People Tell Me I Look Like Han Solo.
Friday, May 21, 2010
  Fire and Ice, Looney Tunes making comebacks

Ain’t It Cool News is reporting that Robert Rodriguez has acquired the rights to remake the 1983 animated cult babes-and-barbarians film Fire and Ice, a product of the minds of maverick animator Ralph Bakshi, legendary (and recently deceased) fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, and comic writers Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas. Apparently Rodriguez is planning to make the film live-action, though presumably with heavy use of green screen like he did with Sin City. It sounds like the deal is pretty recent, so there’s no information on casting or release dates, but as a guy who grew up a fantasy nerd (and Fire and Ice fan), I’m pretty excited about this news.

I was actually considering doing a column about Frank Frazetta’s passing a few weeks ago after his death at the age of 82, tying it into movie via Fire and Ice. I picked up Blue Underground’s remastered DVD a few years ago purely for nostalgia reasons (while cheesy as hell, I must admit that the film held up far better than I expected it to), partly because of an awesome documentary on it about Frazetta called Painting with Fire. It’s a really great doc, one of the better DVD extras I’ve seen. Frazetta, in case you don’t know, gained fame in the 60s for his paintings of classic pulp characters like Conan the Barbarian and Tarzan (as well as lesser-known cult characters like John Carter of Mars – soon to be a live-action film itself), and his artwork on the covers is actually credited with the success of the Conan books (if I recall correctly, Conan made his debut in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the Frazetta-cover paperbacks started coming out decades later that the character really caught on in a major way with readers, and to this day Frazetta’s visual interpretation is the most universally-recognized version of the character). Even if you don’t know him by name, you probably recognize Frazetta’s distinctive style, which has been seen in everything from book and magazine covers to posters to album covers. He was an incredibly talented guy who’s impact on genre fiction in any medium really can’t be overstated. It’s a shame he won’t be able to see Rodriguez’s take on Fire and Ice, but in the AICN story he says he was in discussions with Frazetta about the project right up until his death on May 10.

Anyway, suffice it to say that the more I hear about Fire and Ice, the more you will.

* * *

Warner Brothers is reintroducing its Looney Tunes characters with a new 26-episode animated series set to air on the Cartoon NetwoLearning lessons in futility....IN 3D!rk in the fall, but unfortunately it has a silly sitcom-y premise (Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as odd-couple roommates with the other characters their neighbors? Ugh.) The far more interesting piece of information, to me at least, is that WB is also making a series of 3D shorts Road Runner to air in theaters before movies. I grew up a huge Looney Tunes fan (the Road Runner ones were always among my favorites), so this is far more interesting to me. The first short, in which Wile E. Coyote will fall off cliffs and get brained by anvils (in 3D!) will hit cinemas on July 30, ahead of Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Naturally, I’d be more excited if these shorts were airing ahead of movies I actually want to see, but sometimes you’re the Louisville Slugger, and sometimes you’re the ball.

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The success of the Lancers was more complex than simply attributing them to Frazetta (though that was undoubtedly a factor). The printing technology of the time, the market, and the character of Conan itself were all factors. While nobody doubts Frazetta's power as an illustrator, the Conan books with Vallejo and Duillo covers sold nearly as well as the Frazetta covers.

The Conan stories originally came out in the 1930s in Weird Tales magazines, and they were pretty successful. Even then, fans were writing in suggesting other authors take up the character, something that would be done in the '60s.

As for being the "universally accepted" image, although some would disagree (as with anything), I'd say this is a result of Frazetta being the first to truly translate Howard's character. Before Frazetta, Conan illustrations were altogether too gentlemanly and civilized: Frazetta changed all that.
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