In 1982 Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, two giants in the fantasy medium, collaborated on the film Fire and Ice. Once again Bakshi animated a film using the same rotoscope technology he had utilized in the past. This time however, based upon the art of Frazetta, you can see the huge influences of both of them.

The realism of movement from rotoscoping, along with Frazetta’s artistic style, fuse to create an almost lifelike animated movie.

Long ago, at the end of the last great Ice Age, there arose in the North a powerful queen. Her name was Juliana, and her ambition was to extend her realm to all the regions of the known world.

Queen Juliana and the Ice Lord Nekron Fire and Ice

Queen Juliana with her Son Ice Lord Nekron

Queen Juliana may want world domination, but she won’t be fighting the battles or waging the war. She has her son, the Ice Lord Nekron, for that. He wields a magic that controls the ice, moving glaciers at will against his enemy, King Jarol, who sits on the throne of Fire Keep.

Queen Juliana had to wait, of course, for Nekron to come of age. She schooled him in the black arts and once he came of age, she and Nekron took over the Ice Kingdom and began their assault. The humans who were in their way ran south to the more temperate regions of the world, settling around volcanoes and lava for warmth in the realm of Fire Keep.

And no one dared guess at the outcome of a meeting on the field of battle between fire and ice.

This brings us from the beginning of the film to the start of the animation. Bakshi’s directing of the beginning setup of this film is very similar to that of Wizards. After the opening credits, there are beautifully drawn still images with a narrator explaining the back story. And so, it is as the glaciers moved by the black arts of Nekron push through the defenses towards the north village that the true animated film begins.

Lord Nekron moves Galciers

Lord Nekron moves Galciers

The ice cannot be battled though, as what can men do against a moving glacier? But there is hope. As Nekron blasts the defenses of men with falling ice boulders and a moving glacier he is weakened by using the power he wields.

The glacier stops and a brutal battle ensues, where the subhuman army of Queen Juliana wipe out the men defending the north village. All that stands in their way of Fire Keep is the Great Plains, but that vast distance is to be shortened by politics. The Queen sends a party of messengers to King Jarol to ask for his surrender. But the Queen is evil, and this is not the only reason for applying diplomacy.

Now we meet our hero of the film, Larn. A survivor of the attack on the north village, he battles his way out of the scavenging subhumans picking through the remains of his brethren. The battles, because of the rotoscoping, are some of the most realistic hand-to- hand combat scenes you will see in an animated movie. Outnumbered, Larn climbs a tree and jumps off, breaking his fall with vines and tree limbs. He lands gracefully enough on the ground to have the wind knocked out of him, but he doesn’t die.

Teegra Reclining in Fire Keep

Teegra Reclining in Fire Keep

It is at this point that I found my only gripe with the movie. Princess Teegra, King Jarol’s daughter, is being schooled about the natural bases: “all matter in our world are from the natural bases. Which are earth, air, fire and water. The four elements from which all things are created.” This statement is true, but within the confines of this movie, only the elements of Fire and Ice are at war. It would occur to me that Earth and Air would have something to say as the forces of Ice attempt world domination.

Teegra isn’t happy with her lot in life; she believes that she is just to be locked up while the men do all the fighting and get all the glory. If only she could have watched Cool World and learned to be “content with the cards she was dealt.”

Ahh, politics! Queen Juliana’s messengers arrive and tell King Jarol to unilaterally surrender in order to achieve peace. Of course he won’t go for it, but the Queen just wants him distracted long enough for a faction of her subhumans to kidnap Princess Teegra.

Ice Queen's Subhuman Army

Ice Queen’s Subhuman Army

It is important to point out that the Ice Queen’s army is subhuman (drawn and animated as neanderthals) while the Fire King’s men are human. This dichotomy is valid and just as, the subhumans, having been conquered don’t appear to ever question their conqueror, whereas I suspect that the humans might not be conquered in the same sort of totality. I imagine that if you capture and or rule humans, unlike the subhumans, you’re going to have some resistance. You’re never have them fully going along with what they are told in a completely unquestioned sort of way, as this is what the Queen gets from the subhumans.

