Animator, director, and all-around firebrand Ralph Bakshi is still astounded that 35 years ago he was able to get his fantasy feature Wizards made (my review). Made for a then fairly steep animation budget of a cool million (part of which Bakshi had to front himself to finish the film), a victim of studio politics when distributor Fox went through a regime change, and released directly against Disney's Fantasia, the road to the big screen for Wizards wasn't an easy one. "The fact that it's still around after 35 years is absolutely shocking and amazing," Bakshi tells me.

But it has survived and if you haven't seen the movie, there's still a good chance that you've seen the distinctive cover art featuring assassin-turned-hero Necron 99/Peace astride one of the strange beasts that populate Wizards' post-apocalyptic fantasy landscape. Or maybe you've seen some of his other animated work, all of it in way way or another subject to a cult following: Heavy Traffic, or the brilliant homage to our homegrown music, American Pop. It's likely many of you have seen his Lord of the Rings, for which Wizards was kind of a dry run.

Over a good half hour, I spoke to Mr. Bakshi, who was vacationing in New Mexico a week before WonderCon, about the continued legacy of his work, getting the damned movie made in the first place, and his hopes for revisiting the Wizards universe in a sequel.
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Pioneering animator Ralph Bakshi is known mostly for the adult-oriented work he created back in the mid to late 70's—"adult" as in mature and socially consciousness, although Bakshi wasn't shy about the sex and violence in his 'toons. Looking back at the studio system now against when Bakshi was guiding his first all-ages feature, Wizards to the screen, it's hard to imagine modern studios taking a chance on Bakshi who had a reputation for earning X-ratings for his satirical, anti-Disney work.

Spiritually, Wizards is directly related to works like Heavy Traffic and Fritz the Cat (and what I wouldn't give to be talking about a Blu-ray release of his American Pop), but instead of funny, troubled animals and people in urban settings, Wizards was the director's first real stab at fantasy, bringing to screen a vision of a world annihilated by science, reborn in magic, and about to face another technological holocaust. Not for everyone, and certainly not inline with a modern definition of kids' film, Wizard is nonetheless, potent, heady stuff 35 years after its debut. Read More...

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