You can probably see foreshadowing of Dinotopia in some of the backgrounds I did for Fire and Ice.
I enjoyed the camaraderie of the movie studio, and I have missed that feeling since. Every couple weeks Tom and I brought in a three-foot high stack of art books from the library and spread them out on the counters in the background room. One by one all the animators and layout people would come by during the breaks and we’d fire up about art and look through each other’s sketchbooks.
Once in a while we would cram paint lids into the regulators of the oxygen airbrush tanks and shoot the lids across the room like a cannon, right through a foam-core target of Mickey Mouse.
At the end of the production, the animators packed up their things and moved on like gypsies to other projects at other studios. Bakshi Productions shrunk down to just a small crew. The effort shifted to editing, sound, and and marketing. But there were still just a few background paintings to finish.
At Bakshi’s request, I brought them home to finish in my own apartment in Highland Park. It was lonely working on those backgrounds at home instead of in the studio.
One thing I loved about the film work was the feeling of living inside my paintings. It was always a charge to assemble in the editing room and watch the dailies. When I saw my pictures projected on the screen with action and music, it really felt like I was inside the world I was painting, not just looking at flat compositions. Howard Pyle always talked about jumping through the picture frame and breathing the air you just painted, and that was the first time I completely experienced that feeling.
I never saw the movie during its theatrical release because I was traveling at the time, and it came and went quickly. Maybe it will get a boost from the live action reboot.
Blog reader Kurt asked what ever happened to all those original backgrounds. A few of them were sold in galleries, I understand that a few survive in private collections, but most are lost. Ralph Bakshi told me last year that they were all destroyed at some point when they were being transferred from one indifferent holding corporation to another.
That’s the story of filmmaking. It’s a hard-won battle to assemble people and materials for a moment in time, in order to cast a few shadows on a wall. When it’s all over, there’s nothing left but the shadows.
All backgrounds copyright Ralph Bakshi Productions. Thanks, Ralph and the rest of the crew! And best wishes to Robert Rodriguez and the Reboot Gang.
Fire and Ice, Part 1: Rekindled
Fire and Ice, Part 2: Frazetta
Part 3: Fire and Ice -- Tom Kinkade
Part 4: Fire and Ice -- Ralph Bakshi
Wikipedia on the original Fire and Ice.