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ADVENTURES IN ANIMATION: 'Wizards'

by Eli Kroes

The realm of 'adult' animation is an interesting one. For a lot of people, it begins and ends with the Adult Swim channel or 'The Simpsons.' Some associate the genre with gross-out borderline-porn flicks like 'Fritz the Cat.' To be sure, this is only a small chunk of the animation that's not intended for children. In fact, the earliest cartoons were meant for an adult audience, and there is a lengthy list of terrific animated features you don't have to be twelve to enjoy. 'Adventures in Animation' will feature reviews of such films... 

'Wizards' -  1977, Directed by Ralph Bakshi

Most people have seen a Ralph Bakshi film, whether or not they know it. Perhaps you stumbled onto 'Cool World' as a kid (aka that kind of perverted 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' ripoff...though, to be fair, Bakshi was working with live action/animation hybrid for a long time) or maybe you suffered through 'Fritz the Cat.' He also did the animated 'Lord of the Rings' from the late '70's, but that's kind of overshadowed now. 

Anyhow, Bakshi's films usually feature either swords-and-spells fantasy plots or are vehicles for his questionable race-relations discussions. The most obvious offender here is 'Coonskin,'  which I loved, but haven't found too many other supporters of. 'Wizards' DEFINITELY falls in the former category, if you couldn't tell by the title.

It's kind of a LOTR-style story of a wizard getting his motley band of followers to fight his evil brother, but with a lot more hippie mysticism and weirdness. For example, there's a big subplot that has to do with Nazis for some reason, and some old WWII footage appears from time to time, heavily edited using the rotoscope technique. 

A lot of folks might write this off as 70's camp in the vein of 'The Smurfs' or something, but there's a lot of good things going on here, and Bakshi's an excellent storyteller. Also, there are probably lots of you ex-rockers out there who would like to show your kids 'Heavy Metal' but can't for obvious reasons. Wizards is a pretty good substitution. There's a good deal of violence, but it's mostly cartoonish, and there's no nudity or cursing. It also, strangely, has a soundtrack comprised of mostly instrumental psychedelic music.

If you really like your vintage Saturday morning cartoons, or are just a fan of good fantasy stories, this is a film worth seeing. On the plus side, Bakshi is also very good at keeping his films in print. Pretty much any of them are worth seeing, but 'Wizards' is my favorite.


Photo by Animation Stuff.