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HISTORY

The film begins with the written words, "The 1960's," and a voice-over narrator stating, "Hey, yeah, the 1960s? Happy times, heavy times," paraphrasing "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," the opening of Charles Dickens' 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities . An ink drawing of a New York City street appears, which then turns to color as street noises are heard on the soundtrack. The camera pans up toward a girder high above the street, where construction workers are seated, eating lunch. One worker complains that he brought up his daughter in the bourgeois way and sent her to college, only to have her announce that she is living with a man. As the men discuss the idea of "free love" and rioting by young people that has been in the news, one of the workers urinates off the girder onto the street below. The talking continues, along with soundtrack music, as the opening credits appear. Afterward, a pedestrian is knocked down by the stream of urination and the story commences.
       According to the onscreen credits, the original soundtrack was by Fantasy Studios. Although the film was not registered with the copyright office at the time of its release, the end credits include a 1972 copyright statement for "Fritz Productions for Aurica Finance Co." and the film was registered on 24 Feb 2000 under the number RE-827-085.
       All of the characters in the animated film are depicted as cartoon animals. Fritz and his college friends are most often drawn as cats, dogs and other furry creatures, while the police are shown as pigs, Jews ... More Less

The film begins with the written words, "The 1960's," and a voice-over narrator stating, "Hey, yeah, the 1960s? Happy times, heavy times," paraphrasing "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," the opening of Charles Dickens' 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities . An ink drawing of a New York City street appears, which then turns to color as street noises are heard on the soundtrack. The camera pans up toward a girder high above the street, where construction workers are seated, eating lunch. One worker complains that he brought up his daughter in the bourgeois way and sent her to college, only to have her announce that she is living with a man. As the men discuss the idea of "free love" and rioting by young people that has been in the news, one of the workers urinates off the girder onto the street below. The talking continues, along with soundtrack music, as the opening credits appear. Afterward, a pedestrian is knocked down by the stream of urination and the story commences.
       According to the onscreen credits, the original soundtrack was by Fantasy Studios. Although the film was not registered with the copyright office at the time of its release, the end credits include a 1972 copyright statement for "Fritz Productions for Aurica Finance Co." and the film was registered on 24 Feb 2000 under the number RE-827-085.
       All of the characters in the animated film are depicted as cartoon animals. Fritz and his college friends are most often drawn as cats, dogs and other furry creatures, while the police are shown as pigs, Jews in the synagogue sequence are hounds and African Americans are crows. Often these caricatures are intended as a reflection of the superficiality of the title character "Fritz." The characters swear and take drugs, are often shown nude, with genitalia, and they frequently engage in what MPAA director Aaron Stern, according to a May 1972 Var article, termed “anthropomorphic intercourse.”
       According to a Rampart article, the film Fritz The Cat was loosely based on three and one half specific comic strips by satirical artist and illustrator Robert Crumb (1943--). Crumb, whose books were usually signed R. Crumb, was a founder of the underground comix movement. His work has become iconic of the late 1960s popular counterculture. He created the character “Fritz the Cat,” as well as, among other things, the comic book character “Mr. Natural,” an album cover for rock star Janis Joplin and the “Keep on Truckin’” drawing that appeared widely in the late 1960s and early 1970s as decals and in print. Crumb’s drawing style is sexual and subversive, sometimes incorporating biographical elements and generally parodying American culture and the shallowness of middle-class counterculture Although, according to modern sources, Crumb’s artistic development. was influenced by the satirical cartoon artists of 1930s comics (among them, Barney Google , Popeye , Little Lulu and Little Orphan Annie ), Crumb’s cartoons emerged at a time when cartoons influenced by the popularity of the Walt Disney animated feature films were the norm. According to a Dec 2001 LAT article, Crumb’s caricatures of “stoned” college students were “novel and scandalous” in 1972. Although some critics have labeled Crumb’s work variously as immature, misogynistic, racist and pornographic, others have praised him as an important satirist of the twentieth century.
       Fritz The Cat was the first project of Steve Krantz Productions, Inc. According to a Sep 1971 LAT article, forty-seven-year-old Krantz was a former head of sales at Columbia's television unit, Screen Gems. His partner Ralph Bakshi, the thirty-one-year-old former head of animation at Paramount and director of CBS Terrytoons, was vice-president in charge of the creative side of the business and served as writer-director on the film, which also was his first. In a Sep 1971 LAT article, Bakshi stated that he wanted to capitalize on the “graphic arts explosion in terms of animation" and wanted to create a "realistic animated feature" about city life. He compared newspaper cartooning, which he called political art, to animation, which he believed also had the potential to be socially relevant. In the article, he explained that at first backers balked at his new concept and that animators, who had grown used to “drawing pretty bunnies kissing beautiful butterflies,” sometimes showed resistance. He and Krantz personally funded the project until Fantasy Records and Cinemation Industries financed the remainder of the film’s million-dollar budget.
