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Western Animation / Wizards

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"They killed Fritz!"
Max, on the death of another soldier named Fritz

Wizards is a 1977 animated Science Fantasy film by Ralph Bakshi. It takes place in what is basically a Standard Fantasy Setting, except it's actually Earth way, way, waaaaay After the End. It tells the story of a war between an army of nuclear mutants (former humans) and a coalition of humans and various fantasy races (who predated the existence of humans, their descendants, but only emerged from isolation after the catastrophe). Each group is led by one of the two titular Wizards, the brothers Blackwolf (the evil one) and Avatar (the good one). Can the swords, bows, and magic of the fantasy folk defend against the technology-based weapons — and propaganda — of the past?

Notable for featuring the early voice work of Mark Hamill in his very first film role.

In late 2016, Ralph announced a new project of his called Short Thoughts, three one-minute shorts inspired by poetry vignettes from his previous films. One of the shorts is planned to be a follow-up to Wizards, starring Max and Fritz.

Not to be confused with The Wizard and has nothing to do with the Tales of Arcadia TV show Wizards (2020).

Wizards provides examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: More of an “advertised supporting protagonist,” but given that Necron 99/Peace is front and centre on most posters and DVD cases, one would imagine him to be the main character instead of serving as a henchman to Blackwolf (initially) and a sidekick to Avatar (post Heel–Face Turn). It’s even more jarring due to the fact that he is rather unceremoniously killed during the movie’s second act.
  • An Aesop:
    • Technology, like most other assets, isn't evil in and of itself, but merely becomes such when it's used for evil ends.
    • As Ralph points out in the commentary, one of the messages of the film is that if Democracy lets its guard down, Fascism will be waiting just around the corner to rear its ugly head and take over, hence Blackwolf frequently using Nazi propaganda.
    • The film's theme of propaganda also plays a role for the good races—save for Avatar and a few others—as they consider any advanced form of technology to be bad as they suffer many defeats by the technologically superior army of Blackwolf. Even Avatar points out their own follies in his What the Hell, Hero? moment towards the surviving army, who uses captured firearms in order to counteract their shortfalls.
  • Affably Evil: Most of the Gas Mask Mooks, who get all the best scenes and just seem to be regular Punch Clock Villains. Specifically, the mutant General who gets killed by Weehawk near the end.
  • After the End: At least two million years after the end, no less. The actual events of the film don't even start until another 6,000 years after the opening.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Subverted. A point is made that the mutants of Scortch aren't that interested in random conquest and pillage. They lack the will to truly fight (who wouldn't, after war has devastated the planet?), which is why their campaigns keep failing. This forces Blackwolf to study ancient propaganda techniques, to instill them with fighting spirit.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Starts inverting this with a live action book, then explains the backstory in a more primitive, limited animation.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: When the fairies want to kill Elinore, their king says that only humans kill their own kind.
  • Airstrip One: Blackwolf's capital city in Scortch is named Scortch One.
  • All Hail the Great God Mickey!: The temple is filled with old pop culture memorabilia mistaken for religious relics.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Fairies come in all sorts of colours.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 3. Only a handful of humans survived an atomic war. The other humans all mutated.
  • Armless Biped: The horse-analogues everyone rides. It's never stated what they're called.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: There is no possible way a film reel could last over two million years, including several nuclear explosions, in condition good enough to be used in a still-useful film projector.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Blackwolf's skeletal arms have two bones above the elbow and one bone below, which is the reverse of normal tetrapod anatomy. Granted, he is a mutant.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Time Will Tell".
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Blackwolf spent his childhood torturing animals with magic.
  • Battle Cry: Weehawk has one that could make you crap your pants the first time you hear it.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Necron 99/Peace is enduring one with Blackwolf the entire movie.
  • Big Bad: Blackwolf
  • Big Good: Avatar. Despite being flawed and kind of a Covert Pervert, he still has a good heart and is clearly heroic.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Avatar and his brother Blackwolf are clearly the embodiment of good vs evil.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Avatar is a very strong wizard, but regards the threat of his brother, the deaths of untold elves, and the destruction of the entire world with an attitude that states he barely cares anymore.
  • But Now I Must Go: At the end, Avatar and Elinore decide to start their own kingdom and leave Weehawk to rule the old one.
