Wizards - Ralph Bakshi

Before Ralph Bakshi got involved in the animated version of Lord of the Rings, he ventured into the fantasy animation realm with his classic, Wizards, which pitted cute, cuddly nature against evil, mutated technology.

I saw this first when I was relatively young and was struck by both how interesting the tale was, the great potential for the story, and also how clumsily it was told. Seeing it several times in later years has reinforced those views.

First, the animation. It was in Wizards that tested the use of 'rotoscoping', or using live action footage - colored in - to work with animation. The effect is rather unkempt looking in the movie, sort of like the animators didn't feel like putting the work in for complex scenes and instead stuck in a movie sequence they thought would fit.

The drawing style is very in-your-face. The good guys are light and airy and cute. The bad guys are dark and evil and nasty. There's no complexity, no understanding of motives. The bad guys are just "bad".

You've got Avatar, the hippy-wizard, with his big-breasted babe by his side. Together they go off to track down his evil brother, BlackWolf. BlackWolf isn't just 'mildly bad'. He is very deliberately shown with Nazi and other propaganda around him. He and his kind want to totally wipe out the fairy folk.

Avatar claims that war is bad. But of course, he in essence declares war against BlackWolf and in the end uses those same "nasty, evil" weapons to bring BlackWolf down. Which reminds us that nobody really *wants* a war. But when we are faced with something we feel that we (and those around us) simply cannot live with, sometimes war seems to be the only option.

I have fond thoughts of *bits* of the movie. There are individual, cute scenes, and the basic idea was a good, if quite overused, plot. But the movie was incredibly heavy-handed and obvious just about the entire way, and the message was beaten into you. The bimbo-girl was saddening as the representative of what females were, and in the end, was the lecherous hippie really that much better than the evil twin? Except, of course, he was "cute" and stood for the "cute people".

Yes, the movie sweeps you along in a feel-good "trounce all evil! stop all war!" mindset. But any movie that trains you to chant mantras and look at things as black-and-white is not a movie that makes you think or constructively evaluate. Lord of the Rings had an 'evil ruler' that 'good people' had to struggle against, and that story is FAR more complex and thought-provoking than this even began to be. So maybe rent this one to learn more about how animation changed over the years, but this is not a movie that deserves multiple watching, given the wealth of quality anime that exist.

Info on Ralph Bakshi
Lord of the Rings - Animated

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