Today I watched Ralph Bakshi’s Fire and Ice (1983)
In an ancient land an evil queen and her son, Nekron, launch a crusade to conquer the world with their ice magic. They attack by sending glaciers to freeze and destroy all other civilizations, the rest of humanity is quickly pushed back to warmer, equatorial regions. The last humans rally around Firekeep, the volcanic home of King Jarol, and the opposition to Nekron and his forces at Icepeak. Nekron and his mother demand Jarol’s surrender but he refuses, so they do what any self respecting villains would do, kidnap the princess Teegra. During her transport to Icepeak, she manages to escape the neanderthal soldiers of Nekron. In the jungle she runs into Larn, a warrior from a village that was earlier destroyed by glaciers, but as Larn escorts her back to Firekeep, she is recaptured. Larn now teams up with another mysterious barbarian named Darkwolf and together they will do whatever they can to topple the icy dictators and rescue the princess.
Fire and Ice is a diversion from Bakshi’s normally collage-like amalgam of styles and imagery for a much more conventional delivery of a frankly very generic story. It is pure Eighties fantasy cheese, so if you like it, this is awesome, thankfully I do like that flavour. The film came about as a collaboration between Bakshi and legendary fantasy illustrator Frank Frazetta and thus it’s story and style falls more into Frazetta’s wheelhouse than it does Bakshi. What Bakshi does bring to this project is pure technical acumen in the field of rotoscoping, which was the technique used on this entire film. The use of this technique leads to incredibly smooth and intense action sequences which are very common throughout the film, making it Bakshi’s most action packed piece. In comparison to the live action fare of this subgenre of fantasy, the animation also allows for more fantastical and diverse imagery, a fleet of dragon riding barbarians could never have been portrayed convincingly in a live action film of the time.
Again I re-iterate that this film has little to offer in the way of theme or content that is outside of it’s Eighties fantasy genre norms, but within that framework it delivers a great piece of entertainment. If you can handle the traditions of scantily clad barbarians and buxom sorceresses in strange worlds that combine elements of stone age culture with advanced magic and strange technology, then this is a movie for you. The animation is beautiful, particularly the backgrounds, and the world is as creative as they come, using the unreality of animation to it’s fullest extent. 4/5