Monday, June 17, 2024

A Moment In Time

 I attended the recent screening at the Academy Museum, Los Angeles June 16th. Here's the Q&A- nothing new for true fans of the film. 

Friday, June 14, 2024

New book!

 Dick's widow, Mo Sutton, has finished a biography including a tantalizing mention of his last un-finished film. Alex Dudok DeWit writes from the Annecy Animation Festival: 

"Five years after his death, Richard Williams remains a talismanic presence at Annecy. The supreme animator, who penned the classic instructional book The Animator’s Survival Kit, is now the author of a second book, Adventures in Animation: How I Learned Who I Learned From and What I Did with It. A memoir of sorts, the richly illustrated book was assembled posthumously by his producer and widow Imogen Sutton, who presented it in a Q&A at the festival this week.
Williams “never stopped learning,” said Sutton. Early in his career, he “sucked the blood” — as he put it — of his heroes of Golden Age animation, imbibing the teachings of Milt Kahl, Art Babbitt and the like. Some animated and taught at his studio in London, where he worked on films including Who Framed Roger Rabbit and A Christmas Carol. When he himself took to teaching in the 1990s, he thus became “the bridge between the Golden Age of the ‘30s and ‘40s and the current Golden Age,” added Sutton.
Chapters on the great animators he worked with form one section of the new book. The rest traces his long life from his upbringing in a well-to-do Toronto family to his final, unfinished film, the short A Call to Arms. The book describes what he needed “to eventually gain the artistic muscle to arrive at my goal,” writes Williams: namely, “to be able to animate anything I can think of — and make it convincing.”
The first 22 pages were handwritten and laid out by Williams himself. After he died, Sutton composed the remainder of the book from notes and materials, and typeset them with those 22 pages as a template. The book is full of engaging anecdotes from an exceptional career, alongside memorable aphorisms about the nature of his work. For example: “I think of animation as drawn music — clusters of drawings (or positions) are like clusters of notes.”
The Q&A with Sutton brought the book full circle, in a way, as it was at Annecy that Williams decided to write it. As he signed copies of The Animator’s Survival Kit, recalled Sutton, fans told him how much that book meant to them. “The teachers in our country are not very good,” one Chinese student apparently told him; “You are our teacher.” Moved by this, Williams resolved to return to writing.
Adventures in Animation will be published by Faber & Faber in August. For those still not sated by the book, more is on the way. The filmed companion piece to his first book, The Animator’s Survival Kit – Animated, heretofore available only as a large DVD set, will become available on streaming in January 2025, courtesy of Bloomsbury Video Library."{

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Soho studio Christmas card

 John Kratovil sent me images of a Christmas card depicting the crew inside the Soho studio (from the 70s I think).

He writes:

In those days, everyone at the studio in Soho Square had a scene from
the Thief under their desk. If we were ever ‘between commercials’, we would return to working on our scene. The cardboard boxes that the scenes were stored in were designed to accommodate paper that was bigger than the usual 15 field paper. It was 15 field Panasonic.
The first scenes that I was given were the scenes of the drainpipes rattling on the outside walls of the Palace. Animated by Ken Harris...
There were two more elements that had to be added:
The flies that always followed the Thief and blobs of stuff. Sewerage, I suppose.



Saturday, September 4, 2021

Tahsin "Tash" Özgür

 A while back I did a 2 part interview with former Thief colleague Tahsin "Tash" Özgür.
Dying Messenger (part 1)
Dying Messenger (part 2)

On his own blog Tash has written a few more posts about his work on the Thief and included Vimeo clips with some of his pencil tests.

another interview with him:




Friday, April 30, 2021

Roy Naisbitt

Roy Naisbitt died on Sunday, April 26, 2021. He was 90 years old. He
was the art director on the Thief, a master layout designer, scene
planning wizard and a main collaborator of Richard Williams since the
early sixties. A genius at his work, he was also most kind, patient
and generous.

Not restrained by the limitations of classical three dimensional
space, his 2D flights of fancy, by ignoring reality and bending the
art of camera moves to his own unfathomable logic, have given the
world some of the most incredible rollercoaster rides in animation
history. With him has gone a unique way of seeing the world, and
translating it into moving shapes.

As far as I (Dietmar) am concerned, I learned almost everything there
was to learn for me about Layout and traditional Animation in the time
when I had the privilege to meet Roy. I remember the Saturday mornings
with fresh rolls from an Indian takeaway especially fondly - just
talking about everything and anything in the (animation) world. There
was just one thing he could never make me comprehend - and that was
the rules of Cricket. Goodbye Roy, you will be missed.

