketchy it was in other parts.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 7:03 p.m. CST

    Transformers: The Movie sucked at 11. Sucks now.

    by adeceasedfan

    I love Transformers and couldn't wait to see the movie, but they killed everybody in the first thirty minutes! It wasn't balls, it was marketing. That failed btw. Killed the show. These Rodimus toys are gathering dust on the shelves Jim, better bring back Optimus. Too late. Ok, that's a little harsh and I still bought the DVD, but it still pissed me off after all these years. Although it's still better than G.I.Joe: The Movie. The positives: Unicron was bad ass! The soundtrack kicks fucking ASS! I've had the cd for years and still listen to it.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 7:05 p.m. CST


    by Autodidact

    That movie isn't much more than newfangled rotoscoping and in my mind's eye it's not even animated, it's just Keanu, Winona Ryder, and Woody Harrelson looking exactly like someone slightly touched up a digital vectorization of filmed footage. To me it felt like a step back from WAKING LIFE, which was more ambitious with the animation. Even though I enjoyed SCANNER DARKLY more as a movie/story.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 7:21 p.m. CST

    Rotoscope will forever be associated with He-Man for me.

    by adeceasedfan

    Well any Filmation product really.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 8:05 p.m. CST

    Unwatchable crap was already used

    by David Duchovny

    but I'm a plagiarist.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 11:13 p.m. CST

    Re: autodidact/HEAVY METAL

    by ArmageddonProductions

    Nope, everything in the "Taarna' sequence was rotoscoped (even many shots of the pterodactyl-thingy), as well as many of the backgrounds. The segment director, John Bruno, was a special effects guy who went on to do a lot of the pioneering CGI work at Digital Domain (and, unfortunately, would go on to direct VIRUS), and a lot of the work he did in HM carried out into his motion-capture work in CGI. They even rotoscoped Devo for the bar band.</p><p> Unfortunately, a lot of why that sequence kind of looks lousy, as well as a lot of Bakshi's work, has to do with time and money. In all instances, they had a limited amount of both, so a lot of the animation was never fully realized. Especially with Bakshi: THE LORD OF THE RINGS was originally intended to be at least two movies and cover the entire trilogy. He wound up running out of money and time about halfway through, and filled in the gaps with either color-tinting his own live-action plates or dropping in color-tinted footage from PD movies (same thing happened with WIZARDS). I seem to remember some of that even showing up in FIRE AND ICE. And it's a shame he didn't actually get to do COOL WORLD the way he'd planned: hard R with a lot more animation. The studio wanted a slightly more-edgy ROGER RABBIT.

  • Nov. 6, 2012, 4:55 a.m. CST

    Armageddon... it sounds like you know what you're talking about.

    by Autodidact

    I have to quibble though about rotoscoping the bird. They might have used 3D sculpt of the bird for animation reference, but I'm quite certain you can't rotoscope a fucking puppet to get the type of real motion you get from rotoscoping of an actor or living animal. You might technically be "rotoscoping" but it's not the same thing. About DEVO and other things... hrm I will look into it.. I have the special edition DVD, the blu-ray, and Carl Macek's book HEAVY METAL THE MOVIE within grabbing distance. If you like HEAVY METAL this is a great fuckin book by the way... best "media-related" media I've ever purchased.

  • I'm almost sure that she was the only character rotoscoped in that sequence. I mean, if that DEVO animation was rotoscoped, what was the point... it looks like normal keyframe animation. I guess some bits just outside and inside the bar might be using rotocoped actors... the guy swiping the table out of the way, and the way the headless bodies drop... I dunno though.

  • Nov. 6, 2012, 5:09 a.m. CST

    FIRE and ICE doesn't have any of that tinted footage shit

    by Autodidact

    Maybe I'm mis-remembering, but the whole reason it stands out from other Bakshi to me is the high level of polish and full integration of the rotoscoped characters into a world created by the animators. I almost loaned out the disc last year... I do that compulsively... very glad I did not. I paid $40 for the goddamn thing when it was new and it's one of the most satisfying purchases ever. Listen to me going on about "purchases" like some kind of autistic.

  • Some of the lamest design and animation ever done for something so potentially cool. Plus the voice work sounds uniformly drowsy, like they recorded a table read. It's completely unwatchable shite.

  • Nov. 6, 2012, 7:27 a.m. CST

    Dementedcaver - Agreed. Bakshi 's work doesn't impress me.

    by The StarWolf

    Second rate, at best with too many cut corners. A lot of sequences (especially involving the cavalry troops) in WIZARDS came across as practically laughable.

  • Nov. 6, 2012, 9:27 a.m. CST


    by DrGogol

  • Nov. 7, 2012, 12:37 p.m. CST

    Your mother's a tracer!

    by Royston Lodge