Perhaps the director of Fritz The Cat might have a bone to pick?
When you read news about the Disney/20th Century Fox merger, a couple of properties you care about come to mind first, Star Wars and X-Men. Nobody spares a thought for the granular details of nerd-franchises or corporate buyouts unrelated to those unless a woke celebrity on Twitter’s critiquing the senseless monopolistic tendencies Disney’s done with this very concerning deal, yes it’s bad that Rupert Murdoch now has billions of dollars to sink into the cash-devouring abyss News Corp. has become in recent years. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about Rupert Murdoch, because his vile meddling in Australian politics means I have to think about Rupert Murdoch more than I wished I had to, and whilst it sucks his tabloid press has been given an injection of funds he will likely use for evil purposes – when I first heard the news about Rupert Murdoch surrendering control of 20th Century Fox I sighed in relief because now I won’t have to feel culpable for his political machinations just because I saw Avatar or Logan in theatres. Nope, henceforth it’s Disney’s corporate meddling I’ll have to keep tabs on, at least Australians are closer to being freed from the shackles of Rupert’s Lich-King grasp forever. The second unintended consequence of corporate buyouts is how it may affect our film industry in Australia, Baz Luhrmann owes his career to 20th Century Fox distributing his early stuff which employed A-list Australian talent such as Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, and once 20th Century Fox disappears – a lot of blue-collar demographic content which Australian stories are built upon also vanishes with a studio whose tarnished name is a liability in our current climate. It’s quite a head trip to contemplate how two of the most visionary franchises in science-fiction, Alien and Star Wars, were distributed by a media mogul who fled Australia because he was restricted by our strong consumer protection laws preventing him from buying as many television networks as he wanted. The Simpsons mocked Murdoch through its Mr. Burns character, parodying his Citizen Kane-esque newspaper baron origin story in classic episodes which re-defined what adult animation on television could be; revoking free-to-air syndicated Simpsons reruns at six-o’-clock each weeknight on Channel Ten was Rupert Murdoch’s final act of petty revenge against us rascal lefty Millennials who hated him for destroying the National Broadband Network that could’ve enabled Netflix streaming to supplant his Antipodean empire. I refuse to call 20th Century Fox anything other than its outdated name, rebranding it as 21st Century Fox wasn’t fooling anyone and Murdoch’s adamant to keep us trapped in the past he grew up in regardless of democratic process. Australians were hoping Disney’s corporate buy-out would relinquish Murdoch’s grip on our beloved nerd-franchises and dismantle his unelected junta piece by decrepit piece, whilst it’s disappointing that Bob Iger wasn’t able to tear Fox News apart the minute he’d purchased Donald Trump’s favourite channel, seeing Rupert Murdoch recognise his time is short was satisfying to read online. It’s worth worrying about Fox Searchlight’s outlet for indie movies about ordinary, poor average Joes, Australian cinema pretty much lives and dies on those, The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert and The Castle are classics. I still remember when Madman Entertainment took a little break from licensing anime and released Kenny, not since Super Mario Bros. has the struggle of the plumber been valorised on screen with such bold dedication. Meanwhile, George Miller’s trying to get Warner Bros. to cough up the funding for his Mad Max: Fury Road sequel, blockbusters are a harder sell. Australian tax laws changed after John Howard’s reign and superheroes seem marketable. With all that heavy political chat out of the way, let’s talk about the fun stuff you may have overlooked regarding this recent Disney buy-out. The Pagemaster being acquired as part of the 20th Century Fox library was first on my radar, of course as someone who named his website Pagemaster General that was a concern (the litigiousness is why General is a suffix there). Don Bluth’s Anastasia plus Titan A.E. provoked a lot of “Anastasia’s a Disney Princess now LOL” memes, as did Ferngully, but there is another property I never predicted would be included within this massive multi-media deal: Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards. This may require some explanation for the uninitiated: Ralph Bakshi, an underground Palestinian animator whose most famous works are his most unrepresentative of his appeal (Cool World and The Lord Of The Rings) made a children’s film in the seventies just to prove he could called Wizards. Unlike his other fantasy works in Bakshi canon such as Fire And Ice or his abridged The Lord Of The Rings adaptation, Wizards is an influential piece of Cold War hippie-era alt-history animation which borrows from various pulp sources, from Vaughn Bode to Phillipe Druillard to Mike Ploog (who drew the opening sequence’s illustrations). It’s the only film in Ralph Bakshi’s extensive filmography which he bothered to record an audio-commentary for, and it’s the Johnny Cash’s Hurt cover of DVD audio-commentaries that encapsulates both his passionate defending of animators and artists long dead, plus his actual beef with Walt Disney taking credit for motion pictures drawn by other people. Ralph Bakshi’s rants about Disney are often dismissed as the ramblings of an elder crank, but here his opinions regarding Pinocchio and how he runs his studio house style versus the restrictive method imposed by Disney on their productions is made crystal clear for any fan of animation who needs his final statement on the matter. Ralph Bakshi’s life-long ideological opposition to a shiny Magic Kingdom mentality is also why Disney’s sudden acquisition of one of his most popular movies is both hilarious and the most Bakshi turn of events which I’ve uncovered all year, his heroes often achieve their goals through subterfuge and grifting. The prospect of Princess Elinore’s skimpy low-cut dress and bountiful bosom scandalising soccer moms at Disneyland whose offspring meet her as a proper face character may never happen in reality, but a man can dream, can’t he? Cheers to Bakshiland, The Hippiest Place On Earth.
Princess Elinore from Wizards, in all her animated, PG-rated glory.