I (Holger) saw Roy sometimes at the Kentish Town pool where I would go
for a swim before work. In the pool Roy's appearance transformed, he was
way more athletic than he came across in "normal" life. Broad
shoulders, swim goggles, looking really cool. During the time it took
me to swim from one end to the other he would pace back and forth 3
times. A very powerful swimmer. Once he invited me to join him for a
swim at an outdoor pool in Hampstead Heath. It was not during the
summer, the water of the showers felt very cold. Roy jumped in and I
followed. It was like jumping into ice. Instant headache. I was out
again in a second and the shower now felt warm by comparison. While I
was getting dressed and recovering he kept going and finished his routine. The ice-like water didn't seem to affect him at all. I was not surprised many years later when I heard about him swimming through the
English Channel.

He will be very much missed by us and everyone who worked in the
London animation scene.

Andreas, Dietmar, Holger and Michael

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

In memory of Richard Williams who passed away last week aged 86 his collaborator Russell Hall passed this statement along to Theresa Edwards on the 2D UK Animation People Facebook page.

'Russell Hall has asked me to post some words from him in tribute to Dick Williams:

I was very saddened to hear of Dick’s death last Friday.
By good luck I joined his studio in Soho Square in the Trace and Paint department in 1972 as the production of ‘A Christmas Carol ‘ was coming to a close.
With Dick’s encouragement ( he was always good to me) I rapidly progressed as assistant to veteran Road Runner animator Ken Harris, who spent his summers in Soho Square working on Dick’s brilliant but ill fated unfinished masterpiece ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’. Those were exciting days. Apart from Ken, Dick gathered up Disney Fantasia veteran and teacher Art Babbitt; Animation pioneer Grim Natwick ( Betty Boop and Snow White) ; New Yorker cartoonist Roland B. Wilson; Animation genius Roy Naisbitt - fresh from Kubrick’s ‘2001’ and great animator Dick Purdum. Dick Williams presence was extraordinary, always encouraging, aiming for perfection, a superb animator, amazing draftsman, a great teacher with enormous generosity and incredible stamina, he always seemed indestructible.
We all honed our skills with commercials and I was finally privileged to work on the first animation of the cobbler ( a character based on me) in ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’ and then to animate Jessica Rabbit in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ by which time the Soho Square studio has closed and I, along with Carol who had started as Dick’s assistant and become his producer and who I had been with from the early days of our time at Dick’s, started our own company. Hardly a day goes by without thinking of those days and we are enormously grateful for the time spent in Soho Square.
Thanks Dick -
I am a bit sad that Dick will be remembered mostly for the remarkable ‘Roger Rabbit’ when it should be for his own ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’ and his other personal projects and short films which he achieved with such ingenuity and economy.
I am so glad that he found great happiness with his wife Imogen. Carol and I are both thinking of her and all Dick’s children at this sad time.'

Aardman Animation, where Dick was based the last few years, made a touching tribute on social media:

'Our dear friend, Richard Williams was a jewel in the crown of British animation. He was always a joy to be with, inspiring and keen to pass on his wealth of knowledge to the next generation. Dick's enthusiasm was infectious, and will be greatly missed at Aardman.'

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

More from the Academy archive...

Tomm Moore, co-founder and director at Ireland's Cartoon Saloon, unearthed some treasure on a recent visit to the Academy in Los Angeles. (Re-posted with his permission from Facebook)
"Visited the Academy archives today to sign some forms in relation to donating some Song of the Sea artwork and ended up spending hours just in awe of the original artwork from the Thief and the cobbler that they are cataloging currently . Just mind boggling and awe inspiring stuff . I'm so amazed I got to see the originals after so many years squinting at fuzzy vhs copies and online restorations . It felt like visiting The Book of Kells, this is surely the most elaborate and intricate hand drawn animation ever created - I'm so glad the art is getting the academy's careful curation after so many years in the wilderness."

See more storyboards from 'The Brigands' seq. here

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Thief production artwork unearthed

This is an interesting development: Miramax has donated production artwork (thousands of cels, background art etc.) to the Academy and ASIFA has donated a substantial sum to curate the material. I'd love to get a look at this next year when it is opened to researchers.

Read the story here

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Screening at MOMA next month

'The Thief & the Cobbler' will screen in NYC at MOMA next month with Richard Williams talking to John Canemaker. Details here

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Good piece on Dick and Mo, the new film and a look back at career highlights from the Toronto Star site