Nowadays, it’s easy to walk into a theater and find an animated movie not made by Disney. The CG animated movie has so far been a much more level playing field for animation studios than it has ever been before. All the major studios now have a team dedicated to sniffing out the most cutting edge of talking animal trends and making a fluffy, pop-culture-ridden movie out of it as soon as is humanly possible. Now, these newfound niches in the animation market haven’t actually increased QUALITY, and if you think about it variety is pretty scarce, too, but hey. Maybe one day, right?
For the majority of the history of animation, though, Disney has had a stranglehold on theatrical-quality animation. The past is littered with the bleached bones of would-be Disney competitors, the greatest of which was Don Bluth, a disgruntled Disney animator himself. The most tragic of these is the project The Thief and the Cobbler, a stab at a Persian-style fairy tale decades in the making by Who Framed Roger Rabbit? animator Richard Williams who was eventually screwed over by Disney when they publicly announced Aladdin (which had several scenes that were nearly identical thanks to osmosis of animators) and when Warner Bros. pulled out of funding him and handed the film over to Completion Bond Company who finished the film as quickly and cheaply as possible. It’s honestly one of the grandest and most tragic fates to ever befall an animated movie.
There was another animator, though. The name Ralph Bakshi probably isn’t very familiar to you. But he was probably the biggest independent animator out there in the 70s and 80s. He was willing to experiment with techniques and subject matter Disney wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. What did he do? His most famous notable contribution is probably J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a movie way, way too ambitious for just one installment, unfortunately. But he has also done cult classics like Heavy Traffic, Wizards and R. Crumb’s Fritz the Cat. Oh, and Cool World. But let’s not call that one a classic.
In the 80s, Bakshi wanted another stab at fantasy, but this time not from the classic Tolkien angle, but a darker, more violent, more naked angle. So he hooked up with the only person who could possibly help him, legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, and made the animated movie Fire and Ice.