  • Cain and Abel: Avatar and Blackwolf
  • Central Theme: Does technology and progress drive humanity to madness? Or is it what you do with it?
  • Cigar Chomper: While wizards in most works prefer a more traditional smoking method, Avatar smokes cigars.
  • Collapsing Lair: Blackwolf's castle after he dies.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Rather than wasting time with an argument or an epic duel, Avatar (who made it clear earlier that he Doesn't Like Guns) simply shoots the Big Bad as soon as he gets the opportunity. With regards to why, he says, "no matter what happens, I will die anyway," shortly beforehand. He's heartbroken by Elinore's betrayal, and has lost faith in his own philosophy. That is, until AFTER the shooting...anyway, you have to watch the film very carefully.
  • Covers Always Lie: Necron 99/Peace is the sole focus of many posters and DVD cases, which would imply that he is the main character. In the movie, he’s a supporting character and dies about two-thirds of the way through.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Given Elinore's outfit, it's hardly surprising what Avatar says when she sits down on his bed in front of him, asking what the plan is. That being said though, he does have a heart of gold and will never let any harm come to his friends.
    Avatar: Oh, why don't you sit there for a couple of hours while I figure it out?
  • Death by Cameo: Continuing a running gag in Bakshi's work, he appears voicing a minor character, Fritz, who is almost immediately killed.
  • Disney Death: Played With in the infamous "They Killed Fritz" scene. When a soldier named Max thinks his pal Fritz is dead, he goes utterly ballistic over it—until Fritz gets up and calms him down, revealing it was just a scratch. Agitated by this, Max starts complaining about him, and then unintentionally shoots him, this time really killing him—prompting Max to go nuts on the enemy yet again.
  • Drama Panes: The film shows the Evil Sorceror Blackwolf gazing out the window of his palace as his armies march north to attack the wood elves. Out of this same window, his film projector fills the sky with images from a Nazi war film, which fills his shambling minions with heart, and his opponents with dread.
  • Evil Is Sterile: A minor subplot involves the evil mutants' inability to create healthy, sustainable life.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Blackwolf
  • Eye Scream: A couple of scenes, most notably when Weehawk shoots Necron 99's mount through the eye with an arrow. It gets better, somehow.
  • Expy: Avatar for Vaughn Bode's Cheech Wizard, though he does do more magic than "The Time Distortion Trick."
  • Face–Heel Turn: Elinore, or so it appears at first.
  • The Fair Folk: Small fairies make their home in the western mountains. They tease and bedevil Avatar and his party as they venture through this teritory. Strangely, Elinor is also part fairy, but she's much taller and heftier than the other fairies.
  • Fairy Sexy: Most fairy and elf women in this movie, but particularly Elinore.
  • Fantasy World Map: A map of the inhabited parts of the world appears early in the story. The northern territory is called Montagar, where The Hero Avatar the wizard dwells. To its west are the Fairy Mountains, where (unusual for fairies) they have a great hall where their king presides. East of Montagar lies East Elfland, with a strip of barren, toxic territory separating the two provinces. South of Elfland lies the warped and impure land of Scortch, where the wicked wizard Blackwolf plots his conquest of the world. Most of the central region is a sparsely inhabited wasteland, cratered and irradiated from nuclear war thousands of years earlier.
  • Fill It with Flowers: Begun by Avatar the good wizard as he and Weehawk make their way into Scortch One. Avatar is still suffering from the jolt that cute fairy Elinore slew Peace, then defected to the forces of Scortch, so he distracts himself by magically creating colorful flowers amid the bleak and gaunt tenements. Weehawk the elf has his hands full steering this dotty old wizard toward their objective: a showdown with wicked wizard Blackwolf.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Most of Blackwolf's rank-and-file soldiers wear gas masks.
  • Ghostapo: Weird inversion where a fairy wizard in a post-apocalyptic future starts emulating Nazis.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Elinore's father is a fairy president (even though she's called "princess"), while Blackwolf's title is...ah, "fuhrer."
  • Green Means Natural: Montagar is home to the good wizard Avatar. It's a lush and idyllic place full of greenery. The Westland fairies reside to the south of Montagar, and they have almost no constructs, abiding in a green pastoral paradise. The elves of the east live in a forest, but it's less green and more gaunt. Contrast these with Scortch, the wasteland where evil wizard Blackwolf amasses his armies. Scortch has only four colors: black, grey, sepia, and crimson.
  • Hammerspace: At one point Elinore is wearing a poncho over her stripperiffic outfit and pulls a sword out from beneath it.
  • Handy Feet: Avatar frequently holds his cigars between his toes while smoking them (probably to keep his hands free for gesturing while talking).
  • Hard Truth Aesop:
    • Peace, love, and pacifism are impractical when you're invaded by people who don't agree with you.
    • Even if peace is a good thing, sometimes you have to fight to maintain it.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: Avatar tries and fails to use magic to save his mother.
