... There hasn’t been much recent news from [Ralph] Bakshi, ... but with “Last Days of Coney Island” he’s making a return to filmmaking, and to subjects that have marked his career since the beginning: crime, corruption, and the grime-ridden streets of New York. ...
The decline of Coney Island was a local tragedy, but it wasn’t just the beach that was in trouble. As Bakshi tells it, the fate of the neighborhood was a metaphor for everything happening in America, including the assassinations of Kennedy and King. “Coney Island was a place where poor people could go and not feel poor,” he said. “You wouldn’t run into any Rolls Royces, and you didn’t feel that there was anything that you could not afford to do. But it ended up trashed, and I felt that America was headed the same way.
Bakshi describes “Last Days” as a period piece, but he’s not shy about making contemporary analogies. Coney Island is looking a lot better now, even after Hurricane Sandy, but gentrification may be as foreign to its spirit as mob rule. “If they build it into some sort of big, fancy place, then it’s not Coney Island,” he said. “They could call it Coney Island, and I guess that’s fine for the rich people, but that’s not the Coney Island that was so important to millions of people who were struggling to give their families a good time.” ...
The last time I laid eyes on Ralph Bakshi, he was not in a good mood. The Animation Guild had filed a grievance against Paramount because a young production assistant on Cool World had dumped twenty ounces of paint over the head of the supervisor for color models. The paint dumping had motivated the supervisor to file a police charge against the assistant, which made Ralph unhappy because he was fond of the production assistant. (The kid had supplied music scratch tracks for CW, and Ralph liked them a lot.)
The kid was let go, but the supervisor was also fired. The Guild, suspecting a revenge motive, grieved the production to get the supe her job back. Ultimately we lost the grievance because we could not prove that she'd been let go due to payback for the complaint to the Burbank P.D.
You win some, you lose some.
But all those unpleasant things happened twenty years ago. Ralph now lives in New Mexico, painting and living the good life, and I'm at the same old taco stand, still filing the occasional grievance. (For some people, time stands still.)
Happily, Mr. Bakshi has made a return to Cartoonland. Here's hoping The Last Days of Coney Island makes a splash.