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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Comic-Con 2005 - Ralph Bakshi / Fire and Ice (1983)

Almost famous I felt, seeing so many people I knew at last weekend's Comic-Con panels. I went straight from the sneak preview of Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects", which stars my friend Bill, to a panel next door featuring Ralph Bakshi--my old "Cool World" boss (I was one of the movie's many assistant editors).

Ralph had come to promote the August 30 DVD release of his fantasy adventure collaboration with Frank Frazetta, "Fire and Ice". The film had been in need of restoration and Bill Lustig of Blue Underground approached Bakshi with the idea of a rehaul and release. "Fire and Ice" has been digitally restored, removing imperfections which were in the original cels when the film was shot. A sample of the film, showing the original vs. restored footage, was presented. Truthfully, I found it difficult to see any difference between the two, in the example screen, and I have a pretty finicky eye for that kind of thing.

I have never seen "Fire and Ice", but I'm anticipating its release. Since I was a wee barbarian man-child, I have loved both Bakshi's and Frank Frazetta's work, so how could I not be blown away by the collaboration Ralph described as being like an animated "Frank Frazetta comic"? But truth to tell, I am a little afraid. What if the film is terrible? I will be crushed. I just don't know if I have the strength to stand up to that kind of discouragement. I'll let you know. Based on the clip shown, it really does look right up my alley--sword fighting aplenty and brutish creatures carrying off haughty princesses.
The high point of the panel was Ralph's sneak preview of his current feature project. He had brought a DVD of some animation tests which, he said, he hadn't planned to show. It was hard to know if he was genuinely reluctant to show the work-in-progress, or if he was exercising some first-rate showmanship. After ten minutes of his hemming and hawing, we in the audience were literally begging to see it. The new project is called "The Last Days of Coney Island" and is a return to Ralph's "mean streets" style of animation, ("Coonskin", "Heavy Traffic"). Use of computers will allow Ralph to substantially lower his budgets for compositing and coloring, enabling him to spend more money on the the animation itself.

Though digital animation allows Ralph, essentially a low-budget filmmaker, to do work that twenty years ago would have been out of reach, he has a healthy fear of the luxuries computers afford. "Don't love the computer too much," he cautioned us, "You need the X Factor." When an artist creates with his own hands accidents happen--or perhaps it's the unconscious going to work--and things come about that could never be planned, never executed intentionally. He also pointed out that studio executives like being able to eliminate expensive artists. If a computer can approximate what 30 humans can do, the suited gang that worships the Bottom Line will always choose the computer. Ultimately, Ralph suggested, "They want to get rid of all of us and have the computer do everything."

"The Last Days Of Coney Island" looks to be a complex story, for adults, that depicts emotions adults understand--disenchantment, longing, nostalgia, regret. The film will be animated in L.A., so all of you Cal Arts students, get your portfolios ready.

Alas, I didn't get to say my "hello" to Ralph, though it seems unlikely he would have remembered me after a decade-plus. He was accosted by a guy from the Neighborhood (Brooklyn, that would be), someone he apparently hadn't seen in decades and off they went together to discuss..what?...Their days at Coney Island perhaps.

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I'm the admin on the Bakshi message board. Could I link this post from there?


Brother Rabbit

- By Anonymous Jeramy, at Wed Jan 18, 07:31:00 AM GMT  

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