DVD of the Week – Disc Commentary Track for Wizards (1977)
by NIR SHALEV
This week’s DVD of the week pick is the commentary track for Wizards. Wizards is an animated film about a battle between fairies and orcs and two wizard brothers who duel with one another. Blackwolf is the evil brother and is a Hitler-type who finds and uses Nazi propaganda footage to pump up bile in his armies and to scare his enemies on the battlefield. Avatar is the good brother who must find Blackwolf and rid the world of him.
Writer/director Ralph Bakshi incorporates the aspect of Nazism through the antagonists, Blackwolf and the orcs, while the protagonists are fairies, innocent creatures condemned to die. Blackwolf rules the burnt city of Scorch and sends a robot, a “cold” creature lacking a soul and feelings, to assassinate the President of Montagar (the city of the fairies). We also see Blackwolf harvesting tanks and planes, and his army is armed with blunt and sharp weapons. But it all comes down to technology vs. magic; the film is called “Wizards” after all.
The commentary track of the film features the voice of Bakshi as he talks about the various “old school” animation techniques that were used in making this animated cult classic. For example, he explains how using various airbrushing techniques he created fog. He also Rotoscoped, which is the painstaking process of tracing film footage, frame by frame, onto animation cells so that characters and objects move like they do in films. Ralph Bakshi Rotoscoped footage from Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935) into the film and combined it with the animations occurring to make the audience feel the ugliness and futility of war.
Also mentioned on the commentary is that Ralph Bakshi was born in Palestine (now Haifa, Israel) and was raised in Brooklyn, New York. His films usually, if not always, incorporate themes of racism and intolerance, and in this film the swastika is evident quite a lot.
The DVD also contains an image gallery that has various character sketches from early versions of the storyboards and a 34 minute conversation with Ralph Bakshi as he talks about his career as an animator from the very beginning to the present (2004, when the DVD was released).