When I was a lot younger and 'traditional hand-drawn animation,' to quote Mr. Eisner, wasn't dead, I was a fan of Ralph Bakshi. Sort of the anti-Disney, Bakshi did counter-culture movies like Fritz the Cat (which Robert Crumb hated so much he subsequently killed off the character), Wizards (a midnight movie staple for years), and the unfortunately named Coonskin, which was nearly incomprehensible. Bakshi was a sort of cultural renegade, offering up in animation what no one else could basically, he made animated films for adults and following his own warped vision of how things should be. Probably his highest profile work was his 1978 version of Lord of the Rings, a movie I still enjoy to this day. Problem is, aside from Rings, none of Bakshi's films ever made any money, and an attempt to go commercial with 1981's American Pop fizzled (granted, it was an uneven film). Bakshi returned to the genre that he'd done the best with swords and sorcery for 1983's Fire and Ice. 70s megastar artist Frank Frazetta designed most of the characters and did a fair amount of pre-production art (some of which, in true Bakshi fashion, shows up in montages in the film). It was a teaming up of the greatest fantasy artist if the day and the only animator who could have brought his stuff to life with any accuracy. The film was scripted by Roy Thomas, famous for working on Marvel Comics' Conan series, and Gerry Conway, another comics writer. That's a lot of genre talent for a small animated film.
Fire and Ice is no classic. It probably marks the pinnacle of rotoscoping and is a beautifully rendered film. There's a scant excuse for a plot and the characters are wafer thin, but the joy of the film is in the design and animation. This one really is eye candy, and I don't know if any of those involved with its creation ever aimed higher than making an animated Frazetta painting. Certainly they achieved that in spades.
Fire and Ice is achingly simple in its set up. Evil Ice Lord Nekron (a Bakshi staple name, used previously in Wizards) uses his magic powers to crush his enemies with a rapidly moving glacier. He also has a bunch of orcs (call them what they are) at his command who wipe out anyone who dodges the ice. Next up on his deep freeze: Fire Keep, run by King Jerol, who controls the lava, etc. The story centers mostly around a young man named Larn, the stereotypical hottie boy with long hair who runs around in a loincloth. After his village is iced, Larn encounters Jerol's ample daughter, Teegra, a Frazetta gal if ever there were one; body by Pamela Anderson, wardrobe by Frederick's of Hollywood. Aside from the pretty pictures, this would have been a forgettable flick if not for the presence of Dark Wolf, a mysterious warrior who's part Batman, part Superman, and all bad-ass. Dark Wolf's fun to watch, and he elevates the movie into the realm of the watchable.
The dialogue is pretty bad and the story is cliché-ridden, but Fire and Ice is still fun in a dopey kind of way. Some of the elements could have made a decent fantasy pulp novel, and a lot of the designs are pretty neat. Bakshi made better films than this (Wizards, Rings) but he made worse, too (most of the rest of his stuff). I wouldn't recommend this for anyone other than Bakshi fans or animation die-hards, or someone who really likes the fantasy genre. But it's light, brainless fun, and in my mind deserves not to be forgotten to the dustbin of obscurity.
June 8, 2004
Fire and Ice
Adventure / Animation / Fantasy
Fire and Ice
Adventure / Animation / Fantasy
From their stronghold in Icepeak, the evil Queen Juliana (Eileen O'Neill) and her son, Nekron (Stephen Mendel), send forth a wave of glaciers, forcing humanity to retreat south towards the equator. Nekron sends a delegation to King Jarol ( Leo Gordon) in Firekeep to request his surrender, but this is a ruse orchestrated by Queen Juliana for Nekron's sub-humans to kidnap Jarol's bikini-clad daughter, Princess Teegra (Cynthia Leake); Queen Juliana feels that Nekron should take a bride to produce an heir. However, Nekron is incensed and rejects the notion of peace, Teegra and his mother's plan. Later, Teegra makes an escape and comes upon Larn (Randy Norton), a young warrior and the only survivor of a village razed by glaciers, who offers to escort her back to Firekeep. As Teegra is recaptured, Larn teams with the mysterious Darkwolf ( Steve Sandor) to save Teegra and then travel to Icepeak to stop Juliana. Darkwolf faces Nekron and kills him as Icepeak succumbs to lava released by King ...
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