Disney produced and distributed a large number of animated pictures in the 1970s, but by the 1980s, they started to concentrate more on live-action movies. Naturally, there existed a mismatch between the supply and demand of animated movies. At this point, a number of production companies stepped up to offer a rival to Disney’s charming musicals.
Others realised that animated movies did not have to be restricted to children while many produced pictures that were as cloyingly sweet as Disney. Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta seem to be mentioned on every list of such radicals. While Bakshi was the creator of works of art like Fritz the Cat and Wizards, Frazetta is best known for his depictions of Conan The Barbarian on the covers of various comic books.
In 1983, they collaborated to create Fire and Ice, a masterwork in rotoscopy. Despite the fact that it bombed at the box office, it went on to become a cult favourite that fans have been pining for ever since. Let me give you a quick definition of rotoscoping before we continue with our discussion.
The way it works is that actors are filmed on a soundstage, and the resulting movie is then sketched by hand frame by frame so that the animators can use it as a reference. The technique is laborious and delicate, but the outcome is amazing! In this video, we will discuss the 1983 fantasy adventure movie with huge lizards, heroic warriors, and a seductive princess before explaining why it is underappreciated. Shall we get started?
The End of Mankind As We Know It- Fire and Ice (1983)
The film starts with an old lady’s shivering voice explaining the premise of the magnificent story we are about to learn. Fire and Ice is set around the end of the glacial period which is more commonly known as the end of the last ice age. For those who are wondering how far ago this actually was, well, around 10000 years since today.
As we know from the Ice Age franchise, the world was left transformed in more ways than one because country-sized glaciers melted away. However, apart from the flora, fauna, and the geography, there was something else that was changing. An evil queen by the name of Juliana ruled over the North, possibly the ice-caped lands. But Juliana’s ambitions were to extend her empire far beyond the glaciers, and she wanted to rule over the world. But one woman alone could not possibly achieve such objectives, for this purpose, she bore a son and named him Nekron. Well, that’s not a very unique name, but it does project the image that Juliana wanted.
I mean, if we consider the DC villain Nekron, he was the very personification of death and ruled over a place called Land of the Unliving, and that says something about the guy. Nevertheless, our Nekron was an equally evil dude, who aced in the art of sorcery and could control the minds of others.
In fact, Juliana made sure that her son learned these powers and mastered them so that she could further move ahead to fulfill her plan of global reign. As Nekron grew older and stronger, he unleashed his icy wrath upon mankind, not only would he engulf lands with massive glaciers, but he would send his army of sub-human monstrosities to kill or capture whoever remained.
The remnants of humanity started to move South towards the equator, to the land of the fire people, who were ruled by king Jarol, who lived in a volcanic citadel called Firekeep. Interestingly enough, the stuntmen who were playing Nekron’s subhumans had an extremely troubled time working with Frank Frazetta, the man behind the muscular image of Conan the Barbarian. He would give insanely specific instructions on how to move, etc., most of which were hard to follow.
Eventually, Nekron and Juliana took over the last village in the north, and now only the great plain separated them and Firekeep, but it was a huge stretch of land. So, Juliana came up with a sinister plan. She sent an emissary to Jarol in the Firekeep with an offer of peace in return for total and unconditional surrender, well aware of the fact that Jarol would never agree to those terms.
However, Juliana’s real intention was to abduct princess Teegra so that she could be presented as a bride to Nekron, this would have formed a marriage alliance, and strengthened Nekron’s claim over the world. Interestingly enough, Juliana was smart rough to play this move because if history has taught us one thing, it is that the best form of an alliance is born out of marriage.
Anyway, the plan succeeds, and the subhumans manage to get Teegra. Speaking of Teegra, she has a fairly voluptuous figure, so much so, that the creators were having a hard time finding someone to play the character. Ultimately, they did settle for Cynthia Leake, who did a fairly good job. The film got a PG rating, but looking at the things she does and the way she does them, it is difficult to imagine how the film was suited for anyone below the age of 14.
I mean, to escape the subhumans, she uses her nuclear hot figure to entice them. Although it is an animated film, it is hard not to feel like a pervert whenever Princess Teegra is kind enough to grace the screen. It is also important to note that Teegra was initially portrayed as a damsel in distress, but the way she uses her body and mind to evade her captors proves that she is far from the typical cartoon heroine who needs to be saved all the time. She even kills several of the wildly powerful subhumans over the course of the film.
After escaping from subhumans for the first time, Teegra wanders the plains in search of food and shelter. She comes across Larn, a young warrior who was sleeping beside a boar he had previously killed for food. She attempted to steal a piece of the boar, but Larn woke up and was immediately enticed by her beauty. Previously, Larn was introduced as a skilled young warrior who was the only survivor of a village that fell prey to Nekron’s glaciers and his subhuman army. Larn did all he could to survive and killed several subhumans.
In these few scenes where Larn fights his enemies, we get to see that director Bakshi does not shy away from showing a bit of bloodshed. Clearly, this film was not made for children. Larn and Teegra meet each other only after thirty minutes of the film’s run time but the two of them develop feelings for each other. It’s a bit sad that they do not share a screen time of more than seven minutes during the entirety of the film.
Nevertheless, after spending a few happy moments, the two of them separate once again when Larn falls into the water and gets attacked by a gigantic Lovecraftian monster with huge tentacles. While Teegra manages to reach ashore, Larn gets thrown to the far side of the water. It’s not before long that Teegra once again gets captured by the subhuman idiots. But Teegra’s spirit was unbroken, she was someone who would go to any lengths to save herself, and so she did.
