The first animated feature to be given an X rating

When you think of movies and TV shows in the realm of animation, you probably consider Disney’s playful, child-friendly tales or the endless stream of classic Saturday morning cartoons that have kept kids entertained for generations. More recently, however, the idea of ​​adult animations has become far more popular, with South Park by Trey Parker and Matt Stone heralding a new era for explicit cartoons.

Nowadays, adult TV series like family guy, Archer and Bob’s Burgers are commonplace, but this wasn’t always the case, with Walt Disney’s revolutionary feature film Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs turning the art form of animation into child’s play in the eyes of audiences and critics. As Disney tightened its grasp on the world of popular animation, the correlation between animation and children’s content merely intensified.

From the release of Snow White in 1937, Disney began to churn out animated features, releasing Pinocchio in 1940, followed by sleeping beauty in 1959 and The Jungle Book in 1967, among a plethora of other iconic movies. With the animation art form fully tied to the contemporary success of Walt Disney, a young American filmmaker named Ralph Bakshi entered the industry, armed with an intent to make ‘anti-Disney’ movies.

Having worked on several mainstream animated projects throughout the 1960s, including the popular Spiderman cartoon, Bakshi eventually made his debut feature film in 1972, creating the first-ever X-rated animated movie with Fritz the Cat.

Released half a century ago, the independent adult animation is based on the comic strip by the iconic American artist Robert Crumb. It focuses on Fritz (voiced by Skip Hinnant), a womanising cat in an anthropomorphic New York City in the mid-to-late 1960s. A college dropout, Fritz is a satirical character who pokes fun at young contemporary Americans in the college era of adolescence, becoming a political revolutionary and free-love advocate.

Created on a modest budget of $700,000, the film was intended to broaden the horizons of potential for the animation market, with Bakshi believing that the artform could tell more dramatic storylines with larger scope for mature and diverse themes. For comparison, Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks, released in 1971, cost the animation behemoth $6.3 million to create.

Depicting profanity, sex and drug use, Bakshi was accused of making a pornographic film, with the concept of an adult X-rated animation totally new to the industry. Now, decades later, Fritz the Cat is appreciated as one of the most definitive animated movies ever made.

Speaking about how the film influenced animators of the time, Bakshi told Full Circle Magazine: “Here were guys who were sick and tired of the stuff they were doing, and I’m letting them run around animate the sheriff’s daughter fucking some guy in bed… they couldn’t believe that. So yeah, it was a good time as long as it lasted. I have nothing but good things to say about those guys”.

Take a look at the trailer for the iconic animated classic below.

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