  • Heel–Face Brainwashing: Somewhat peculiar case. It's stated that Necron99 is under painful grip of Blackwolf's black magic and his propaganda machine. Avatar instills the promise of life without pain or fear in order to give him the motivation to fight this constant influence and regain his own will. Basically, Avatar brainwashes him to want to be free which can be achieved only by joining Avatar.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Necron 99, one of Blackwolf's top assassins, joins Avatar's side early in the film, taking the name 'Peace'.
  • Heroic BSoD: Avatar has a short one after Elinore pulls an apparent Face–Heel Turn. He gets better.
  • Horns of Barbarism: The dark forces of Scortch march against the elves and fairies of Montagar. Most of the Scortch warriors have armor and helmets with horns, usually rotoscoped from other Sword and Sandal films. The elves usually have no headgear, and those that do have no horns.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: Elinore's mother was a fairy and her father is human-sized.
  • Humanity's Wake: We were mostly wiped out in the war with the only survivors becoming mutants.
  • Hypocrite: Both sides of the conflict. Blackwolf calls mutants the master race, yet wishes to kill his unborn son for being one. The forces of magic hate and outlaw technology, yet use it to some extent (telescopes, a conjured jukebox, metallurgy), and at the end openly use firearms to fight the forces of Scortch. Even Avatar shoots Blackwolf with a handgun, albeit at great personal cost.
  • Improvised Golems: When trying to escape the fairies, Elinore animates a gargoyle.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: When Avatar accidentally mounts his horse the wrong way around at the start of their quest, he wonders if he packed his scotch.
  • Informed Attribute: Blackwolf's assassins are said to have finished killing the leadership of all three major rival nations (leaving only ineffective replacements), but while the audience sees one die, the heroes also meet two other kings, one of whom wants to stay neutral...and the other who leads an effective attack on Scortch One (until the projector is used).
  • Keystone Army: Most of Blackwolf's Legions of Hell fade away or crawl back to Hell after he's defeated.
  • The Legions of Hell: Blackwolf's generals were called up from Hell to lead his mutant armies into battle.
  • Life/Death Juxtaposition: The narrator describes Avatar and Blackwolf as being diametric opposites. Avatar is a Friend to All Living Things who grows up looking kind of like one of Tolkien's dwarves. Blackwolf, on the other hand, grows up to be a dour, zombie-like wizard with an affinity for Nazi propaganda. Avatar lives in the verdant lands among the fairies and elves, while Blackwolf lives in a nuclear wasteland called Scortch among the wretched and shambling mutants.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: When Blackwolf dies, his lair collapses.
  • Lost Aesop: Most people assume, probably due to the introduction at the beginning of the film, that the moral is Science Is Bad. According to the commentary, it's actually a statement about propaganda (which both the good guys and bad guys use, but if you're too sympathetic to Avatar's faction's rhetoric of peace, you might miss that his team's is subtler). The good guys have no problems using technology (namely, guns) when they have to, though Avatar does state to the president of Montagar that, "Even if we could impress our people with the danger, science and technology were outlawed millions of years ago." This doesn't mean that Science Is Bad, just that Avatar's side is at a disadvantage from their own propaganda-fueled rejection of technology.
  • Made of Bologna: Larry, the right-hand lackey to the wicked wizard Blackwolf, reports to his master on the success of Necron 99's mission to slay the president of Montagar. As a reward, Larry is allowed to tear into a beef carcass hanging from a hook nearby. Strangely, the flesh tears away easily, revealing uniform pink tissue, which Larry gobbles down in seconds. It's like the beast was made of cotton candy with dull brown skin.
  • Mage Tower: Avatar lives in one at the start.
  • Magical Barefooter: Avatar goes around barefoot, being a kind of hippie wizard. Avatar ultimately squares off against his Evil Counterpart brother Blackwolf, who wears cloth shoes or large socks. Also, Avatar's Girl Friday is the fairy Elinore, likewise barefoot, in contrast to Blackwolf's assassin Peace, who wears boots attached to his crimson onesie.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: The magic Avatar uses to save the day is just a simple "nothing up my sleeve" trick.
  • The Magic Versus Technology War: The entire plot of the movie.
  • Mood Whiplash: One moment we're laughing at the antics of the two priests, and the next we see that their carrying on has caused the demons to kill their prisoners and blow up the church.
  • Momma's Boy: Avatar was extremely close to his mother when she was alive.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Blackwolf's rhetoric about fighting to assert mutant superiority is somewhat belied by the implication that he will kill his own child when it turns out to be a mutant.
