Before he embarked on his impressive but unfinished adaptation of “Lord of the Rings,” maverick American animator Ralph Bakshi created Wizards (Fox), a futuristic fantasy set in the aftermath of the apocalypse. A mix of Tolkein-esque quest epic and seventies attitude, it was like a PG version of an underground comic book made for the big screen, and was Bakshi’s first effort to reach a mainstream audience. It was a hit that got overlooked when another 20th Century Fox science fiction film, a little thing called Star Wars, opened just a few weeks later, but a cult following kept it alive through revival house, college campuses, and video releases ever since.
Wizards debuts on Blu-ray this week in illustrated Blu-ray book with commentary by director Bakshi and the excellent interview featurette “The Wizard of Animation” (both originally produced for the DVD release).
To mark the film’s 35th Anniversary, Ralph Bakshi, now 73 years old and long retired from animated features, talked to Videodrone about Wizards, his career, and what he’s been watching from his mountaintop home in New Mexico.
What are you watching?
Ralph Bakshi: Japanese, Korean, and oriental films off of Netflix. I don’t remember the names, but the ones that are subtitled are the good ones and the production values and the shooting and the camerawork is incredible. And there are also some low budget detective films that they do. I think it’s sensational filmmaking. I’ve been watching an awful lot of that, and I’ve been watching British street films, films made in England about the working classes and their problems, and they’ve been very, very excellent. I’ve been doing a lot of that because they are films I never would have gone to the movies to see. I’m watching no animation.
You say you’re not watching animated films. What’s it like revisiting “Wizards” again after all these years.
How do I say this? My complete budget on “Wizards,” to make the entire film, is spent in a Pixar film in the first minute and a half. What they spend on a minute and a half of a Pixar film, I made my complete movie for. It’s hard looking at these movies that had so many problems. I had no money to do it the way I saw it in my mind, so I get very edgy looking at it. The fact that people are still finding it and enjoying it after all these years is kind of stunning to me. To be quite frank, I thought that they would never be shown again, they were so low budget, so I’ve come to the conclusion that though the work is important and quality is important, what films say might be more important than how they look and what their production values are. The Pixar films and the Sony films and the Fox films are all done incredibly well, visually, and it’s so hard to compete against that with my $1 million “Wizards.” But somehow it does and I don’t quite understand that except maybe it’s content. They’re hard to look at, is what I’m trying to say. They’re hard to look at it.