This appears to be a universal problem with all villains. They always reach for the world by using the short stick! Whether it be putting others in harms way or taking the easy way out, usually a combination of both, they never truly get it all together.

In that same regard, it’s no wonder that Teegra escapes from her captors by holding her breath and swimming underwater away from the lagoon where she and her captors stop for a drink of water. The subhumans just have bad luck in trying to retrieve her, as they eventually run into a hungry lizard/dinosaur-type creature. It is at night around their fire when they report Teegra missing to the Ice Queen who speaks to them via smoke from the fire. Unhappy with this turn of events, she wraps the smoke around the neck of the subhuman who delivers the bad news and then turns the smoke to ice killing him.

Larn and Teegra by the Fire

Larn and Teegra by the Fire to keep warm from the Ice

Remember Larn? He’s in a shrine city to some guy in a wolf mask. He meets up with Teegra, who sneaks up on him to steal some of his food. We then see them hunting together and making a fire. Later that night, they talk about the world getting colder, blaming it on Nekron. The scene itself isn’t much to write home about, except the moon that hangs in the background appears to be frosted. If this wasn’t on purpose, then it’s an excellent coincidence.

Teegra is heading south to her people and Larn says he’s going that way too. Teegra says he can come along if he behaves himself, which of course means he takes it upon himself to act like a subhuman. This ends with them both in the water, but something from the deep grabs Larn with a tentacle and pulls him down. Stabbing at the tentacle pulling him down, he grabs a stick before being devoured and pokes it in the eye, thus saving himself and gettting thrown from the deep. That’s an important lesson to learn. If something from the deep ever pulls you down for a meal, stab it in the eye.

While mourning the presumed loss of Larn, Teegra is recaptured by the subhumans. This is also a lesson. Don’t fool around, while you’re being hunted. Your only aide will get eaten (so you think), and you’ll just get captured again by the enemy.

Larn also awakes captured, by Darkwolf, a man in a wolf mask that looks like the sculptures in the city he just left. Seeing the man he says, “You caught me, but you’ll never hand me over to Nekron, you’ll have to kill me first.”

“Don’t hunt for death boy, it finds us all soon enough… If you’re going to kill the Ice Lord boy, you better learn to live with pain.” -Darkwolf

Once our two compatriots realize they’re on the same team, they hunt down the subhuman captors of Teegra, but she has escaped on her own. Getting ready for battle with the subhumans, Darkwolf replies to Larn’s estimate that “there seems to be about 50 of them” to which he replies, “that sounds about right.”

Larn and Darkwolf prepare a plan of attack

Larn and Darkwolf prepare a plan of attack

The movie is rotoscoped but the actors who were filmed for the rotoscoping process did an amazing job. Both Bakshi and Frazetta had a great hand in directing the live action that gives the film much more realistic movement and emotion. Whatever technique was used for the fog, for example, is brilliant. The characters seem to dart in and out of the fog naturally, and the fog itself has a texture that only adds to the realism.

After the battle, Darkwolf and Larn lead the subhumans, “Nekron’s dogs” as Darkwolf refers to them on a chase. Meanwhile, the escaped Teegra winds up being taken by a giant.

The Fire King sends out his son Taro to negotiate a peace with Nekron. While the giant who picked up Teegra takes her to his leader, Roleil, a red-headed witch, offers her food and shelter. Roleil takes a hair from Teegra’s head and drops it in her cauldron, where she learns Teegra is wanted by Nekron. She sends her giant out to find the subhumans, so she can negotiate with them for the girl.

Roleil, the former Red-headed Witch asks for avenging

Roleil, the former Red-headed Witch asks for avenging.