  • Nature vs. Technology: The Central Theme is the conflict between forces of Nature, represented by the fantasy folk led by the wizard Avatar, and the Forces of Technology, formed by nuclear humans led by the wizard Blackwolf. Interestingly enough, the movie not only focuses on the use of technology for weapons but also for propaganda, in one of the more famous scenes of the movie Blackfoot shows his army an old film reel filled with actual Nazi footage to inspire his army. Ultimately, the movie also shows that total rejection of technology is also foolish, technology becomes evil through the hands of whoever is wielding it.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Blackwolf recovers a newsreel of a Hitler speech and shows it to his army, many of his mooks wear swastika arm bands.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Elinore fatally stabs Peace In the Back just as he's getting ready to breach the tank's hatch and finish off the goons inside. While everybody else is flabbergasted at that, the monsters recover and take her away.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Avatar shoots and kills Blackwolf with a Luger he had hidden up his sleeve that he had obtained off of a dead enemy.
  • Not Worth Killing: Weehawk finds Blackwolf's groveling minion Larry hiding in some bushes, and hauls him out by the tail. Weehawk draws his sword, meaning to slay Larry, but Avatar intervenes. "Let him go," the old wizard advises. "Without his master, he's harmless." Weehawk dismissively drops Larry, who gives Gratuitous Gratitude as he backs away over a hilltop.
  • Our Elves Are Different: You have your elves that look more like hobbits or Santa's elves, then there are a few elves that look like djinn.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: They have just about every kind of fairy imaginable. You have the typical ones, ones ranging in insectoid appearance, a couple of fairies that look like they were drawn by Andy Warhol, Elinore, Avatar (who looks more like a dwarf than a fairy), and Blackwolf (who looks more like a lich). Interestingly enough, their mother, a fairy, has a trait that comes from another mythological creature known as a Satyrus.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Apparently the fairy president's daughter is a princess (and later queen). She and her mother might be from a neighboring kingdom, with Avatar as the local king with no interest in ruling.
  • Overly-Long Gag: The two priests were allegedly grovelling for about five hours before the two soldiers of Blackwolf's army finally decide to do something about it.
  • Post Apocalyptic Gasmask: The "generic" mutants all wear coveralls and gas masks. (It's hard to tell but a couple of cut scenes seem to imply that their faces are gas mask-shaped!)
  • Precision F-Strike: "I'm glad you changed your last name, you son of a bitch!" *BANG!*
    • Also, Weehawk calls Elinore a "slut" after she betrays them.
  • Putting on the Reich: Blackwolf's regime rapidly turns into Nazi Germany (IN A FANTASY SETTING!), complete with swastika banners, German uniforms, German weaponry, panzers, planes, and old propaganda films of Hitler. Blackwolf's official title is "fuhrer," and he calls the mutants "leaders of tomorrow" and the "Master Race." At the end, the narrator even states that "Hitler was dead again," which is symbolic of both Blackwolf himself and Hitler's faux-resurrection through Blackwolf's use of his old propaganda.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: One of the most ridiculously egregious examples in film history. Old artifacts of civilization still exist two million years after the end of the world, including functioning film projectors with intact, watchable movies; in real life those would've become fossilized lumps of rust by then.
  • Rearing Horse: Strangely, Weehawk's mount does this way off in the distance at the end of the film. What's strange about it is that the creatures they ride only have two legs, so what, exactly, was the mount kicking out in front of it?
  • Retired Badass: Avatar has kept tabs on his brother, but for the most part just wants to avoid anything that might lead to a fight. He mentions at the end that he's way out of practice at magic and resorts to simple sleight of hand to save the day.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Averted. When the last few heroic survivors of the free nations get together an army and launch a desperate final strike against the enemy, knowing that they are the last hope to save the world...they are almost completely slaughtered by artillery, planes, tanks, and machine guns. Although an earlier scene establishes they have access to guns and they put up a great fight — they only start to lose because Blackwolf activates the film projector — if not for Avatar shooting Blackwolf, they would have been exterminated to a man.
    • One of the veterans comments that Blackwolf's army lost about one million soldiers in a previous invasion, meaning that even with swords and arrows against guns, the elves army won because Blackwolf's soldiers are easily distracted. The Empire only began winning after Blackwolf found the projection machine showing the Nazi film used to empower his army and intimidate his adversaries.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: One of the fairies turns himself into a huge pink rat in order to scare Weehawk.
  • Rotoscoping: In several scenes, particularly the climactic battle scene, footage from Zulu is used, but painted over to create a Chiaroscuro effect. In some cases, fantastic flourishes such as horns or glowing eyes were added.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Weehawk is mentioned to be the King of the Eastern Elves, but he spends much of his time patrolling the southern border, which faces the dreaded wasteland Scortch. He's also a key member of the quest party that aims to infiltrate Scortch, and thence to destroy the projection machine.
