Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ralph Bakshi|
|Produced by||Frank Mancuso Jr.|
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Cinematography||John A. Alonzo|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Budget||$30 million|
|Box office||$14.1 million|
Cool World is a 1992 American live-action/animated black comedy fantasy film directed by Ralph Bakshi, and starring Kim Basinger, Gabriel Byrne and Brad Pitt. It tells the story of a cartoonist who finds himself in the animated world he thinks he created, where he is seduced by one of the characters, a comic strip vamp who wants to be real.
Cool World marked Bakshi's return to feature films after nine years. The film was originally pitched as a live-action/animated horror film by Michael Grais and Mark Victor about an underground comic cartoonist who after leaving prison a folk hero for his comic book "Cool World" is pulled into his creation by the characters he thinks he created but who he discovers exist with or without him. During Preproduction, Grais’ original screenplay in collaboration with Mark Victor written as an R rated film was told by new studio head to change it from an R-rated film to a PG-13 film per studio directive. Bakshi began a rewrite to meet the studio's demand. The film received negative reviews for the story, acting, animation and its unconvincing combination with live-action, though the soundtrack received praise. Bakshi and Mancuso lost three WGAW arbitrations claiming they created the story.
In 1945, in Las Vegas, World War II veteran Frank Harris returns to his mother and invites her to a ride on his motorcycle. The two are involved in a traffic collision; Frank's mother dies, while Frank is transported to an animated realm called the "Cool World". In 1992, cartoonist Jack Deebs is serving a 10-year prison sentence for the murder of a man he had found in bed with his wife. During his sentence, he has visions of the Cool World and the femme fatale Holli Would, who seems to beckon him. Jack spends his sentence creating a series of comics based on his visions. Meanwhile, Frank has become a detective in the Cool World and keeps his eye on Holli to ensure that the two worlds do not intertwine. Shortly after his release from prison, Jack is transported into the Cool World and smuggled into a local nightclub by Holli and her henchmen, the Goons.
Frank aggressively confronts Jack, explaining to him that the Cool World has existed long before Jack created the comic series. He also informs Jack that his fountain pen is a lethal weapon in the Cool World, and warns him that sexual intercourse between "noids" (humans from the real world) and "doodles" (the inhabitants of Cool World) is forbidden, as this can break the fabric between the two dimensions. Despite this, Frank himself is in love with the doodle Lonette, but limits himself to platonic advances. Holli later seduces Jack and makes love to him, which transforms her into a noid. Holli then secretly steals Jack's pen, which she uses to entrap Frank's partner Nails the Spider when he attempts to stop her. Jack and Holli leave for the real world, where Holli finds herself experiencing real sensations. Due to the damaged interdimensional fabric, Jack and Holli spontaneously flicker in between their doodle and noid forms. While contemplating their situation, Holli tells Jack about the "Spike of Power", an artifact that was the cause of Frank being transported to Cool World and was placed on the top of the Union Plaza Hotel by a doodle who crossed into the real world, and admits she wants to use it to remain in her noid form permanently. When Jack displays skepticism about the idea, Holli abandons Jack to search for the spike on her own.
Frank learns what has happened and goes to the real world, where he teams up with Jack in a bid to stop Holli. They arrive at the casino and climb to the roof, where Holli kills Frank by pushing him off the building and seizes the Spike. A multitude of monstrous doodles begin pouring into the real world and begin turning noids in the city into doodles. The Spike also transforms Jack into an muscular superhero-like doodle, who returns the Spike to its rightful place, sending him, Holli and the invading doodles back to Cool World and restoring the balance between the two dimensions. Nails, having been freed from Jack's pen in the ensuing chaos, brings Frank's body back to Cool World. As Lonette mourns him, she finds out from Nails that Holli was briefly in her doodle form when she killed Frank and explains that when a noid is killed by a doodle, the noid is reborn in Cool World as a doodle. Sure enough, Frank is then revived as a doodle, allowing him to continue his relationship with Lonette. Meanwhile, Jack (who is still in his doodle form) and Holli are last seen as Jack begins planning their new life together, much to Holli's dismay.
- Gabriel Byrne as Jack Deebs, the ex-convict cartoonist seemingly responsible for the creation of Cool World.
- Brad Pitt as Detective Frank Harris, a detective for the Cool World Police Department who is intent on catching Holli. Pitt also provides Frank's voice in doodle form.