When the subhumans got wasted after drinking some alcohol, Teegra attempted to escape. But she had been chained to one of the uncivilised men so that she couldn’t escape again. However, she kills him and drags him along, only to fall from a small cliff. Meanwhile, Larn had joined hands with a mysterious man named Darkwolf. The interesting thing about this character was that he was never named in the film, and his backstory was cut out to shorten the film’s length.
However, it was revealed that Darkwolf shared some serious beef with Juliana, probably because she destroyed his entire village along with his family. Larn and Darkwolf come to rescue Teegra, but they could not find her. On the other hand, Teegra seemingly gets saved by a giant named Otwa, who was the son of a witch named Roleil. The giant breaks Teegra’s chains and brings her to his mother, who drugs her and asks her son to call the subhumans so that she could offer Teegra to Nekron in exchange for earning a few favours from the icy overlord.
However, the subhumans simply murder the weird mother-son duo. Honestly speaking, this subplot could have been just eliminated because it served no purpose. Alternatively, Bakshi could have expanded a little on Roleil’s story and role because she seemed like a promising character.
The subhumans finally take Teegra to Ice Peak, the citadel of Nekron and Juliana, where Juliana introduces Teegra to Nekron as his bride and mother to his heir. However, Nekron does not want that as he thinks that other humans are lowly creatures, or at least, they are not as great as he is. I think they should call this guy Nekron the Nazi! Although he refuses to marry her, he keeps her hostage.
Meanwhile, Larn continues his search for Teegra and comes across what remained of the witch Roleil. The enemy of an enemy is a friend, and the undead Roleil tells Larn about the way to Ice Peak and how to find Teegra. Larn continues his journey and travels to Ice Peak as a stowaway on the ship of Prince Taro, the son of Jarol. So, Jarol had sent his son with peace terms because Teegra had been missing for quite a while now.
With no other solution in sight for the release of his beloved daughter, Jarol agreed to accept Nekron as the overlord. But Nekron makes Prince Taro kill himself and the other members of his emissary. On the other hand, Larn reaches the frozen fortress after a lot of trouble, but does not succeed in saving his lady love.
Fortunately for him, Darkwolf reaches just in time to save Larn from imminent death. In the end, the two realise that to fight a king, they need a king by their side and decide to go to King Jarol to seek help. Jarol’s daughter was missing, and his son had been killed, he offered Larn and Darkwolf all the help he could and supplied the warrior companions with dragon hawks or dinosaur-like creatures.
They used the dragon hawks to fly to Ice Peak, where Darkwolf comes face to face with Nekron. Meanwhile, Larn manages to rescue Teegra from the clutches of Juliana. Back at the fortress, Darkwolf and Nekron get into a high-octane battle. Nekron’s sorcery and mind control seemed rather futile against the strong will and fighting skills of Darkwolf, who was determined to get his revenge.
In the end, he manages to slay Nekron, but the icy overlord’s agony was such that it created massive waves of glaciers across all the land and reached the borders of Jarol’s kingdom. Naturally, he opened the lava gates and flooded the lands with lava to stop the glaciers from reaching Fire Keep. However, the lava obliterated everything in its way, including Juliana and the subhuman army. Larn and Teegra ended up together and may have led a happy life. As for Larn, he could very well have become the heir to Jarol’s kingdom. Having achieved his objective, Dark Wolf once again disappeared.
How Ralph Bakshi & Frank Frazetta Created A Rotoscopic Masterpiece
While Frazetta’s imagination was brought to life by Bakshi in the director’s chair, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway were responsible for writing the film, both of whom had served as editors-in-chief at Marvel comics. On the other hand, James Gurney and Thomas Kinkade served as background artists, while Gurney later became the mind behind Dinotopia; Kinkade came to be known as the painter of light for his amazing understanding of the subject.
These two artists used to share the same room as freshmen at the University of California and then studied at the Art Center College of Design in California. So, you see, all these men were masters in their respective fields, and when they create something, it is bound to be a class apart. It is a different thing that the film tanked when it was released. While Frazetta may seem like someone who can get difficult to work with at times, artist James Gurney revealed in his blogs that he brought a lot of inspiration to the team, especially the background painters, layout people, and animators.
All the paintings were done in nine by twelve inches using cel-vinyl acrylics, while the first shot of Nekron’s castle was done in eleven by fourteen. But Bakshi was another force of positivity on the sets, and he often looked after the staging, etc., apart from dispersing his directorial duties.
In the end, it can be said without an ounce of doubt that it all came together to make a film that became a cult classic, something that people crave even today. I mean, those who have even a little knowledge of rotoscoping would know that it is an extremely time-consuming process, but the results it provides are worth it. This was why the movements of the subhumans, Teegra’s enticing body, and the action sequences felt so realistic.
How The Greatest Rotoscopic Animated Flopped Because Of One Big Reason
Now that we have established that the film was a masterpiece in its own right, it is important to talk about why the film failed at the box office. I mean, the film was so short-lived that Gurney could not even watch it in the theatres because he was on a short foreign tour. One possible reason could be that despite being a film with a simple and child-friendly story, the characters and their attire aren’t that way.
Most of the characters seem to have mastered the art of loincloths, but that’s not entirely what was required in the film. On the one hand, Bakshi and Frazetta aimed for a PG rating and on the other, they made Teegra look like a bombshell, and oftentimes she was drawn semi-nude!
Now, if it’s children you want to please, you have to ensure that the parents think the film is suited for their children, which was far from true. And, if you wanted a heroine who could serve as a model for the cover picture of a playboy, then you should have made the film for older audiences. But what else could be expected out of someone who is celebrated for painting Conan the Barbarian and other classic covers for the maestro named Robert E. Howard?
Speaking of Conan and Howard, you should check out our video titled 10 Epic Lesser-Known Facts About Conan The Barbarian – The True Alpha Of Hyborian Universe! We’ll leave a link in the description.