       As noted in a Dec 1971 LAT article, the animation industry was suffering hard times, generally providing screen cartoonists employment only six months of the year and the cartoonists’ union was decrying a trend of “runaway production[s].” The article reported that when Krantz moved his entire operation from New York to Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, he was welcomed by the animation industry “with open arms.” The Sep 1971 LAT article reported that Krantz employed a staff of twenty-five animators, and a Rampart article stated that before the production was complete, the staff fluctuated to as many as seventy-five workers, among them, animators, colorists, artist, photographers, musicians and sound technicians. According to the Rampart and a Dec 1971 LAT article, four animators quit during production of Fritz The Cat , uncomfortable either with the sexually graphic depiction of the characters or the film’s depiction of women and ethnic groups.
       A frequently used transitional device of the film was to show a cityscape, often from an aerial view, before moving into the action of the story. As noted in Filmfacts , many of the film's impressionistic watercolor backgrounds were derived from actual street scene photographs. Many of the original photographs of Harlem and East Greenwich Village, New York neighborhoods, which a Sep 1971 LAT article reported were taken by Bakshi, appear during the end credits. Referring to the photographs and the cartoon settings based on them, a 15 Jul 1971 HR news item reported that the filmmakers quipped that Fritz The Cat was the first picture to be filmed on location in Harlem.
       According to the Rampart article, Bakshi aimed to have realistic, “non-cartooned” voices for the characters. A Jul 1971 HR news item reported that Bakshi, while in New York, recorded real conversations in Harlem bars. Sep 1971 LAT and Rampart articles reported that Bakshi spent days recording the conversations of construction workers talking in a deli, hippies, bikers, winos and members of a synagogue, all of whom were used in the soundtrack of the film and were paid for their services. For the bathtub sequence, according to the Rampart article, Bakshi invited three young women to a small party to record their conversation. For the dialogue of the policemen, Bakshi’s voice was used for the rookie, and a friend, who claimed he had always wanted to be a policeman, provided the voice for the veteran cop. For the part of Fritz, Bakshi hired Skip Hinnant, who had portrayed "Schroeder" in the original cast of the off-Broadway musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown . According to a May 1972 Var article, Fritz The Cat took two-and-a-half years to complete.
       A Sep 1971 LAT article reported that the film contained "enough 'X' material to make Minnie Mouse…gasp.” However, according to a May 1972 Var article, Krantz and Bakshi were unhappy with the X rating, which was awarded by the MPAA because of the orgy scenes at the beginning and end of the film. Concerned about the reduction in box office potential that the X rating would generate, Bakshi and Krantz took out ads in LAT and San Francisco newspapers that reported on the favorable notices of several well-known film critics. Their distributor, Jerry Gross of Cinemation Industries, who deliberately had exploited the rating by advertising the film as “The World’s First X-Rated Full-Length Cartoon,” took offense, claiming that his company had sole booking and ad jurisdiction for the film. According to a Jun 1972 DV news item, Krantz appealed the rating, but the MPAA refused to overturn their original decision. Despite the filmmakers’ concerns about the picture’s financial viability, according to an Oct 1973 HR news item, the film had grossed $30 million worldwide to that date.
       Fritz The Cat was screened at the Cannes, Dallas and USA Film Festivals and was shown as part of a series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Although the film was controversial and garnered mixed reviews, a NYT review described it as "an accurate evocation of what the world was like a few years ago in the area...between St. Mark's Place and Washington Square South" and the LAT reviewer called the film an "ambitious social commentary, a caustic animated tour of the issues and changes which marked the United States in the 1960s." As noted in a Jan 1988 LAT article, the film brought sex, drugs, violence and counterculture rhetoric of the underground “comix” to the screen.
       According to Jun 1971 DV and Sep 1971 LAT news items, Bakshi and Krantz had planned two other feature-length cartoons, Arrivederci, Rudy , which was to be based on the life of silent film actor Rudolf Valentino, and Dick Tracy, Frozen, Fried and Buried Alive ; however, these projects never reached fruition. In 1973, Krantz and Bakshi released another animated feature, Heavy Traffic , which was written and directed by Bakshi, and, in 1974, Krantz alone released a sequel, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat , which was directed by Robert Taylor and written by Taylor, Eric Monte and Fred Halliday, and again featured Hinnant in the title role.
