Ralph Bakshi Alexander Stuart - Essay

Alexander Stuart

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Sadly short on magic, Wizards is an interesting, unsuccessful try by animator Ralph Bakshi…. With a rather naïve, very late-1960s story about two wizards, one good, one bad, and their tussle for the kind of world each wants, the film is a stylistic mishmash that relies on far too many animation shortcuts to tell its tale.

Decidedly too much of the story is communicated through lengthy sequences of still sketches with narration over the top. These parts of the movie are the kind of thing Disney animators might produce just for themselves to get an impression of the feel of the thing they're working on—not the type of work you expect to end up in a finished feature film.

When Wizards does leap into animation one of the most instantly noticeable losses is in design. The sketches have a kind of sophistry: they seem to be aiming for the visual fantasy explored by artists like Roger Dean and Bruce Pennington in their album sleeves and posters. The backgrounds for the animation retain something of this, but the character design is pure Betty Boop, and the two really don't gel.

Then there are the tricksy sequences mixing animated foreground action with live action abstract backdrops; these seem only to accentuate the flatness of much of the artwork and its relative crudity. Worked into the storyline is a helping of Nazi rally footage, a nice idea but again the fusion between live action and animation is none too successful. The battle sequences use a different trick: stock footage, apparently from some viking movie; put through a solarisation-like optical process and given animated embellishments—some of the horsemen have batwings, for example. Again, nothing fits together very well. (p. 33)

Wizards looks like it was made in record time and on a record low budget—but where's the point in doing things that way if it shows? (p. 34)

Alexander Stuart, in his review of "Wizards" (© copyright Alexander Stuart 1978; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 24, No. 4, January, 1978, pp. 33-4.