American Pop is a 1981 American animated musical drama film produced and directed by Ralph Bakshi. The film tells the story of four generations of a Russian Jewish immigrant family of musicians whose careers parallel the history of American popular music. The majority of the film’s animation was completed through rotoscoping, a process in which live actors are filmed and the subsequent footage is used for animators to draw over.
However, the film also uses a variety of other mixed media including water colors, computer graphics, live-action shots, and archival footage. Michael Barrier, an animation historian, described ‘American Pop’ as one of two films that demonstrated ‘that Bakshi was utterly lacking in the artistic self-discipline that might have permitted him to outgrow his limitations.’
Following the production struggles of ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ Bakshi decided that it was time to work on something more personal. He wanted to produce a film with an extensive soundtrack of songs which would be given an entirely new context in juxtaposition to the visuals in a film. While the film does not reflect Bakshi’s own experiences, its themes were strongly influenced by individuals he had encountered in his home in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood.
The score was composed by Lee Holdridge, and as the result of his reputation as an innovator of adult animation, Bakshi was able to acquire the rights to an extensive soundtrack, including songs by Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Doors, George Gershwin, The Mamas & the Papas, Herbie Hancock, Lou Reed, and Louis Prima, for under US$1 million in permissions fees.