Roy Disney has agreed to help director Richard Williams restore his masterpiece, THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER, to the version he had originally intended to make. The heart-wrenching saga of the THIEF began after Williams success on WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? With the backing of Warner Bros., the filmmaker set out to finish his then 20 years in the making feature about a mute cobbler and an unsuccessful thief. The stipulation attached to the project was that Williams must finish the film for a 1992 release. The production fell behind schedule and Warner Bros. coming off disasters like THE NUTCRACKER PRINCE and ROVER DANGERFIELD, decided to jump ship with only 10-15 minutes left to finish. Once Warner backed out, the Completion Bond Corporation (CBC), the company that underwrites the cost of completing a film, took the project away from Williams. In an attempted to make something out of the footage, the CBC hacked the film into a formulaic musical and sent the film to Korea for added sequences. Finally, Miramax released the film in 1995 under the title ARABIAN KNIGHTS, which only grossed US$300,000 at the box office. At this years Annecy Festival, Williams showed Roy Disney a faded work print of THE COBBLER, which Disney loved and decided to help Williams restore. However, the restoration of the film has two hurdles. The first issue being the legal barrier of ownership of the film must be worked out with Disney-owned Miramax Films. The second is that after the CBC took hold of the film many of the cut scenes disappeared. Scott McQueen, Disney's manager of library restoration, is currently heading up a search for the missing pieces, which have fallen into private parties hands. Howard Green, vice president of Walt Disney communications, said that McQueen has some good leads on where the footage is, but Disney would appreciate it if people holding footage would come forward. The restored work will be released on a special DVD and will have a limited run in theatres once finished. The saga of THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER isnt over, but it might have a much better ending once its done.
Read more about Richard Williams THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER in Alex Williams Animation World Magazine article.