  • Science Fantasy: It's a post-apocalyptic world with Mutants and sapient robots armed with lasers guns, alongside magic-wielding stock fantasy races.
  • Schizo Tech: Medieval and automatic weapons are used, on both sides, no less.
  • Shapeshifter Showdown: After the death of their mother, Delia, her two sons fight a duel for supremacy. Both Avatar and Blackwolf are powerful wizards, and they reshape themselves a few times during the fight. Ultimately, Avatar triumphs, and he allows Blackwolf to slink away. Avatar would grow to oversee the fairy kingdom of Montagar, while Blackwolf broods in the wastelands of Scortch, building an army of mutants to conquer the elven territories.
  • Simpleton Voice: Necron 99 doesn't really sound as menacing as his reputation makes him out to be.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: This Ralph Bakshi film is fairly idealistic.
  • Stealth Pun: An unintentional example. At the end of the movie, Avatar says, "I'm glad you changed your last name, you son of a bitch!" If Blackwolf's name is read as two words, his last name is wolf...and female wolves are called bitches. Clearly not intended as a pun on "bitch" since Blackwolf's mother is Avatar's, and Avatar was very close with their mother.
  • Stripperiffic: The outfit worn by Elinore is ridiculously so, complete with clearly-visible nipple protrusions. Lampshaded at least once by a line of dialogue from Avatar.
  • Take That!: The scene with the priests could easily be one against organized religion. The priests start praying, their praying involving, among other things, dancing and spanking each other with sticks. At some point, one of Blackwolf's soldiers comments they have been praying for five hours. Not to mention they continue to do so as the soldiers outside start gunning down their captives.
  • A Thicket of Spears: The united elven invasion force that lands on the shores of Scortch is arranged in Alexandrian formation: shield wall with spears up front; combat swordsmen immediately behind them; and archers at the rear. Presumably, the spear line did well, as a large cavalry force attacked them, but none are seen in the inner ranks. Rather, all that fighting is one-on-one, mutant-versus-elf melee combat.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: The questing party of four (Avatar, Elinore, Weehawk and Peace) find themselves being approached by a tank, clearly one of Blackwolf's devices. For some reason, the tank crew doesn't shoot at the heroes, which allows Peace to climb onto the turret. Before Peace can open the hatch, however, Elinore throws her sword at him, which skewers him through the thorax, killing him. Elinore then jumps aboard the tank, and hops inside in a stunning Face–Heel Turn that leaves Avatar and Weehawk stupefied. Later, when Avatar and Weehawk have snuck into Scortch One, Weehawk slays an enemy general by throwing his sword at the officer.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The mutant Blackwolf's wife looks like an elf pin-up model.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Holy chrome!"
  • Villainous Badland, Heroic Arcadia: The elves and faeries inhabit the wildernesses and green woods that were spared nuclear devastation in the war that ended human civilization, and it is here that Avatar and Elinore reside. The irradiated wastelands are home to misshapen mutants descended from humanity, many of whom dwell in the Wretched Hive called Scortch. There, the villain Blackwolf launches his Evil Plan to overrun the world.
  • Whateversaurus: In the beginning of the film Peace rides past a dinosaur-like creature with six legs.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never find out what becomes of Blackwolf's wife and newborn son. They are shown escaping from Scortch after she prevents Weehawk from killing Elinore, whom he believes is a traitor, but are never shown again. Word of God is that Blackwolf Jr was a Sequel Hook that never panned out.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Subverted, as Blackwolf's troops actually get a bit of humanization in the comedic interlude scenes, and Avatar makes a point of sparing Blackwolf's pet.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: A rare heroic example. Specifically, a rare heroic subversion. When Avatar meets Blackwolf, there is no big wizard duel. Avatar just pulls out a pistol and shoots him. It's actually almost funny.
  • A Wizard Did It: Weapons and supplies from World War II are still in working condition after a nuclear war and the passage of two million years. Even old nitrate film and a projector are operational! All this stuff should have disintegrated beyond recognition at that point. Only the powers of the wicked wizard Blackwolf can handwave away the ravages of time on these devices.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Elinore says Wizards can live over 10,000 years and Avatar says he has another thousand left.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Weehawk punches Elinore a couple times when confronting her about her betrayal.


Video Example(s):


Wizards (Blackwolf)

In what would look like a buildup to a climactic Wizard Duel, Avatar decides to defeat Blackwolf simply with a shot of a handgun, killing him almost instantly.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (24 votes)

Example of:

Main / AnticlimaxBoss

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