Ralph Bakshi's Wizards
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Uploaded on Jan 30, 2011
Drive By Theater and zeroheadroom.com present the uber cult classic that served as the template for Lord of the Rings
Ralph Bakshi had long had an interest in fantasy, and had been drawing fantasy artwork as far back as 1955, while he was still in high school.Wizards originated in the concept for Tee-Witt, an unproduced television series Bakshi developed and pitched to CBS in 1967. In 1976, Bakshi pitched War Wizards to 20th Century Fox. Returning to the fantasy drawings he had created in high school for inspiration, Bakshi intended to prove that he could produce a "family picture" that had the same impact as his adult-oriented films.
The film is an allegorical comment on the moral neutrality of technology and the potentially destructive powers of propaganda. Blackwolf's secret weapon is propaganda, used to incite and motivate his legions and terrorize the good fairy folk of Montagar; Blackwolf also utilizes technology for evil ends. However, in the end, it is Avatar's willingness to use a technological tool (a handgun pulled from "up his sleeve") which saves them all. Bakshi also states that Wizards "was about the creation of the state of Israel and the Holocaust, about the Jews looking for a homeland, and about the fact that fascism was on the rise again".
The film's main cast includes Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval and Steve Gravers. Bakshi cast Holt based on his ability to imitate the voice of actor Peter Falk, of whom Bakshi is a fan. Welles, Romanus and Proval had previously worked with Bakshi on Hey Good Lookin' (error? Came afterwards?), where Romanus and Proval provided the voices of Vinnie and Crazy Shapiro, respectively. Actress Tina Bowman, who plays a small role in Wizards, has a larger role in Hey Good Lookin'. Actor Mark Hamill auditioned for and received a voice role in the film. Bakshi states that "He needed a job, and he came to me, and I thought he was great, and Lucas thought he should do it, and he got not only Wizards, he got Star Wars."
Bakshi was unable to complete the battle sequences with the budget Fox had given him. When he asked them for a budget increase, they refused (during the same meeting, director George Lucas had asked for a budget increase for Star Wars and was also refused). As a result, Bakshi finished his film by paying out of his own pocket and using rotoscoping for the unfinished battle sequences. According to Bakshi, "I thought that if we dropped all the detail, it would look very artistic, and very beautiful, and I felt, why bother animating all of this? I'm looking for a way to get realism into my film and get real emotion." In his audio commentary for the film's DVD release, Bakshi states that "There's no question that it was an easier way to get these gigantic scenes that I wanted. It also was the way that showed me how to do Lord of the Rings, so it worked two ways." In addition to stock footage, the film used battle sequences from films such as Zulu, El Cid, Battle of the Bulge and Alexander Nevsky for rotoscoping. Live-action sequences from Patton were also featured.
Vaughn Bode's work has been credited as an influence on Wizards. Quentin Tarantino describes Avatar as "a cross between Tolkien's Hobbit, Mel Brooks' 2000 Year Old Man, and Marvel Comics' Howard the Duck" and Blackwolf as being physically similar to Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible. In Jerry Beck's Animated Movie Guide, Andrew Leal writes that "The central figure, Avatar [...] sounds a great deal like Peter Falk, and clearly owes much to cartoonist Vaughn Bodé's Cheech Wizard character."
As War Wizards neared completion, Lucas requested that Bakshi change the title of his film to Wizards in order to avoid conflict with Star Wars, and Bakshi agreed because Lucas had allowed Mark Hamill to take time off from Star Wars in order to record a voice for Wizards.
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