Robert Taylor, Animator on the X-Rated 'Fritz the Cat,' Dies at 70

Fritz the Cat Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Everett Collection

Fritz the Cat Still - H 2014

He also directed and co-wrote the 1974 sequel, which competed for the Palme D’Or

Robert Taylor, who served as the animator on Fritz the Cat, the first X-rated cartoon, and then directed and co-wrote its sequel, has died. He was 70.

Taylor died Dec. 11 in Woodland Hills of complications from the lung disease COPD, his daughter-in-law, Sarah Kuchelmeister Taylor, an executive with Paramount Home Media Distribution, told The Hollywood Reporter.

During his long career, Taylor also helmed and co-wrote the 1982 Hanna-Barbera feature Heidi’s Song and was the uncredited but widely acknowledged co-director of Rock Odyssey (1987), a H-B feature that traced American history through a talking jukebox (Scatman Crothers).

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Company executives, who said the film treated the 1960s too realistically for their liking, shelved Rock Odyssey after one public viewing, and Taylor exited the studio soon afterward.

Taylor won a Primetime Emmy in 1991 for co-producing the Disney Channel series TaleSpin and worked on other company properties like DuckTales and Aladdin.

The profane Fritz the Cat (1972), based on the Robert Crumb comic strip, centered on a randy pot-smoking feline whose wild adventures in New York City involved sexual escapades. The film, written and directed by Ralph Bakshi, was released independently by American International Pictures and became a critical and box-office hit.

Fritz the Cat is a ball for the open mind,” reviewer Judith Crist wrote in New York magazine.

Taylor then directed, co-wrote and animated the R-rated sequel, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (1974), without the involvement of Bakshi or Crumb. It was the first animated film to compete at Cannes for the Palme D’Or.

A native of Boston and an accomplished jazz guitarist, Taylor began his career at Terrytoons in New York in 1966 with Bakshi. They went on to collaborate on the animated features Heavy Traffic (1973), Coonskin (1975) and Wizards (1977).

In the 1980s, Taylor turned to TV animation and worked on H-B's Challenge of the GoBots as well as Klasky Csupo’s Wild Thornberrys and Rugrats.

A memorial service will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Oakwood Cemetery in Chatsworth, Calif.

In addition to his daughter-in-law, Taylor is survived by his children Scott (Kuchelmeister Taylor’s husband), Riena (and her husband Jeff), Stephanie (Dieter), Travis (Brandy) and Jesse and his grandchildren Kayla, Cage and Odin.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4