Ralph Bakshi spoke at the WonderCon 2012 recently, which reminded me to watch his pioneering movie Wizards again. Watching Wizards as a teenager, a few months before I saw Star Wars, I was blown away by the animation.
In a post-apocalyptic earth, mankind is destroyed by a nuclear war. The only creatures to survive are fairies, pixies, dwarves and mutants. Two twin brothers are born to a fairy queen. One is good, the other is evil.
The evil son Blackwolf rediscovers ancient World War II technologies and some Nazi propaganda films that he uses to revenge and conquer the fairies and elves. Avatar, the good son, is a grumpy psychedelic wizard with the NSFW dressed fairy girlfriend Elinore. (But of course! It was made in the mid 1970s.) Blackwolf tries to assassinate his brother and assembles mutant forces against him, leading to the ultimate confrontation between the brothers and the fate of the world.
Wizards was sort of Ralph Bakshi's test-run for his cartoon version of Lord of the Rings. Watching the movie you get a smorgasbord of different animation techniques. There is conventional animation, Rotoscoping and overexposed film, sometimes being used in the same scene.
Wizards was 20th Century Fox's first animated film. It was intended to be a trilogy, but the budget was only 1 MUSD and Bakshi had to use Rotoscoping and stills with a narrator, to afford to finish the movie. In the 35th anniversary DVD rerelease of the movie, Ralph Bakshi says that when he asked Fox for a budget increase, they refused. At the same meeting, director George Lucas asked for a budget increase for Star Wars and was also refused.
As usual for most Bakshi movies, the plot is simple but anarchistic, the characters are engaging and the humor sporadic. The animation is rough, but it has innovative ideas. It's more like the dynamic motion depicted in comic book art.
Today, the movie feels a bit rough and uneven. For example Bakshi fills the end of the movie with pointless walking, driving, going, riding, etc. However, that gives the movie a charm that a slicker production wouldn't have.
The film is definitely worth viewing, for no other reason than the excellent artwork by IanMiller and Michael Ploog.
Wizards is a cult classic. It has inspired many modern movies, like Avatar.
It was nominated to the 1978 Hugo award.
Grade: A collector's movie.