Post #13: Wizards (and a short discussion on “Adult Animation”)
Posted April 27, 2010on:
Animation aimed directly at adults has had little to know experimentation in the times that it’s been created, as it’s mostly just been adult jokes, over-the-top violence, and sex but only in animation. Maybe it’s because most people have this misconception that just because it’s Adult Animation is that it’s automatically animated porn; rather than animation that contains a plot, character archetypes, and themes that younger kids would be too young to understand. Although nowadays there are exceptions to this sort of stereotype with adult animation with shows like The Simpsons (well, the old seasons anyway, but that’s debatable), Futurama, The Venture Brothers, South Park (well, at times), and select Japanese animation such as Monster and Paranoia Agent; television shows that are animated, yet also have interesting plots and character development (and in some cases still apply extreme gore/ gross-out humor but in smaller amounts).
However, during the 1970’s up until the early 1980’s, adult animation was experimented with and animators actually attempted to give it substance beyond the stereotype of “Cartoon Porn”. Notably, animator Ralph Bakshi, who’s best known for creating notoriously X-rated animated movies such as Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic, was a forerunner of making adult animation; albeit that they were considered pornographic at the time, Heavy Traffic, Coonskin, and Wizards are nowadays considered some of Bakshi’s best made movies. Wizards, in particular is an exception mostly because it’s the only one in that lineup that’s not rated R or X, but surprisingly PG.
I say surprisingly because the story of Wizards is a very archetype fantasy story about a battle between two wizard brothers (one good, one evil of course) representing the battle between Magic vs. Technology; it uses a variety of interesting techniques and artistic decisions to make it much above a typical “Lord of the Rings ripoff” fantasy story. For example, while it does indeed take place in a typical Fantasy setting, it’s actually Earth after a nuclear Holocaust wiped out humanity, reducing those who survived into mutants while fairies, elves, and dwarves, the true ancestors of man (much like what Tolkien says in his Lord of the Rings novels) retake the Earth. The designated hero of Wizards, Avatar, is moreso of an old, grumpy, perverted, lazy, and reluctant deadpan snarker who’d rather sleep than save the world. Also, elements of the story that may have seemed PG-rated worthy in the late 1970’s are quite interesting to see today, since this movie would’ve been undoubtedly R-rated at the most. The evil wizard encourages his troops to fight and exterminate the fey folk by showing them “mysterious mind-controll relics” (in actuality, it’s old World War II Nazi Germany propaganda films, which psyches the mutant armies and confuses/ stuns the elven fighters. There’s also the pretty graphic and almost acid-trip like violence (though the latter comes from the rotoscoping technique) that depicts the battle scenes between the exiled mutants and the fey folk, as well as the fact that the Elinore, a fairy, is dressed fairly explicit for a PG film (not to mention the various sexual innuendos that Avatar says about her attire).
Still, it’s a very interesting film to watch due to the interesting and stylistic take on Magic/ Nature vs. Machine, if not sadly a little on the short side. I would’ve loved to see more character development and interaction throughout the various places, which I personally felt were a tad rushed and overlooked (though in fairness, Bakshi did say that he originally wanted Wizards to be a 3 part movie series). The nudity/ sexual innuendo and violence are very few and far between instead of gratuitous, and when the violence happens, it’s actually quite sudden and shocking (a good example of this would be an attack on an almost Disney-like and peaceful fairy glade). The animation, despite being over 30 years old, is still quite interesting and stylish for its time, and the rotoscoping techniques, though dated, give the battle scenes in Wizards a menacing, almost threatening atmosphere. The music is another highlight of the movie, alternating between medieval fantasy music and 1970’s jazz. All in all, compared to the huge void between “Kiddy Cartoons” and “Cartoon Porn”, Wizards definitely stands out as a good example of how adult animation should try and be: experimental, and putting an interesting concept before sex and violence (though that doesn’t hurt as long as it’s done tastefully/ minimally).