ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 3.8 - November 1998
The Thief and the Cobbler
Sorry, but the article by Alex Williams, son of Richard, regarding his father's intended masterpiece The Thief and the Cobbler (Williams 1.12), is full of doggy doo. His piece was way over-the-top in praising his old man's vision. A "magnum opus" it certainly is, but those of us who've tried to sit through it and failed, tend not to blame the fourth-rate vandalism perpetrated by Fred Calvert, but the obvious and all-pervading hand of Williams himself. This film is, it's true, full of spectacular and brilliant animation. The trouble is, it seems to be there purely for the sake of it, and therefore, is only appreciated by the art house fraternity. The visuals sometimes cascade almost out of the screen, but all to no end. Those of us animators who also like a story are left with a jumble; a confusing slurry of criss-crossed plot points which end up going nowhere. We are left wide-eyed and bored at the same time, mouthing silently, "What the f**ck's going on?"
As an animator in the U.K. I had the opportunity to work on Thief. I was tempted. The pre-Roger Rabbit Williams already had a reputation in the business, and Thief was already a legend -- the 20-year project that was going to be the "Best Thing Ever." Then the reports came back from insiders in the studio. The project was never going to be finished; not with scenes being rejected at the rate they were by Williams, who was being described as a manic obsessive, unhappy with anyone's work but his own. Thief was losing its cache in the industry. People who used to say the name with awe, now spoke it in disaffected tones, as if talking about a retarded old uncle. "Best if it just slipped away quietly..."
Williams had the chance he wanted to get the project finished on time. He blew it. His son's lionizing of his old man's reputation is understandable. I love my dad too. But the language he uses in describing Williams and the greatest White Elephant in animation's history is too florid and one-eyed to be taken seriously. He asserts that Thief didn't meet the deadline because of Williams' "perfectionism." Bull muffins. Try megalomania. Try compulsive obsessionism. Alex insists that the project was pulled out from under his father with only another 10-15 minutes of animation to go. Going by Williams' previous efforts that equates to about five more years! Disney would have had three features out in that time. Get real. The Thief and the Cobbler was a legend only while it was being constructed piece by painful piece, and gossiped about by animators in pubs. That's why Williams didn't want to finish it. He knew that when the world saw it, even if there was box office, it would be forgotten in a month. He was right of course. Realistically speaking, it never saw the light of day. Stillborn. Not fully formed.
Alex Williams recommends that those of us "courageous" enough to sit the film out should watch with the sound turned down. It's an intriguing comment. I wonder if his father always, in his heart of hearts, intended it that way? Animators usually think that it's their wonderful imagery that makes a film. In truth, even the undeniably stunning visuals in Thief would only make up half a film. People need the whole experience -- words, music and action. I feel that Williams left too many big holes in his "magnum opus," and the rats don't need a second invitation to come in.
Exec. Producer, Bandicoot Productions
We Got The Amiga Blues
I was just inquiring why in your article, "Small Studio/Home Studio: An Overview of Low-End Computer Aided Animation Choices" by Michelle Klein-Häss (Klein-Häss 3.5), you didn't mention the incredibly cost effective and (still) regularly used in television 3D and 2D production, computer system known as the Amiga? There is an abundance of animation and video production products available for the low-end user on the Amiga -- yet it seems to be ignored by your article!
More Amiga Blues
Yo! In your recent article "Small Studio/Home Studio: An Overview of Low-End Computer Aided Animation Choices" by Michelle Klein-Häss, you forgot the animation program used on Amiga computers and now ported on PCs: Take2. It's even announced on your site!!!
I'm a professional animation filmmaker and still use the Amiga and Take2, plus other software for compositing and coloring. I even shoot my Mag monitor with a Bolex 16mm, all slaved by my Amiga 3000, 25mhz, 18m RAM with a 1G HD, and drawings scanned with an Epson.
Your writer should research all avenues.
Changes to the 1998 Season
I think since the piece, "Tooning in the 1998 Season" (Bevilacqua 3.6), was written, there were a few changes with the Fox network schedule. Apparently due to Marvel Comics' financial problems, both Silver Surfer and Captain America have been shelved. The X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons from Fox are being moved to UPN for reruns. In addition, the Fantastic Four and Iron Man cartoons from the Marvel Action Hour will alternate with UPN's The Incredible Hulk to create the new Incredible Hulk and Friends show. These will also be reruns. UPN will also have some kind of Disney block for reruns. (All these bits of information appeared in Mania's online magazine.) I'm sure this material will be too late when the next issue comes out, but I think it should be mentioned.
Just as a side note, I would love to see Corto Maltese in the States, but I don't know if any studio or distributor here would take that kind of chance. Continued success with your great online publication.
Neil A. Hansen
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