Kickstartin': Veteran Animator Ralph Bakshi's 'Last Days Of Coney Island'

"You don't need relief, you need to tell the truth... every once in a while, you've got to take a stand as a producer and director."

Why you should help Ralph Bakshi, the animator who gave us the first "Lord of the Rings" film fund his horror-crime movie set on Coney Island.

Nobody does gritty, urban realism like Bakshi. Even when he was digging around in fantasy with "Wizards," that film still played around with race, physical and cultural pollution, and violence in a way that mainstream animation couldn't (and still can't, really). Bakshi makes these beautiful, messy, angry, sentimental movies for adults and it's wonderful seeing the 74-year-old animator kicking off a new phase of his career that was wildly productive from the 50's up through the late 90's (when I spoke to him last year, he said that back then, he felt that his time in animation had left him "beat up").

His latest, "Last Days of Coney Island," offers a series of shorts set in and around Coney Island, featuring "crooked cops, broken hearts, jaded strippers, and singers." Subtlety's never been Bakshi's strong suit, but that's allowed him to make pointed, aggressive critiques of his adopted home (he was born in Palestine in '38). From the man himself: "It's a film about who we are, what we are, even if it hurts."

More than anything, though, it's a chance to see Bakshi's distinctive style of 2D animation--a form that's increasingly falling by the wayside as CG takes over. The grit, the grime, and pain, and frustration of Bakshi's visions is in its element with his loose style. Don't believe me? Check out this clip from his film "Wizards."