       An Aug 1973 Var article reported that Cinemation sold its U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to the Dutch-owned holding company Aurica Finance. In Jul 1980, a DV news item reported that Bakshi filed suit against Krantz’s company, asking for an accounting of the profits and an unspecified amount in damages from Fritz The Cat and Heavy Traffic , claiming that his contract called for a ten percent cut of the profits and the last payment he had received was in Jun 1978. According to a Dec 2001 LAT article, Crumb, who reportedly despised the film portrayals of his character, drew Fritz in later comix as a drunken and debauched Hollywood star and eventually wrote a story in which the cat is murdered by an ex-girl friend. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Apr 1972.
---
Box Office
8 May 1972.
---
Cue
29 Apr 1972.
---
Daily Variety
11 Jun 1971.
---
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1972.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1972
p. 1, 8.
Daily Variety
9 Jul 1980.
---
Esquire
Aug 1972
p. 32.
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 150-53.
Films and Filming
Sep 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 1973.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
12 Apr 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Sep 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Dec 1971
West, pp. 42-46.
Los Angeles Times
13 Apr 1972
Section IV, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
11 Dec 2001.
---
McCall's
Mar 1972.
---
Motion Picture Herald
May 1972
p. 78.
New York Times
29 Apr 1972
p. 19.
New York Times
30 Apr 1972
Section II, p. 1, 3.
New York Times
2 Jul 1972.
---
New Yorker
6 May 1972.
---
Newsweek
15 May 1972.
---
Playboy
May 1972.
---
Rampart
Mar 1972
Cover, pp. 43-48.
Saturday Review
20 May 1972
p. 19.
Time
22 May 1972.
---
Variety
5 Apr 1972
p. 16.
Variety
10 May 1972.
---
Variety
2 Aug 1972.
---
Variety
29 Aug 1973.
---
Wall Street Journal
19 May 1972.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog
Photog
Still photog of New York City
ART DIRECTORS
Backgrounds des
Background artist
2d background
Color models
FILM EDITOR
MUSIC
Mus dir
Score
Score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title layouts by
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod asst
Traffic mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on characters created by Robert Crumb.
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Bo Diddley," music and lyrics by Ellas McDaniel [Bo Diddley], sung by Bo Diddley
"Yesterdays," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Otto A. Harbach, sung by Billie Holiday.
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1972
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 12 April 1972
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DeLuxe
Animation
Duration(in mins):
77-78
MPAA Rating:
X
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In the 1960s, Fritz the Cat, a libidinous New York University student and poet, is annoyed by what he calls the "phonies" crowding Washington Square. He and his friends try to capture the attention of a girl dog, Winston, and her two sexy animal friends by playing the guitar and singing protest songs, but the females are more interested in a black crow, whom they try to impress by reciting liberal platitudes. When the crow reveals, to their surprise, that he is homosexual and uninterested in their overtures, the girls are left standing with mouths open. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Fritz cries out that his "soul is tormented," which prompts the sympathetic but gullible girls to gather around him. When he mentions "the existential essence of the life force," they are convinced he is a genius and allow themselves to be lured into a seedy apartment crowded with marijuana-sedated people. Finding that the only vacant area is in the bathroom, Fritz leads the girls into the tub with comments about "fulfillment" and "closeness," and manages to get them to remove their clothing and engage in coitus. To Fritz’s annoyance, people from the other room join in, bringing along their marijuana, and a drug-induced orgy commences. Meanwhile, two pigs, one, a seasoned policeman, the other, his partner, Ralph the rookie, are sent to investigate the neighbors’ complaints and break into the apartment. Upon finding all the occupants in the bathtub, one officer commences to beat the joy seekers into submission and the other is distracted by one of the naked females. Fritz, who has partaken of marijuana and is no longer ... +


In the 1960s, Fritz the Cat, a libidinous New York University student and poet, is annoyed by what he calls the "phonies" crowding Washington Square. He and his friends try to capture the attention of a girl dog, Winston, and her two sexy animal friends by playing the guitar and singing protest songs, but the females are more interested in a black crow, whom they try to impress by reciting liberal platitudes. When the crow reveals, to their surprise, that he is homosexual and uninterested in their overtures, the girls are left standing with mouths open. