My friend and former student Adam Paloian clued me in to this new film that came out about Richard Williams’s film “The Thief and the Cobbler”. ( I believe it is showing today in LA.) I had told him the heartbreaking story of what happened with William’s masterpiece.
In case you don’t know him, Richard Williams ran a successful animation studio in London, all the while working on his own film for theatrical release. He ended up directing “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” for which he won an Oscar, and then all of the drama went down with Thief. I’ll let you watch the movie to find out more ( also in case the version told to me in not entirely accurate.) He of course taught master classes and put them into a book called “Animators Survival Guide’ which is still a big seller.
I actually became aware of Richard Williams in high school in the 70′s when I started really becoming interested in animation. I bought a book on the making of “Raggedy Ann and Andy” which he was directing. He was already working on thief then. I was already a fan of his attention to detail and movement. He then popped up again with “Roger Rabbit” and when I staffed up for Rocko, I hired animator Roger Chaisson who had worked at Williams studio on Roger Rabbit. ( and delighted the studio with his drawings of Jessica Rabbit) He told me stories about working with Williams, and what had happened to the “Thief. When Williams offered his class in San Francisco, I jumped at the chance to take it. He refused to even discuss “Cobbler” because it was so painful. He had told us at that class ( 1997) that he was working on a new film,( post Thief) but I have not heard much about it. I am hopeful.
A horrible version of Thief was ultimately released by a different company with new scenes and deleted ones, and a painful dialog track. The movie “Aladdin” by Disney came out afterwards and had a character that is almost identical to the one in “Cobbler”.
Although he is indeed a master animator, I am reminded by his work that it is all not beautiful animation. Character and story must be strong for us to entirely appreciate the beautiful art of the moving image.