- Deirdre O'Connell as Isabelle Malley
- Frank Sinatra Jr. as Himself
- Michele Abrams as Jennifer Malley
- Janni Brenn-Lowen as Agatha Rose Harris
- Marilyn Monroe (archival footage)
- Kim Basinger as Holli Would, a Femme fatale doodle who wishes to be real in the real world. Basinger also portrays her in live action.
- Charlie Adler as Nails, an spider-like doodle who serves as Frank's partner.
- Joey Camen as Interrogator No. 1 / Slash / Holli's Door
- Jenine Jennings as Craps Bunny
- Michael Lally as Sparks
- Maurice LaMarche as Interrogator No. 2 / Mash / Dr. Vincent "Vegas Vinnie" Whiskers / Super Jack
- Candi Milo as Lonette / Bob
- Patrick Pinney as Chico the Bouncer
- Gregory Snegoff as Bash
- Emma Blackwell as Additional Voices
- Scott Kirkwood as Additional Voices
In 1990, Ralph Bakshi decided that it was time to make another animated film. According to Bakshi, "I made 1,500 bucks in 10 years of painting; I thought it would be nice to pick up a piece of change. So I called my lawyer, who was still speaking to me because no one ever leaves Hollywood, and asked him where I should go to sell a movie." Bakshi heard the original pitch of Cool World by Michael Grais and Mark Victor to Paramount Pictures (where Bakshi had worked as the final head of the studio's animation division) as an animated horror film. The concept of the film involved a cartoonist who created a comic book while in prison that makes him an underground "star". Bakshi states that Paramount Pictures "bought the idea in ten seconds."
As the sets were being built in Las Vegas, producer Frank Mancuso Jr., son of Paramount president Frank Mancuso Sr., hired Larry Gross to change the film from R rated to PG-13. Bakshi also contributed to the script, but both their work was uncredited as Michael Grais and Mark Victor's original concept formed the basis of the film. In interviews after the release of the film Bakshi claimed he rewrote the script and was backstabbed by Mancuso with a new screenplay before production began. Paramount threatened Bakshi with a lawsuit if he refused to complete the film. "I thought if I did the animation well, it would be worth it, but you know what? It wasn't worth it." Bakshi also stated that he "had a lot of animators there that I'd brought in and I thought that maybe I could just have fun animating this stuff, which I did." Bakshi said he had developed the film as a mix of comedy and horror that he described as "a hard R-rated story" but Paramount wanted a PG-13 film, one of the reasons for the doomed and angry relationship between filmmaker and studio.
Bakshi had originally intended to cast Drew Barrymore and Brad Pitt in the film's leading roles. Pitt was cast as Frank Harris instead, with Gabriel Byrne as Deebs and Kim Basinger as Holli. The film's voice cast includes Maurice LaMarche, Charlie Adler and Candi Milo. According to Bakshi, Basinger had attempted to rewrite the film halfway into its production because she "thought it would be great [...] if she would be able to show this picture in hospitals to sick children [...] I said, 'Kim, I think that's wonderful, but you've got the wrong guy to do that with.' [...] [Mancuso] was sitting there with Kim [...] agreeing with her."
The visual design of the live-action footage was intended to look like "a living, walk-through painting," a visual concept Bakshi had long wanted to achieve. The film's sets were based upon enlargements of designer Barry Jackson's paintings. The animation was strongly influenced by Fleischer Studios (whose cartoons were released by Paramount in the 1930s and 1940s) and Terrytoons (where Bakshi once worked, and whose Mighty Mouse character was also adapted into a series by Bakshi). The artwork by the character Jack Deebs was drawn by underground comix artist Spain Rodriguez. The film's animators were never given a screenplay, and were instead told by Bakshi to "Do a scene that's funny, whatever you want to do!"
A soundtrack album, Songs from the Cool World, featuring recordings by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Moby, Ministry, The Future Sound of London, and others, was released in 1992 by Warner Bros. Records. It included the track "Real Cool World" by David Bowie, his first original solo material in roughly three years; the song was written exclusively for the film. The soundtrack received stronger reviews from critics than the film itself, including a four-star rating from Allmusic. Mark Isham's original score for Cool World, featuring a mixture of jazz, orchestral pieces, and electronic remixes, and performed by the Munich Symphony Orchestra, was released on compact disc by Varèse Sarabande, and in complete form in 2015 by Quartet. It also received positive reviews, as did the work of John Dickson.