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Fritz cries out that his "soul is tormented," which prompts the sympathetic but gullible girls to gather around him. When he mentions "the existential essence of the life force," they are convinced he is a genius and allow themselves to be lured into a seedy apartment crowded with marijuana-sedated people. Finding that the only vacant area is in the bathroom, Fritz leads the girls into the tub with comments about "fulfillment" and "closeness," and manages to get them to remove their clothing and engage in coitus. To Fritz’s annoyance, people from the other room join in, bringing along their marijuana, and a drug-induced orgy commences. Meanwhile, two pigs, one, a seasoned policeman, the other, his partner, Ralph the rookie, are sent to investigate the neighbors’ complaints and break into the apartment. Upon finding all the occupants in the bathtub, one officer commences to beat the joy seekers into submission and the other is distracted by one of the naked females. Fritz, who has partaken of marijuana and is no longer in control of his wits, becomes fascinated with a gun in one of the policeman’s holsters, pulls it out and accidentally shoots the toilet, causing a geyser of water to rush out and carry everyone out of the window and down the street. Fritz lands in an orthodox Jewish synagogue during a service, but takes refuge in the ladies room. The police bust in, looking for him, and proceed to search the aisles. When the officers inadvertently open the door to the ladies toilet, Fritz and a woman with whom he is having sex tumble out, as well as a radio tuned to a news report announcing the president's decision to send arms to Israel in exchange for the return of New York and Los Angeles to the United States. A joyous celebration erupts and everyone dances the hora , allowing Fritz a chance to escape from the police. When he returns to school, everyone is deep in their studies and ignoring him. Fritz bemoans the fact that he is buried under his books, thus missing real life and the women with whom he could be having sex. Deciding that he is getting a “phony education,” Fritz sets fire to his books and notes, but then realizes that without them he will flunk and outrage his parents. While Fritz panics, the fire spreads and all of New York University burns. Still looking for experience, Fritz enters a Harlem bar and, wanting to be accepted, announces to the crows inside that he has a “considerable guilt complex” regarding the country's "social crisis" and wishes he were like them. He is oblivious of their disdain, and when an old, pool-playing crow, Duke, befriends him, Fritz orders him a drink. While placing the order, he calls the bartender “boy,” which offends everyone in the bar. When they threaten Fritz with broken bottles and knives, Duke pulls Fritz out of the bar to safety. After stealing a car, Fritz and Duke take a joyride and catch the attention of the pigs, who have been recently transferred to Harlem. Driving wildly to elude them, Fritz crashes the car going over a bridge and is about to be thrown into the river to his death when Duke grabs him, saving his life. Duke then takes Fritz to an opium-filled establishment where he meets a luxuriously endowed crow, Big Bertha, and follows her to the junk yard outside for an orgasmic interlude. After engaging in exuberant foreplay, they are in the heat of passion when Fritz deludes himself into thinking he is one with the crows. Leaving Bertha unsatisfied, Fritz races to a street corner, stands on top of a car and lectures the pedestrians, challenging them to revolt against their white oppressors. When the pigs arrive to break up the gathering, Fritz inflames the crows against them and in the ensuing riot, gunshots erupt around him. While trying to save Fritz, Duke is shot down and dies. Air Force bombers fly overhead and Fritz flees from their strafing shots, finally hiding near the docks. Winston finds him there, and after they have sex in a garbage can, she suggests they leave the city in her Volkswagen Bug and head to the West Coast, where she will become a secretary and he can write poetry. During their drive, Fritz is elated by the wind and the freedom, while she nags and complains of hunger. Although Fritz would rather eat at a truck stop and talk to the drivers, they instead eat at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. In the desert, their car runs out of gas. Carrying a bucket, Fritz begins walking toward the nearest service station, which is miles away, but then, deciding to leave Winston behind, drops the bucket and walks on. Eventually Fritz encounters Harriet the horse and her Hell’s Angel boyfriend, Blue the rabbit. Blue introduces him to two reptilian radicals planning a violent revolution to bring about change in America. Impressed by their rhetoric, Fritz agrees to help them blow up a power plant, but then witnesses them chain whip and gang rape Harriet, for whom he feels sincere fondness. A lesbian green beetle assigns Fritz to attach explosives to a girder high above the ground, but as he completes his task, Fritz questions the brutality and too late concludes that “the love you give is equal to the love you get.” The beetle, who has decided Fritz is expendable, lights the fuse and Fritz is blown up in the explosion. Near death, he is hospitalized and put under police guard. At his bedside are Harriet and the three New York girls, who are mourning his imminent demise. From his deathbed, Fritz haltingly begins a confession of the things he has done. Claiming to know now what is really important, he pulls the women into his bed, where their clothes and his bandages are flung aside, and they enthusiastically engage in a joyous orgy. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.