Interview
Ralph Bakshi
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc.
Emru Townsend: It's great to be talking to you. I've been watching your films for—I guess the first one I saw was Heavy Traffic. When, according to some people, I would have been too young to see it. But that's beside the point.

Ralph Bakshi: That's exactly the point. [both laugh]

That does kind of bring me to something I was really curious about when I was listening to the audio commentary for Wizards.

I've never seen that.

You still haven't seen it?

No, I don't look at those things. They drive me nuts. They really do.

How come?

I don't know why. They just seem out of place and wrong. I don't know, they just seem ridiculous. I've always been that way, I can't help it.

Well, I've got to say your commentary and the interview featurette were pretty interesting, because one thing that you said outright in both of them was that you saw Wizards as being for kids.

That's right.

Now, when you say "kids," how old are you talking about?

Oh, kids! Kids. You know, kids—first of all, it's hard to define, I really don't know. But the point is I don't think that you should necessarily be stupid when you're around children of any age, meaning that what they get, they get, and what they don't get, they don't get. But a lot of stuff they don't get and in a few years they say, "Oh, that's what he meant." When I do a kid's film I don't particularly, I don't set any—how young, I have no idea how young. If an eight-year-old kid came to the theater and understood that you have to fight fascism and understood nothing else—but then that's very important... I don't really set any parameters, I just have to be careful with content in a PG film. But I don't think of age, both up and down.

It's more attitude than age.

The essential Bakshi: a selected filmography
Fritz the Cat (1972)
Heavy Traffic (1973)
Coonskin (also known as Street Fight (1975)
Wizards (1977)
Lord of the Rings (1978)
American Pop (1981)
Hey, Good Lookin' (1982)
Fire and Ice (1983)
Exactly. If I teach a kid something, fine. If they're a little older and they get it all and love it, that's fine. If their parents like it, that's fine. I don't set out with graphs and charts and try to figure out, you know...

I just found it an interesting statement. I mean, I figure I saw Wizards when I was something like thirteen or fourteen...

There you go. You were a kid!

Yeah. Even so, I probably would have gotten it when I was younger. But many people wouldn't agree with that, because you've got blood, which people seem to not like to see in kids' movies or TV shows—

[laughs]

—you've got Nazi imagery, you've got constant pert nipples on the part of Elinore, and you've got a whole lot of cynicism. Which, I mean, for me is great, but—

Okay, do you want to take each one in its proper proportion? I mean, which one of those things should a young kid not be taught?

Oh, I think they should be taught all of them. I'm just saying many people wouldn't agree.

That's my point. At which point do they turn on TV and wonder—at which point do we let them know what the world's about, to some degree where they can start making choices? I don't know. I don't know what answer is, but the point is... I don't know, how many young kids walk into the kitchen and see nighttime news or what's going on in Iraq? What do they hear? I'm not doing anything that the world hasn't shown the kids. Look at The Passion of the Christ. Is that suitable for children?

After I heard you say that on the DVD, I stopped it and went to the section where they show the theatrical trailers and the television ad, because I was curious to get a sense of who [Fox] marketed it to, because there's often a distinction between the director's intent and how the people marketing [a movie] position it. I couldn't really get a sense from the trailers or the TV ad who it was aimed at. It seemed kind of like Star Wars, which came out pretty much at the same time, and it aimed for everybody.

Everyone's gotten so smart or so stupid, I'm not sure which one it is. If you're a film director, you go with what you think would make a good movie and you just hope you find an audience. If you start manipulating your script to hit an appropriate audience you're going to miss because they've pretty much moved on at that point, and if you bring it out at that point, you're being old-fashioned. Wizards and Star Wars were marketed at people who love movies.

Did you get any sort of flak for that at the time? I didn't have time, unfortunately, to research any articles, but nowadays—I'm thinking in particular of Princess Mononoke when it came out. I mean, Miyazaki made that for kids, and—same thing—it had a certain level of violence and realism, etc., and people said, "Oh my God, kids shouldn't be seeing this sort of thing!" Even though the director, in Japan, said kids should see this film, people here had a real problem that kids could see this sort of thing. Was there a similar sort of reaction when Wizards came out?

No, not at all. There was sort of a sigh of relief because compared to Coonskin and Heavy Traffic it was very mild. No, I didn't get any criticism. People pretty much loved Wizards. The only thing I ran into was Star Wars. [Fox] took my theaters because they weren't prepared for the success of Wizards or Star Wars. I got hurt that way. But no, I didn't get any bad reaction at all. Just recently I've gotten some about Elinore's breasts.

Which were fabulous, by the way. They're great breasts.

They're part of a woman's body. A lot of us grow up sucking our mother's breasts. I don't know... I've gotten more reaction to those little things now than I did closer to the '70s. Things are obviously getting much more politically correct and tightening up. Today, you can rob a billion dollars, you're cool, but you show a nipple, you're uncool. I don't know.
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