American Pop (1981)

american pop poster 1981 movie ralph bakshi
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Unique Bakshi visuals, epic in scope

Sometimes confusing and feels crammed

Movie Info

Movie Name:  American Pop

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Genre(s):  Animated/Musical

Release Date(s):  February 13, 1981

MPAA Rating:  R


A clown and a stripper…there’s a joke here

Living in Russia in the 1890s, Zalmie finds himself in an odyssey to America.  Zalmie’s love of music passes down from father to son as the generations pass and music in America changes.  From Zalmie to Benny to Tony to Pete, generations grow up as rock-and-roll begins to develop too.  Will Zalmie or his relatives ever reach the American dream through their music?

Directed by Ralph Bakshi, American Pop is an animated musical drama.  The movie aimed at adults utilizes rotoscoping techniques and was a box-office success upon its release.  The movie received relatively positive reviews and (like many of Bakshi’s film) has developed a cult following over the years.


…and Tony begins his training of the young Matt Murdock

Ralph Bakshi is a strange director.  Though unusual in his style, when you watch a Ralph Bakshi movie, you generally know what you are going to get…American Pop is no exception in that vein though it is not my favorite film.

I will give American Pop this compliment, unlike many animated films, it is very epic.  In fact, the movie really doesn’t feel like other animated films in that sense.  The movie transverses generations and almost a hundred years.  It tells a somewhat Godfather-esque story in the process.

The movie however feels a bit too ambitious at points.  It feels like the years are really crammed into a film that is too short.  The movie has a lot going on in it.  It spans so much time and sometimes there are a lot of characters introduced quickly leading to some confusion.


Rock & Roll never dies!!! It just gets reused for musicals

The visuals for American Pop utilizing the rotoscope method that Bakshi is famous for using to give the characters a more natural movement.  I find rotoscope interesting but also kind of creepy at the same since it is natural and unnatural at the same time.  The motion and look of the characters are odd and Bakshi also uses real footage at times to augment this strange feel.  I liked it in fantasy stories (like his Lord of the Rings), but it feels like he could have just made American Pop without animation.

The visuals are combined with the music.  This is weird that the characters are supposed to be writing the songs, but they are using popular songs.  Pete makes a big moment where he premieres the song he wrote to a producer…and it is Bob Seger’s “Night Moves”.  It takes you out of the story.

American Pop is an interesting journey but not particularly a good one.  I like its epic nature and find the visuals interesting, but I’d rather stick to Bakshi’s other films like Fire and Ice, Wizards, and The Lord of the Rings if I want those visuals.  As a story of the immigrant’s life in America, I feel movies like The Godfather do that concept better.  American Pop is a good experiment, but I wouldn’t rush out and get it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

One Comment on "American Pop (1981)"

  1. Mastuh OSCG 8845 February 2, 2018 at 3:39 pm - Reply


Leave A Response