Back in the early 60's, R. Crumb took one of his pet cats and turned it into a comic, according to him, to amuse his siblings. These comics featured Fritz is his trials and travails as, well, a cat; chasing birds and stuff.
Later on, Fritz evolved into a swinging college student, and saw himself injected into the blossoming underground "comix" scene. Fritz became a well-known, popular character.
Ralph Bakshi was an experienced and experimental animator who, in the early 70's, wanted to create an animated theatrical release aimed squarely at adults. Bakshi thought he found that character with Fritz the Cat, so he cut a deal with Crumb, and the very first X-rated full-length animated feature was born.
The movie itself draws almost entirely from Crumb's work and inspiration. Bakshi took as much of Crumb as possible, it seems, and built the movie out of it. From the very beginning, fans of Crumb's work will see just about everything that defined his comics from before 1970. For instance, at the beginning of the movie, is not one but three of the characters from the famous "Keep on Truckin'" comic. Characters, vehicles, buildings are all lifted from Crumb's own doodles. It was as if Bakshi was attempting to keep the movie as close to the source as possible.
If Fritz the Cat was released today, it'd probably garner an R rating at most. There's sex, but it's hardly pornographic in the sense we know today. It would be hard to get too offended at the drug use and violence, either. The language is no more explicit than what you'd hear in an average PG-13 movie.
While I love Crumb's work, I didn't enjoy this movie. In fact, I've never enjoyed anything by Bakshi except The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse. Wizards and Cool World gave me a headache, but in fairness the latter was no where near Bakshi's original vision. I don't think Bakshi is a bad animator -- don't get me wrong. He's a pioneer of animation in every sense of the word, who was exploring areas of entertainment years before anyone else followed suit. His stuff just isn't my cup of tea, that's all.
If you're familiar of Crumb at all, you know that he hates the Fritz the Cat movie and criticizes it and Bakshi every chance he gets. He's made these criticisms in at least two films, countless interviews and books.
Tomorrow we'll look at what Crumb had to say and Bakshi's defense, with my own conclusions. I think you'll be surprised what they are.