This is a complete calamity for Roleil, the subhumans, kill the messenger and her as well, taking the girl. The negotiation as she had hoped, never happens, Teegra is back with the subhumans and Roleil lay dead, her spirit burning through her house leaving only her

Larn, sees the smoke from the fire and goes to investigate, where he finds the corpse of Roliel, who asks him, “Why do the living disturb the sleep of the dead?” Eventually, Larn gets the information about Teegra he is seeking, but only after promising Roleil revenge on Nekron. Her last words are, “avenge me, avenge Roleil!”

Larn goes to the port, but alas, the subhumans’ ship has sailed. However, good fortune smiles upon him, as Taro’s ship is just leaving and he jumps on the stern, holding on for the long haul.

Now, Juliana’s plot is finally unveiled to her son. She has captured Teegra and brought her to Ice Keep for her son Nekron to marry. Nekron is not happy, he needs not a bride, nor heirs, he “needs nothing!”

Teegra interrupts, offering Nekron her hand in friendship and peace,

“Nekron, you’re a great power in the world. You have all that any man ever wants or needed and yet you despair. For there is one thing you lack, one gift that only you can bestow between out people. Peace, this is the gift that heals the heart of the giver. Nekron, I extend my hand in friendship, I offer peace between our people, will you not take my hand? Will you not call me friend?”

Nekron laughs at Teegras attempt at peace in Ice Keep

Nekron laughs at Teegras attempt at peace in Ice Keep

He laughs hardily at her offer, “Woman, I spit on peace. I spit on you. Next time you present me with one of your little slut’s mother dear, I’ll squash you like a bug. Get that garbage out of here” And so Teegra is thrown into an icy prison.

Larn who hitched a ride with the Fire Prince boat gets off the boat, just before it docks. As Taro and his party approach, the subhumans yell, scream and bang their weapons down.  “We’re riders of Fire Keep, we pay no heed to such trash.” [You may not pay heed to the trash, but their weapons are still deadly.]

Again, the negotiations go in Nekron’s favor. Then again, with that much power who needs negotiations? We are privy to the full power of Nekron, he mind controls the Fire Prince making him kill his men and then himself. Throwing them into the icy prison as well. Ironically, the only person in this movie who even gets to counter propose Nekron in a negotiation is Teegra. Although he laughed her off, she still got him to listen to her offer of peace, until then, there had never been a formal response to one party or the other.

Our hero tries to kill Nekron with an arrow, but that doesn’t really work. Larn may be strong, be he constantly underestimates his opponents powers throughout the movie, or if you’d like to see the glass as half full, he constantly overestimates his own powers.

Nekron: “Why have you come seeking me?”
Larn: “You killed my people!”
Nekron: “We’ve had to dispose of so many undesirables of late.”
[And the clash of swords beings]

Nekron Battles Larn Sword to Sword

Nekron Battles Larn Sword to Sword

This is the very nature of hubris. He could easily destroy Larn, yet he duels him with a sword. During the battle, Larn clips Nekron, but before laying the final strike, Nekron uses his power to prevent the blow a few times, before knocking Larn out. “Let him rest, there’s still fight in him” Nekron laughs, and Larn is sent to the dungeon.

Teegra sees this, arms herself with a dagger, and tries to free Larn. But gets herself captured again. Larn, in his prison cell waits for a patrol, jumps the subhuman and escapes the prison onto the mountainside. The music while he is running resembles that of the heartbeat you hear in your head whilst running as fast as you can. Gaining an advantage on his pursuers, a blizzard starts and you here Nekron’s menacing laughter!

Larn running through a fierce Blizzard

Larn running through a fierce Blizzard

Just like the fog, the blizzard is animated so well. It’s a small thing, but it’s very realistic. I’m not entirely sure how they did it, but these aren’t just randomly animated snowfalls. Larn trips, unable to see due to the snow, but is saved by Darkwolf, who kills his pursuers. They travel back to Fire Keep to speak with the King.

