Saturday, January 7, 2023


Using the rotoscope process that he favored, Ralph Baskshi and Frank Frazetta teamed up to produce a striking animated film that showcased Frazetta's fantasy characters in a way that had been never before seen. The technique involves filming live actors, then transferring the action to conventional animation cells. An arduous procedure, but it brought Frazetta's characters to life.

I am familiar with rotoscoping -- it is not unheard of and was used way back in a number of Max Fleischer's cartoons. I was able to see how exactly it was done when I worked on Bakshi's THE LORD OF THE RINGS (1978) which employed the use of rotoscoping as well. The resulting production this time around was FIRE & ICE (1983), an epic sword and sorcery tale that was pretty astounding to see on the big screen.

Ralph Bakshi directs the live actors that will be rotoscoped and turned into animation cells:

Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta watch the action.

Examples of model sheets for characters:

Animation drawings for transferring to cells:

Backgrounds painted by James "Dinotopia" Gurney and the famed "Painter of Light", Thomas Kinkade:

Production cells:

These two articles from COMICS SCENE #9 (May 1983) describe how the picture was made and includes lengthy discussions on its development from both Frazetta and Bakshi.


top_cat_james said...

From the Cartoon Research website:

Actress Emma Samms is perhaps best known for her roles as Fallon Carrington Colby on the television series Dynasty and later as Holly Sutton Scorpio on the soap opera General Hospital. However, one of the roles that does not appear on her official resume was that she was among the rotoscoped actors for Ralph Bakshi’s animated feature Fire and Ice (1983) and performed topless. In August 1988, she famously blew up when a fan asked her to sign a topless photo of her that was taken from that shooting that she had been assured would not be released.

Could that be Samms in the first three pics? Kinda looks like her.

Rip Jagger said...

What a treat this movie was in its day. People always complained about rotoscoping back then as if it wasn't a legit way to make animation, despite it being one of the oldest techniques used by many a celebrated animator over the decades. The do the same thing now with computers and don't complain a bit. And I am most impressed you had a hand in Bakshi's LotR effort, which was again for its time a treasure.

John said...

James, you may be right. She's listed as a "performance actor" for the film on IMDB. She'd have been about 22 when this happened, and yes, there is a distinct resemblance there. Thanks for sharing that factoid.

Rip, working on Bakshi's LOTR was a complete blast. I'd worked for a couple other animation studios before that, so my observations on what was going on was sharper, allowing me to "bask" in the imagination and skilled artistry going on around me. My interest in animation began back in the 70's, so by the time I got into the business it was exhilarating.