There's no doubt that Sony Pictures was in dire need of some good news, and thankfully, it may have arrived. Fans of 1980s-era animated fantasy are also in luck, as it was announced today that the studio had completed a deal for Fire and Ice with director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Spy Kids), a planned live-action relaunch of the 1983 animated feature from Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta.
To say that Franzetta's hand-painted look became a trademark of the barbarian/medieval/fantasy projects of the era would be an understatement; and with Fire and Ice, the art was carried into film, painted over top of the cast's performance. But with decades of technology now at his disposal, Rodriguez claims it's finally possible to bring the world of Frazetta's imagination to life on the big screen:
“It was my dream to work with him, and the first thing I did when I got to Hollywood was call him. I got him to do a From Dusk Till Dawn poster for me, and I got to work with him and know him over the years. When I’d visit him at his museum and see his artwork, I tried to figure what would the ultimate Frazetta movie be. I remembered the movie he did, Fire And Ice, back when I was a kid. I thought, ‘I wish they could have made it look more like the paintings, but I guess they’d have had to paint each frame.’ Now, you could do that. You could make it look like you were in his imagination. He didn’t use models, he didn’t use swipes. He painted purely from his imagination, and the characters and the colors made you feel like you were in a dream, and a fully realized and completely imagined world. It was so visual and arresting.”
Even in departures from his more action-oriented projects, Rodriguez's thirst for arresting visual landscapes has never faltered. But it's difficult to imagine just what he envisions for Fire and Ice, seemingly described as "a living painting" of sorts. And it won't just be fans of the original fantasy film eager to see how it turns out - it may hold the potential for a brand new film franchise.
For those who missed the 1983 release of the first Fire and Ice, the story should seem standard enough for the genre. In the fortresses of Icepeak and Firekeep, the malevolent Queen Julianna drives humans south with an onslaught of glaciers, sending her barbaric, monstrous minions to kidnap the lovely (and scantily-clad) Princess Teegra for her son, Nekron. The plan falls to pieces when Teegra catches the attention of the brave Larn, who teams with the mysterious (and deadly) Darkwolf to foil Julianna's plan, and return Teegra safely home.
That outline has all the makings of either an animated fantasy or a big-budget blockbuster in the right hands, and after working with Bold Films to move the indie project forward (and acquiring the rights from Bakshi), Rodriguez claims the film's true potential became clear:
"The more we started putting it together, we realized it could be something much bigger and it started attracting A-list talent. I thought, ‘Let’s partner with a studio,’ but which would give it the rocket fuel it deserves? I’d heard Mike De Luca was looking for franchises, and I thought this could fit the bill because of the subject matter and the talent that was interested, people who’d seen the presentation I had and wanted to. Turned out Mike was a big Frazetta fan, and the studio was the perfect place. I’d started out with them with El Mariachi, and I had a long relationship with the studio and it seemed like the perfect rocket fuel for this. We’re actively interviewing to hire A-list writers to do another pass to get this going next year. I’m excited.”
Fans of the original film are likely eager to hear just which "A-list talent" has expressed interest - since Rodriguez has worked with many, many top-tier actors and actresses - but the director warns that preproduction depends on a finished script, which may not come before the summer 0f 2015. There may be plenty of work ahead to bring Frazetta's "heightened reality" style to life, but given the cult status of Fire and Ice, the potential franchise will remain on the radar of many.
Were you a fan of the original film, or Frazetta's work in general? How do you think Robert Rodriguz may fare in pioneering another visual style as influential as Sin City? Sound off in the comments.
We'll keep you updated as more Fire and Ice updates arrive.