Release and reception
Promotion and merchandising
As part of the film's promotion, the Hollywood Sign was altered to include a 75-foot (23 m) tall cutout of Holli Would. The alteration angered local residents. In a letter to the city's Recreation and Park Board, commission officials wrote that they were "appalled" by the board's approval of the alterations: "...the action your board has taken is offensive to Los Angeles women and is not within your role as custodian and guardian of the Hollywood sign. The fact that Paramount Pictures donated a mere $27,000 to Rebuild L.A. should not be a passport to exploit women in Los Angeles." Protestors picketed the unveiling of the altered sign. The promotional campaign was focused on the sex appeal of Holli. It was considered by some experts as misaimed. Paramount's marketing president Barry London noted: "Cool World unfortunately did not seem to satisfy the younger audience it was aimed at." Designer Milton Knight recalled: "Audiences actually wanted a wilder, raunchier Cool World. The premiere audience I saw it with certainly did."
Several different licensed video games based on the film were created by Ocean Software. The first game was developed by Twilight and released in 1992 for the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and DOS. Two different games were released in 1993 for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super NES, alongside a Game Boy version of the former. A four-issue comic book prequel to the film was published as a miniseries by DC Comics. It featured a script by Michael Eury and art work by Stephen DeStefano, Chuck Fiala, and Bill Wray.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 6% based on 48 reviews, with an average rating of 3.17/10. The consensus reads: "Cool World throws a small handful of visual sparks, but they aren't enough to distract from the screenplay's thin characters and scattered plot." On Metacritic the film has a score of 28 based on reviews from 15 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "C" on scale of A+ to F.
The Washington Post reviewer Hal Hinson wondered "whether Kim Basinger is more obnoxious as a cartoon or as a real person," and felt that the combination of animation and live action was unconvincing.
Contributing to the low box office was the fact the studio withdrew all advertising support after the opening weekend.
In 1997, John Grant wrote in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy that Cool World "stands as one of the fantastic cinema's most significant achievements, an 'Instauration fantasy' that reveals greater depths with each viewing."
Animation historian Jerry Beck described the film as being "for adults and Bakshi completists only", writing that the film "has a great premise, a great cast, and the best animation he's ever been involved with", but critiquing it as a "pointless rehash of many of Ralph's favorite themes, and the story literally goes nowhere".
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- Labrecque, Jeff (February 28, 2013). "Still Bakshi after all these years: Iconoclastic 'Fritz the Cat' director has another tale to tell". Entertainment Weekly.
- "About Spain". Dies Irae. Archived from the original on July 10, 2011. Retrieved January 10, 2007.
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- Mills, Ted. "Review of Songs from the Cool World". Allmusic. Retrieved March 27, 2007.
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- "When Paramount's 75-Foot Hollywood Sign Stunt Pushed Locals Too Far". The Hollywood Reporter. July 5, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
- Schoch, Deborah (July 6, 1992). "Hollywood Residents Can't Shroud Anger Promotion: Paramount Pictures defends attaching a movie cartoon character to the famous sign. Citizens fear a tourist invasion and say that the landmark is being commercialized". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
- "Cartoon Character Opens Landmark Rift". San Jose Mercury News. July 7, 1992. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
- Chazanov, Mathis (July 7, 1992). "'D' as in Disagreement Cartoon Character Atop Landmark Sign Sets Off Protests". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
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- "CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
- Ebert, Roger (July 13, 1992). "Review of Cool World". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 10, 2007.
- Hicks, Chris (July 16, 1992). "Review of Cool World". Deseret News.
- Lowry, Brian (July 13, 1992). "Review of Cool World". Variety. Retrieved November 22, 2009.
- Rainer, David (July 11, 1992). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Cool World' Flirts With the Erotic". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
- Maltin, Leonard (2008). "Cool World (1992)". Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide. Penguin Group. p. 280. ISBN 9780452289789.
- Hinson, Hal (July 10, 1992). "Review of Cool World". The Washington Post.
- Grant, John (2001). "Ralph Bakshi". Masters of Animation. Watson-Guptill. p. 28. ISBN 0-8230-3041-5.
- Beck, Jerry (2005). "Cool World". The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-55652-591-9.
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- Cool World on IMDb
- Cool World at The Big Cartoon DataBase
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- Cool World at AllMovie
- Cool World at Box Office Mojo
- Cool World at the official Ralph Bakshi website.