After King Jarol learns of his sons demise and of Teegra’s capture and unknown mortality, Darkwolf smugly states, “Believe what you want, but that glacier’s a fact. For three days and nights its been pushing south. A thousand souls lost because of Nekron’s rage. Fire Keep is next, we must attack. I need the DragonHawks.”

The plan is set, even though the DragonHawks are few they will attack. Knowing that tie is short, because when the approaching glacier crosses the river, Fire Keep will release it’s last defense, the lava flow. Under the cover of darkness the DragonHawks commence their assault, meandering through thrown boulders and volleys of arrows, only Larn and Darkwolf make it through but barely. Split up, by the onslaught of defense, but not looking too worse for wear, Larn goes to look for Teegra and Darkwolf for Nekron.

Darkwolf challenges Nekron to fight

Darkwolf challenges Nekron to fight

Making his way to a pedestal, that looks like a clawed hand, the ice king prepares for the final battle. One way or another, he knows this is the end. He is bringing down the mountain with his laughter, which seems defeatist. I know he wants to make it hard on his enemies, but destroying your own Keep? There has got to be another way.

Alas, Queen Joliana goes to attack Teegra, but she escapes, this is the only time the Queen gets physical herself. It is obviously something she hasn’t had to do for herself for quite a while and Teegra escapes from her grasp easily. This could also be because Teegra’s really good as escaping, by now she’s done it at least three times, as that is what she’s best at.

Darkwolf and Nekron battle, ax to sword and magic, the more magic Nekron uses the more he looks like death incarnate. He is amazed at Darkwolf’s strength and is felled by an ax to the chest. Then to finish him off, Darkwolf strikes him again, in the chest, with the ax. In his dying moments, his rage moves forth the glacier and the King keeps his promise, letting loose the lava flows.

Although fire and ice should pose as equal opposites in power, in reality, the lava cuts through the glacier, like hot fudge through ice cream, but faster (I just like that imagery). Larn and Teegra escape the destruction of the glacier as does Darkwolf.

Our heroic couple, Larn and Teegra kiss and a new beginning has begun. Cliche, but it fits. The last scene has a background that is amazingly reminiscent to that of the Capital of Montagar in Wizards.

Darkwolf looks like the Death Dealer

Darkwolf looks like the Death Dealer

The music and musical themes are consistently amazing. William Kraft, the composer of the soundtrack did a great job using the themes to follow the characters and the different stories that unfold throughout the film. Interestingly, the score does have the sonic feel of the Lord of the Rings score Leonard Rosenman did for Bakshi in 1978, but I have no idea whether this is intentional or not, as throughout the film, I was convinced it was the same composer.

Darkwolf, is an interesting character. Not much is explained about his power, or his history, or why there appears to be a large marble statue of him or someone related to him. He also, consciously or otherwise cares greatly about his own self preservation. During the final attack, it becomes apparent, Darkwolf knew the other DragonHawks would be martyrs, he needed them to draw fire from himself. Larn is also a beneficiary of this as well. Maybe this is because Darkwolf is the last of his kind? Maybe, but we just don’t know.

The DragonHawks are soldiers riding on what look to be pterodactyls. A common theme throughout science fiction and fantasy, pterodactyls are THE preferred mode of air transit, when not using machines!

One of the many great backgrounds used in Fire and Ice

One of the many great backgrounds used in Fire & Ice

As with all Bakshi films, no expense was spared in creating the backgrounds that illustrate the backdrop of the realms in Fire and Ice. The use of rotoscoping is impeccable, as always, and great care was taken both in filming the live action and during its animation.

What does this film tell us? Unlike other Bakshi films, it’s not as overt as Cool World or Wizards, this is about losing control, losing your grip on reality and about evil. This is about hubris and what happens when you overextend yourself. Take heed from Nekron. He had all the power and yet it was that power that destroyed him, along with and ax to the chest (let’s not discredit Darkwolf).

By definition “Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

Had it not been for his hubris, Nekron might still be alive, moving glaciers at will and launching ice boulders at those who dare to oppose him.

See the Ralph Bakshi Rotospective Archive.