Fire and Ice is a 1983 animated film directed by Ralph Bakshi and written by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway based on characters created by Bakshi himself together with the Godfather of fantasy Frank Frazetta.
The plot is about an epic confrontation between the evil Prince Nekron (Sean Hannon) and his hordes of subhumans against the people of King Jarol (Leo Gordon). Nekron is the lord of the ice, and the second reigns over Fire Keep, atop a volcano. More than an epic war, in the scarce eighty minutes of the film we follow three characters: Jarol’s prosperous and poorly dressed daughter, Teegra (Cynthia Leake), who’s kidnapped by Nekron’s henchmen; the warrior Larn (Randy Norton) who finds her and falls in love with her; and the mysterious Darkwolf (Steve Sandor) who seeks revenge against Nekron.
The film is made with the rotoscope technique, that is drawings made on a film shot with real actors (a technique already used by Bakshi in The Lord of the Rings, 1978). This makes the movements of the characters sinuous and realistic, and personally I declare myself an absolute fan of this style. Unfortunately, I fear that it’s a hard sell for a young audience accustomed to the precision of computer animation… but who knows, maybe I’m wrong!
Anyway, what about Fire and Ice? As mentioned, the animation and drawings are splendid, and the numerous backgrounds are all amazing paintings (even if at times it seems that the characters don’t move in them in an organic way). I admit that the protagonists are not exactly multifaceted, and the plot is a bit forced and at times hard to follow. At some point, for example, Darkwolf disappears without any explanation and then reappears out of nowhere in the grand finale. Moreover, places and distances are poorly defined: a huge forest that the protagonists spend the entire first half of the film to cross, then becomes so small that it can be crossed in a few minutes (it seems).
It’s also a bit strange that the beautiful Teegra goes around naked all the time whether she’s in the warm Fire Keep or she’s locked up in a cold cell in the kingdom of Nekron. And that goes for all the other characters too, actually!
But probably dwelling on these details doesn’t do justice to an epic film in which we witness a battle between good and evil that is resolved with the beginning of a new era based on peace and forgiveness of the sins of the past. It’s also the beginning of a new world in which the lava of Fire Keep disintegrates the ice of Nekron, and both get disintegrated in the process which gives life to a better and more hospitable land.
In short, the message is a fantasy classic in which the good and evil dichotomy is used to convey the message that you need both to achieve something higher (think also of The Dark Crystal, 1982). For the rest, get ready to see muscular warriors, (almost) naked women and huge monsters who, accompanied by the majestic music of William Kraft, give life to a spectacular fantasy world. It’s no coincidence that Peter Chung (creator of Aeon Flux), James Gurney (creator of Dinotopia) and the unlucky Thomas Kinkade (who died at the age of 54) also worked on Fire and Ice. Ciao!