Monday, April 30, 2012

"Fire and Ice" - We got barbarians! Lots of barbarians!

"Don't hunt for death, boy. It finds us all soon enough."

First of all, I just saw the new trailer for Prometheus. With each trailer they release, the more it seems to resemble Alien, but I'm really, really excited to see it.

I thought I'd post a little review of an animated film I watched a few weeks ago - Fire and Ice, directed by Ralph Bakshi. Just for reference, Bakshi directed a bunch of animated shorts and films starting in the late 1960s. He directed  the 1978 The Lord of the Rings animated movie, but he was also responsible for Fritz the Cat, which was history's first X-rated animated film.

On The Rotoscopers Episode 7 (Rango) Morgan mentioned Bakshi's views on animation (about 50 minutes into the show). Here are a couple of quotes from his IMDB bio:

"The art of cartooning is vulgarity. The only reason for cartooning to exist is to be on the edge. If you only take apart what they allow you to take apart, you're Disney. Cartooning is a low-class, for-the-public art, just like graffiti art and rap music. Vulgar but believable, that's the line I kept walking."

"None of my pictures were anything I could ever take my mother to see. You know it's working if you're making movies you don't want to your mother to see."

Yeah I understand his view, but I don't agree with it.

Fire and Ice, released in 1983, is an animated swords-and-sorcery fantasy film not unlike the Conan series. There's an evil sorcerer and his army invading a barbarian nation, a barbarian princess gets kidnapped, a hero sets out to save the world, and a tough-as-nails warrior named Darkwolf (pictured above) helps the hero on his quest. It's got monsters, it's got witches, and it's got a lot of violence.

Yeah this movie isn't for kids. While it's nothing R-rated, there are plenty of killings and the barbarian women don't dress/act very modestly.

What Makes This Film Interesting:

1) Very heavy use of Rotoscoping. First actors were filmed in live-action and later animators traced over their movements as the foundation for their animation. It gives the characters' movements a very naturalistic look. Value and tone (aka shading) on the characters' bodies is mostly nonexistent. I noticed the technique in this film more than any other. Although rotoscoping is cheap and not the most appealing animation technique, I thought it matched the spirit of the film. There's a lot of running, jumping, stabbing, squatting, swimming, etc. in Fire and Ice and you're certainly not going to see the characters line up and burst out into song.

I found this cool behind-the-scenes video on the rotoscope animation in Fire and Ice.

2) Minimal dialogue. Characters only speak if necessary. The film's plot is a story of struggle and survival, you know? So there's no dialogue to up the film's drama.

3) Cool-looking layouts. The background/layouts team mimicked the works of fantasy artist Frank Frazetta.

Check out that background. (A knife against a skeleton? Sooo ineffective)
It's a shame the characters don't match the quality of the layouts. This film would have been a lot better.

4) It's barbarians for crying out loud. There aren't a whole lot of animated films like this. For lovers of 80s fantasy adventures, Fire and Ice is a real treat. Darkwolf, your classic slash-first-and-ask-questions-later antihero, is by far the coolest character. If you're craving a campy fantasy film, I highly recommend this one. It's no Disney's Tarzan and will most likely fade away into animation oblivion, but it's still fun.

Check it out on Netflix Watch Instantly. If you enjoyed it and want to see more like it, I recommend Turok: Son of Stone (2008) or gorge yourself on some old He-Man cartoons.

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