American Pop (1981)

R   |    |  Animation, Drama, History

American Pop (1981) Poster

The story of four generations of a Russian Jewish immigrant family of musicians whose careers parallel the history of American popular music in the 20th century.

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  • American Pop (1981)
  • American Pop (1981)
  • American Pop (1981)
  • American Pop (1981)
  • American Pop (1981)
  • American Pop (1981)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews

16 May 1999 | mercer74
At-times-corny-hodgepodge, yet quirky, offbeat, and strangely touching
I won't go so far as to call this movie a masterpiece, but I do have a special weakness for Ralph Bakshi for some reason, and I enjoyed this film despite the awkward non-uniform animation (involving heavy use of rotoscoping), the corniness of some moments, and the bizarre contexts into which some popular songs are placed (e.g. a Bob Dylan song being composed by some fictional character on a bus, and - as another reviewer commented - a Bob Seger song somehow being considered punk).

Nevertheless, there are several things I enjoyed about "American Pop". Rather than a single individual, the "protagonist" is a "familial line"; one could even say the protagonist of this movie is a "creative spark" that passes from father to son. It was interesting how we were shown that the same creative spark which expresses itself through popular music is intimately intertwined with the sexual urge - and hence the urge to "keep the spark alive" by passing it to the next generation.

It's also very interesting to see a movie about popular music as a whole throughout the twentieth century, as opposed to being confined to one particular decade. In fact, on one level, "American Pop" is simply an entertaining history of twentieth century popular music, a history which is embellished by the presence of four characters which represent different points in that century insofar as they "could have written" the songs of their particular time.

Finally, one of my favourite aspects of "American Pop" is alluded to by the second word of the title: "Pop". "Pop" is, of course, short for "popular", and in this film we see that these characters' choice to express themselves via the medium of popular music (rather than, say, classical music or classical painting) is very closely wound up with the fact that these are all quite down-to-earth, everyday types of people who sometimes experience the grittier side of life.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would have to give "American Pop" either a 7 or an 8.

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Did You Know?


as the voice of the piano player who tells a pregnant Bella that her song "is going to be a big hit. I think you should try it out."


Zalmie: Hey, Louie. I just seen the most beautiful thing I ever seen in the whole world.
Louie: Some pre-Prohibition booze, huh?
Zalmie: No. I seen the stripper gettin' dressed.
Louie: A stripper gettin' dressed ain't beautiful unless she's ugly to begin with.


As the film traces the history of pop music in America during the 20th century, all music featured is from US musicians/artists... except the Sex Pistols, who are a UK band.

Crazy Credits

Special thanks to the late, great Jimi Hendrix.

Alternate Versions

In some versions of the film, dialog has been redone in at last two scenes, presumably to make points more clear. For example, in Little Pete's first scene, he is asked what his Dad would say about him hanging backstage with a rock band. In one version, Pete says "Nothing. He's dead." In the other version, he instead says "I never met my Dad. He's some kind of mystery" (which serves as a better setup for information learned later) Also, Tony returns to the band's apartment after his release from the hospital, only to find they have moved out. In both versions, under 'People Are Strange,' we hear him on the phone with a friend, but the phone conversations begin completely differently. In one we never learn what happened to the band, only that they seemed to have moved out and left Tony behind, while in the other we learn that the band has gone on to big things, with a gold album. Both versions' phone calls end the same way, though, with Tony desperately asking his friend for money or drugs.


People Are Strange
Composed by
John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison
Performed by The Doors
Courtesy of Elektra/Asylum Records


Plot Summary


Animation | Drama | History | Music

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