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One of the most ambitious and inventive films from legendary animator Ralph Bakshi, Wizards is a dazzling fantasy adventure. Set on a post-apocalyptic Earth where the technology has been outlawed after nuclear disaster, the film follows the story of Avatar, the kindly, eccentric sorcerer-ruler of Montagar, a rainbow paradise inhabited by elves and fairies. Avatar s evil brother Blackwolf dominates Scortch, a bleak land of goblins and wraiths. When the power-hungry Blackwolf attacks Montagar, Avatar, accompanied only by a spirited young woman and a courageous elf, must enter the darkness of Scortch to save his world. Stunningly designed and thrilling dramatised, this unforgettable cult classic is presented in a breathtaking new high-definition transfer. [Official Synopsis]

 Wizards
Wizards is from an era that allowed experimental and frankly dark imagery in animation to play way more than it does today. Argue all you want about the advances in CG animated films but they all have developed into pretty routinely told stories really and have led to some ground breaking emotionally driven storytelling as opposed to where Wizards goes with its dark social commentary and wild fantasy visuals. Of course, arguably that's a good thing too because if every animated film was like Wizards, our children might be a little more hardcore. But hey, that's the film's charm, right?

Wizards is a film I like for its batshit craziness and all over the place tone. I mean there are fairies with their boobs hanging out and their nipples playing supporting roles, that tear up taken down bounty hunters in the same film that has characters that are all animated in what is essentially the same tonal style as The Smurfs. Add to that some of the darkest mix of live action and highly detailed artwork you're ever going to see in a 'kids' film, depicting a sort of twisting retelling of the Nazi's reign of terror and y'know, this is about a million miles away from a Pixar film.

 Wizards
I mean yes this led on to Bakshi using much of the same styles to adapt Lord of the Rings and yes, he came from his previous projects like Fritz The Cat so a certain level of darkness is expected but there's something about the combination of styles in Wizards and the tone that feels almost other worldly. In one minute it's satirical look at the life of a soldier, then it's an aging drunk fairy with the hots for his young female scantily clad side kick, before it jumps to a combination of old Hitler footage mixed with funny faced orcs and goblins goofing about. Wizards is like a an animator's fever dream but somehow it all manages to work and has retained its cult following since 1977.

It's a film that would have and clearly has influenced many in the art world since, you can see it in almost every frame but as a film it's unclear who its audience is really. Bakshi wanted to prove it didn't all have to be singing animals and princesses and he certainly does that but showing this to a kid nowadays would probably lead to some pretty interesting discussions if they were able to grasp how to deal with the warfare and super sexualized female characters. Kids today man, they're missing out.

 Wizards

Video


The presentation here is a hard one to judge. It's art style is that of rather dark and murky handrawn backdrops that are adjusted from dark, probably black and white still images as well as live action footage. They are full of brush stokes or pencil marks and then at the front of that you have much clearer, simpler, overly cartoony characters. These two styles don't really blend and it makes it hard to judge the strengths of the image at times.

There are a few pops of damage but generally the image is pretty sharp with strong boosted colours and a good sense this is an HD remaster. It's a little soft at times but again how much of that is the presentations fault and how much of that is inherent isn't always clear.

Anyway, black lines and larger black areas look fantastic and deep, the many colours on show pop in a handful of different ways and even though there's a sense of a grain layer it's certainly not anything holding the image back. This is a solid HD presentation, it's just not really a film that's style really thrives in 1080p like a lot of other animated films can.

 Wizards

Audio


The very odd audio choices here don't really all fit together. Warm, well spoken story readings, fantasy scores, roaring armies and then pops and boings of more classic cartoon style Toons. It's pretty madcap really but it all sounds good here. Clear dialogue, wider elements of score and strong central sound effects. It's of course not showing off in stereo but it sounds good despite its limited scale.

 Wizards

Extras


You are able to listen to and isolated 'Music and Effects' track in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.

The commentary with Bakshi talks of the film's real world symbolism, the film's style and it's effectiveness as well as underlining what we're already seeing on screen. It's not the most lively of tracks but it's still an interesting listen along to broaden the understanding of the film and it's aims both obvious and subtle.

'Ralph Bakshi - The Wizard of Animation' (34:15 SD) is a great feature on the, up until this point, animator of adult films. There's a ton of fantastic sketch artwork on show and Bakshi is full of life in his storytelling. It's a pretty inspiring watch with a lot of forward thinking from the filmmaker.

Last up are the Trailers, TV spots, awesome Still Galleries.

 Wizards

Overall


This rewatch of Wizards was fun for me. I'd not seen the film in full for years and I saw many similarities in its styles with what I enjoy in many modern European and more American mainstream comics. The core animation is way too wacky for the film's tone but some of that still image art is absolutely fantastic and many frames of this film look beautiful even all these years later. The HD presentation is pretty good, it's a bit dirty and dark to tell just how much of this looks better in HD but the HD glow is certainly there. The audio is a nice step up too.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer


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