Though he established his career with extremely stylized, adult fare like Fritz the Cat and Coonskin, animator Ralph Bakshi began making some important changes to his technique as the 1970s ended. First, he began using rotoscoping (drawing over live action performers) in 1979's Wizards and more obviously in 1981's American Pop, while the former film also marked his first significant foray into pure fantasy. He continued to explore both with his controversial adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and then took a page from the hit film Heavy Metal for his third fantasy, Fire and Ice, which added the additional commercial element of plentiful female flesh courtesy of assistance from noted artist Frank Frazetta.
Rated PG and yet far too intense for kids, Fire and Ice is targeted squarely at animation and graphic novel fans who might want to introduce newcomers without swamping them in explicit sex and gore. The plotline itself is as basic and predictable as can be, even more conventional than a random episode of TV's Dungeons & Dragons. Instead the appeal lies in the marriage of Bakshi's kinetic style and Frazetta's familiar visual obsessions, with fur-lined flesh and metallic weapons constantly filling the screen. It's all diverting enough considering the short running time and has an understandable fan following, but don't expect a towering animation masterpiece.
Blue Underground's single DVD and Blu-Ray editions contain a colorful transfer that perfectly captures the original look of the film, which is often filled with visible dust and speckles on the frames but otherwise looks terrific. The audio is even better, a powerful mixture of room-shaking bass and powerful music blasting from every speaker. It's definitely demo material for an animated title before the dawn of Pixar. Extras include an audio commentary with Bakshi and Lance Laspina about the project's entire production process from origins to execution, a vintage 13-minute making-of promotional piece transferred from an archived VHS copy, an 8-minute Bakshi video interview about Frazetta, a theatrical trailer, and a 14-minute piece with voice actor Sean Hannon reading his diary notes from the recording sessions. The British DVD contains no extras but features the same transfer. Blue Underground also released a limited two-disc edition containing an extra bonus available exclusively on the second DVD, the excellent feature-length documentary Frazetta: Painting with Fire. Bakshi, Conan the Barbarian director John Milius, Bernie Wrightson, Dave Stevens and a host of other talking heads appear along with tons of artwork and demonstrations to carefully chart the course of this influential artist; it's definitely worth hanging on to the DVD just for this alone.