‘The Thief and the Cobbler’: Original version of Richard Williams’ animated film gets Academy premiere
The first public screening of the original version of Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler will be held at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10. Williams will be in attendance to introduce the recently reconstructed original workprint from 1992.
The Thief and the Cobbler will be accompanied by Richard Williams’ 1972 Oscar-winning animated short A Christmas Carol, adapted from Charles Dicken’s 1843 novella. Featuring animation by Ken Harris and Abe Levitow, among others, A Christmas Carol has, according to the Academy’s website, “a distinctive and dark tone” inspired by John Leech’s engraved illustrations of the Dicken’s tale.
In conjunction with the screenings, the Academy’s public exhibition “Richard Williams: Master of Animation,” featuring film clips, iPad presentations, original artwork, and photos will remain open “for extended viewing hours” in the Grand Lobby Gallery.
‘The Thief and the Cobbler’ long and troubled history
Sharing elements in common with Disney’s 1991 blockbuster Aladdin, The Thief and the Cobbler – previously released in truncated versions as The Princess and the Cobbler and Arabian Knight – chronicles the adventures of a young cobbler in ancient Persia. Influenced by Persian miniatures, Richard Williams began working on his animated feature in 1964; the self-financed project was to continue for another 28 years, during which time Williams collaborated with Ken Harris and Emery Hawkins from Warner Bros., Art Babbitt from Disney, and Betty Boop creator Grim Natwick.
Following his two Academy Awards for Robert Zemeckis’ blockbuster Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Williams secured additional financing from Warner Bros. so The Thief and the Cobbler could be completed. Warners, however, ultimately pulled out the project; a completion bond company then took control of the film, removing Williams from the project.
Coincidentally, Kevin Schreck’s 2012 documentary about the making of The Thief and the Cobbler, Persistence of Vision, opens in Belgium at 7 p.m. today at Brussel’s Rits Café. The Thief and the Cobbler background artist Inge Daveloose will introduce the screening. Persistence of Vision is described as “the untold story of the greatest animated film never made.” Check out the film’s Facebook page.
‘The Princess and the Cobbler’ voice cast
Released in a handful of countries, The Princess and the Cobbler (1993) featured the voices of Sean Connery, Vincent Prince (recorded two decades earlier), Kenneth Williams, Miriam Margolyes, Joss Ackland, Donald Pleasance, Joan Sims, Anthony Quayle (who died in 1989), and Hilary Pritchard.
The re-edited Miramax-distributed U.S. version, renamed Arabian Knight (1995), featured the voices of Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Beals, Eric Bogosian, Toni Collette, Clive Revill, and Jonathan Winters. The DVD named The Thief and the Cobbler is actually the Miramax version.
Director and animator Richard Williams
Besides The Thief and the Cobbler, A Christmas Carol, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, among the film credits of the Toronto-born Richard Williams, who’ll be turning 81 next March 19, are the following:
- The title sequence in Tony Richardson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), starring David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave in (more or less) the old Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland roles.
- The title sequence in Anthony Newley’s Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969), starring Newley and Joan Collins.
- The animation found in Blake Edward’s The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), starring Peter Sellers, Lesley-Anne Down, and Herbert Lom.
The Thief and the Cobbler image: Richard Williams Productions / Allied Filmmakers, via orangecow.org.