Fritz the Cat was released on April 12, 1972, opening in Hollywood and Washington, D.C. Although the film only had a limited release, it went on to become a worldwide hit. It grossed over $100 million worldwide, and was the most successful independent animated feature of all time. In Michael Barrier's 1972 article on the film's production, Bakshi gives his accounts of two separate screenings of the film. Of the reactions to the film by audiences at a preview screening in Los Angeles, Bakshi stated "They forget it's animation. They treat it like a film. This is the real thing, to get people to take animation seriously." Bakshi was also present at a showing of the film at the Museum of Modern Art and remembers "Some guy asked me why I was against the revolution. The point is, animation was making people get up off their asses and get mad."
The film also sparked negative reactions because of its content. "A lot of people got freaked out", says Bakshi. "The people in charge of the power structure, the people in charge of magazines and the people going to work in the morning who loved Disney and Norman Rockwell, thought I was a pornographer, and they made things very difficult for me. The younger people, the people who could take new ideas, were the people I was addressing. I wasn't addressing the whole world. To those people who loved it, it was a huge hit, and everyone else wanted to kill me."
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